Off-Roading – by: Brent Stafford

Categories: Blog Posts

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My Junior year of high school, I discovered that just because a car is a “sport utility vehicle” doesn’t mean that you can take it off-roading. I drove a 1993 Ford Explorer at the time, which used to be our family car. The leather seats were cracked, the carpet had Cheetos, French fry dust, and Oklahoma red dirt stomped so deeply into the carpet that no vacuum could ever clean it and the air conditioner only worked when it wanted to. As a high school student with a fast food job, when things broke I had to be creative, like using a coil of bailing wire through an open window to fix the driver’s side door when it stopped latching (causing it to fly open randomly terrifying everyone in the car) or using a piece of chewing gum foil to replace fuse that kept blowing. It was the perfect car for a high school student.
Anyway, my friends and I decided to take my SUV off-roading, shaving years off the life of my already dying vehicle. We gunned it up what looked like a gentle hill and suddenly felt weightless. Erosion had eaten away at the other side and we suddenly were looking at a 4-5 foot drop. We hit the ground hard, there was CRUNCH as the suspension let out a dying wheeze and a POP as the power steering system began to bleed out on the ground. Dazed and thankful no one was hurt, we drove back into town with the car leaning dangerously to the right, tires out of alignment, and no power steering. Sometimes when you’re having fun and everything seems great; you can become oblivious and unprepared to the danger around you.

Changing Hats

On Wednesday nights I wear lots of hats as a worship leader, minister, and “overseer” of our student ministries at LCC, but my favorite hat is when I get to lead a small group of Junior and Senior high school students. One of our students said something a few weeks ago that stuck with me: “We only turn to God when things get bad, sometimes the good times are the worst times for my faith”. If you reflect on your life, when was the last time you prayed? Intentionally looked for the opportunities God is putting in front of you to be a light in this world? Or read God’s word on your own to seek his will for your life? Confession time: If you’re like me, unless you’re in a crisis moment those are pretty uncommon occurrences. So what do we do?
In the book of 1 Samuel chapter 7 the people of Israel felt abandoned by God and were being oppressed by the neighboring kingdoms of Philistia. The Israelites looked to Samuel for leadership. He tells them in verse 3 “get rid of your foreign gods…determine to obey only the Lord and he will rescue you from the Philistines”. So the nation assembled, the people repented, and all seemed like things were going well. Except for the fact that the Philistines saw the Israelites assembling together as a troop movement and mobilized their army. Verses 7-8 tell us the Israelites were terrified and asked Samuel: “don’t stop pleading to God to save us from the Philistines!”. The battle lines were drawn, the Israelites equipped out in bronze across from the Philistines with their chariots and iron, then something happens: “The LORD spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them.” The Israelites throw off their oppressors, the conflict is over, but Samuel in verse 12 picks up a large stone and sets it up as a monument. He names it “Ebenezer” which means “Stone of Help” and tells the people that this stone means “Up to this point the Lord has helped us”, meaning that this stone represents what has happened today. They didn’t have Instagram, twitter, or Facebook in the ancient near east. He couldn’t take a selfie with the army of Israel, tag everyone, and write “God saved us today #yolo”. So he sets up a rock to remind himself and the people of Israel that God did something.

God Did Something

When you think about how God has worked in your life, can you point to a specific moment? Can you look back on every moment that God has “done something” in your life? Now if you’re feeling guilty can you remember what pants you wore last Thursday? Or what you had for lunch last month on January 17th? My point is, is that we’re not good at remembering stuff. Ever have that moment where you can’t find your keys in the morning or can’t remember what your spouse sent you to the store for? If we need reminder apps and sticky notes to get through the day, then I don’t think it’s a terrible leap to say that we need to proactively approach our relationship with God and build up the discipline of making reminders that God did something in our life. The cool thing about the story I shared with you from 1 Samuel, is that God never left the Israelites, he was with them all along, but they felt abandoned and felt alone because they forgot the ways that God had worked in their nation. In the same way, when we begin to forget what God has done for us, we become unprepared when troubles and pain come our way. So often we wait until things are at their absolute worst or we hit “rock bottom” before turning to God and in our culture of exceptionalism and “pull yourself up by the boot straps” mentality we’re in many ways conditioned to try to fix everything on our own before turning to God. When we remind ourselves of how God has worked, it opens our eyes to how he is working now. I love that verse in Romans 8:28 “For we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose”. God can be working in the conflicts, painful moments, and unpredictable confusing moments that life can throw at us, but it’s difficult to see it if we don’t remind ourselves of how God has worked in the past. Do something to remind yourself that God did something in your life.

You don’t need to set up a stone monument like Samuel, but you can keep a journal, put a sticky note on your dashboard, write a blog, take a picture and use social media or share your stories with another person. Be creative or be practical, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we become a people that remembers what God has done so that our eyes can be opened to what he is doing now.

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