When the Only Way Out is Through

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Ephesians 2:1-10

Jell-O turns 121 this year and the story surrounding its inventor is truly ironic. In 1897, Pearl Wait wore several hats. He was a construction worker who dabbled in patent medicines and sold his ailment remedies door-to-door.
In the midst of his tinkering he hit upon the idea of mixing fruit flavoring with granulated gelatin. His wife named it “Jell-O” and Wait had one more product to peddle. Unfortunately, sales weren’t as strong as he’d hoped, so in 1899, Pearl Wait sold his Jell-O rights to Orator Woodward for $450. Woodward knew the value of marketing so within just eight brief years, Wait’s neighbor turned a $450 investment into a $1 million business. Today, not a single relative of Pearl Wait receives royalties from the 1.1 million boxes of Jell-O that are sold each day. Why? Because Wait just couldn’t wait.

Jesus tells the story of ten virgins. Ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
(It is almost like saying that the Christian walk is a 50/50 preposition, half will finish and half will not.) The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The Christian journey is a long journey. It is a difficult journey, not easy. Jesus says (In both Matthew and Mark) All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Showing not only the difficulty but the expectation. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: `Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “`No,’ they replied, `there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

There are many times that I have told God that it would have been much easier if He had sent His Son as soon as Adam and Eve sinned. Yet it has been a long journey for God’s people. We have found that we could not just follow our own consciences. We could not just be obedient to a government. We failed at keeping a personal covenant. We did not honor the Law. So, now we stand in the love of God’s grace.

Zech 9:12-13 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Prisoners of hope? Sometimes I feel like a prisoner of hope. When life is good, it is nice to be alive and part of it, but what about when things are not good? Job was a happy man-rich, lots of children, good friends, until God started messing in his life. But Job was blind to the amount of pride in his life. Jonah was a happy man, probably wealthy, and very influential but not obedient until God put him into some difficulty.

You and I sometimes have difficulty understand how a loving God can watch His children go through difficult times. Why doesn’t God just bail everyone out of the trouble they find themselves in? It is not difficult for God to perform a miracle or two and solve the problem. But in the course of that intervention, what do we learn? The same lesson that a child learns when Mom and Dad are always bailing them out, nothing. The child learns about real life by living real life. I am sure that it is far more painful for God not to intervene into our lives.

I am mindful of the prayer: Give me the serenity to accept what can’t be changed, the courage to change what should be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. Acceptance is powerful in its own right. We are not some pawn trapped between the war of God and Satan. What Paul is telling us in our lesson is that God’s grace turns the experience of making it through into some real break through. God may not bail us out but God gives us a wonderfully refreshing, nourishing, replenishing breakthrough!

Going a little farther, Jesus fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

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