AVOIDING LIFE'S GREATEST MISTAKE
By Pastor Glenn Pease
The janitor of the First Security State Bank of Boise, Idaho, accidentally put a box of checks worth $840,000 on the wrong table. The next morning the paper shredder operator dumped the contents of the box into his machine, and cut the checks into shreds. When the mistake was discovered the bank supervisor could hardly keep from crying. The loss was a bookkeeping nightmare. Fifty employees worked in two shifts for 6 hours daily in 6 rooms plucking, matching, and pasting all those thousands of little pieces of paper back together. It was a colossal and costly mistake, but at least it was a mistake that could be corrected.
Many mistakes are far more tragic because there is no way to go back and undo them.Two men and a young person were found dead in Death Valley. They had abandoned their car. They were strung out in a line. One was 7 miles from the car, another 14, and the last made it 17 miles from the car. Obviously, they were trying to get back to a ranch they had passed 30 miles back. Had they only known, one mile the other way there was a grove of willows and a spring. They chose the wrong way, and it was a deadly mistake. The tragedy of a deadly mistake is, you can't learn from it because there is no second chance.
On May 6, 1902 one of history's worst natural disasters killed 30,000 people all at one time. Mt. Pelee on the Island of Martinique erupted sending millions of tons of rock and boiling lava at the town of St. Piere. The authorities knew for a week it could happen, but they did not give the warning. They made the fatal mistake of thinking, if you ignore something bad it will go away. The tragedy is all the greater because it could have been prevented, but men refused to deal with the dangerous reality. There are some things you have to make decisions about, or else. Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. Our text gives us an example that applies to all men. It deals with the worst possible mistake any man can make, the mistake of saying no thanks to God. The mistake of refusing His invitation to the banquet, which means life, joy, and abundance.
It sounds crazy and unbelievable that anybody would refuse an invitation to a free banquet, but Jesus told this parable to describe what had already happened to the leaders of Israel. God had sent His Son into the world to invite them into His kingdom, and to the best banquet of life that men could ever experience, and all they did was find excuses for not responding. Can you believe that men can be so foolish and pig headed as to reject such an offer, and make up all kinds of weak excuses for not going. It was the biggest mistake of their lives, for the generous host, who had all things ready for a great feast,invited others, and in verse 24 says, "None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet."
If all these men missed was a feast, you could call this a minor mistake, but when you realize Jesus was talking about missing the kingdom of God, and abundant, and eternal life, then you realize it was truly a major mistake. It was so big that there is no other mistake that can come close. When God invites you to a banquet, and you say I am to busy, you go on the list of history's biggest mistake makers. The banquet, of course, is God's invitation to spend eternity with Him in heaven enjoying all that His infinitely creative mind can provide for His guests. To miss out on this puts a man in a class by himself. There is no other mistake a man could make that even comes close. Playing Russian Roulette with a bullet in every chamber is not as foolish as this, for all you lose is time, but to reject God's invitation is to lose forever.
A skeptic once asked a Christian, "What if you die and discover heaven is not real?" The Christian said, "It will indeed be a terrible disappointment, but at least I have enjoyed living with the hope. But suppose when you die you discover hell is real?" The unbeliever did not respond, for it was frightening to think he could make such a tragic mistake, and miss heaven, and suffer hell, when the gift was offered him time and time again. Every time you refuse God's invitation you add to the agonizing memory which will be a part of hell, for you had your chance, but blew it. You made the mistake of holding on to your puny pearl, and you lost your crown.
There are many mistakes in life that can be undone. That is what erasers are for. There are many mistakes that can be overcome. Back in the 1890's the Emperor of Ethiopia was Menelek II. He heard of the new method of executing criminals in the U. S. called the electric chair. He decided to order three of them for Ethiopia. The only problem was that when they arrived, he realized his country did not have electricity. It was a very foolish mistake, but he was up to making the best of a bad situation. He used one of the chairs for his throne for many years.
Sometimes God uses mistakes for good. A man by the name of Kline was so defeated and discouraged. He felt no one cared for him, and so he just as well end his life. As he walked down a street brooding, he passed a church where they were singing-
Saved by grace alone, this is all my plea
Jesus died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me.
He stopped and listened, and could not believe it when they sang again that Jesus died for all mankind. He thought they were singing, Jesus died for ole man Kline. He slipped into the back of the church, and listened to the good news that Jesus did die for all mankind, and that included ole man Kline. He received Christ that night and became a child of God. His mistake brought him to the banquet.
Felix Neff, the Swiss reformer, once saw a man he thought was an old friend. He tapped him on the shoulder and said, "How is it with your soul?" When the man turned, he saw it was a stranger, and he apologized for his mistake. Four years later that stranger came to one of his meetings and said, "You asked about my soul. I got to thinking and decided to get right with God." God can even use mistakes to bring people into the kingdom.
Some mistakes are humorous, and we have all laughed at someone else's mistakes. Peter Joshua was a missionary from Whales. He was a lonely young man when he arrived in Africa. He felt so alone and isolated, but a group of retired missionary ladies arranged to dispel his gloom with an afternoon tea. At the end he was to say a few words, and he said, "What language is there to describe my gratitude to you dear women. All I can say is that you are the most homely women I have ever met." He learned the hard way that just because homely back in Whales meant wholesome, gracious, kind, loving, and motherly, does not mean that is how all women understand it.
The invitation here says, all things are ready. God does not invite you to a banquet,and then wait for you to get there before he prepares. God is already prepared, and there will be no last minute arrangements. When you come to Christ you are not kept waiting. You open the door, and you are welcome to immediately set at the table and partake of His blessings. The sinner does not have to clean up his life first to be welcome into God's banquet hall. You come as you are, and enjoy the feast of His love right away, because He has all things ready. Jesus died for your sin, and paid the full penalty for all your folly and rebellion. You do not owe God anything, for Jesus paid it all. All you need to do is accept the invitation and enjoy the banquet.
If you got an invitation to come to a party, and you came to the house, and it was dark and no one answered, you would feel someone has made a mistake. You have the wrong house, or the wrong night. But here the invitation says all things are ready, come right now and enjoy the feast. Many use the excuse, I am not ready. You don't have to be ready, for it is a come as you are party. The important thing is not that you are ready, but that the host is ready. If He would have expected you to primp and prepare yourself, He would have told you so. He is ready, and invites you to come now, just as you are. In another parable Jesus told, the host provides the garments for all the guests. Don't worry about how you are dressed. God will clothe you in the garments of Christ's righteousness so you will feel comfortable. The law says now you are ready, you have kept the law, so come and be welcome. Grace says, all is ready for you, so come as you are and be welcome. Law depends on you, but grace depends on God.
It does not say some things are ready, and so please bring a salad or dessert. It says all things are ready, and all you need to do is come. Come, that is your only requirement, just come. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest," Jesus said. "He that cometh I will in no wise cast out." All you have to do is come, and that is your free ticket to the world's greatest banquet. The world's greatest mistake is refusing that invitation. There is only one way to avoid life's greatest mistake, and that is to come. Come to Jesus, come to the banquet, come to the party, and become a child of God. All things are now ready-come.