The Fork In The Road Sun June 8, 2008 Am
THE FORK IN THE ROAD
Several years ago, Yogi, who is one of baseball’s greatest heroes wrote a book of inspiration and wisdom entitled: When you come to a fork in the road, take it!
The problem with Yogi’s advice is: Which fork do we take?? Believe it or not, we spend a lifetime trying to decide which fork to take!!
I once heard about a pastor one Sunday morning, during a capitol campaign, trying to raise $50,000.00 to remodel the worship center, and asked if anyone would like to share a testimony as to how God taught them stewardship. A man by the name of Dempsey Henley rose to his feet and said, “Most of you know that God has blessed me financially, and I attribute that blessedness to God, not my business acumen. I was born into a very poor family. We were share croppers and I worked in the fields until I left home for the Army. I was in church every time the doors were open in those days, so I was saved as a boy. A couple years later, I had just earned my first dollar and I went to church that night, and the speaker was a missionary who told us about his work in Bolivia. I knew I only had a dollar and I had to either give it all to God’s work, or nothing at all. So at that fork in the road, I decided to give my hard earned dollar to God, and I have been trying to do that ever since. That fork in the road became a turning point in my faith. I believe our church has come to a fork in the road too, and I sure hope we choose the right fork!!”
Historians write about the importance of forks in the road like: the D-day invasion of Normandy, Pearl Harbor, Korea, vaccine for polio, man on the moon, Vietnam and 9/11, because we have always and will always face forks in the road, and sometimes we actually choose the right fork, but with each choice, our lives are defined or redefined in some way.
What we don’t seem to understand is that a “fork in the road” is what we face before we can experience a turning point, which defines our purposed destiny!!
You see church, choosing the right fork can lead to a change in destiny, like it did for Job, who defines a fork in the road, as no one else!!
I. First– forks in the road cannot be avoided.
In 1974, I met a wonderful young lady from Charlottesville, Virginia who talked a little funny, and ever since we’ve had a strange and wonderful relationship: I’m strange and she’s wonderful!!
Meeting and marrying Faith was "a fork in the road" that changed the destiny of my entire life.
Faith and I have learned through 33 years of marriage that each fork in the road we stood before, served as a catalyst for the next turning point, and in each situation, we learned an invaluable spiritual lesson that brought us closer together and closer to God.
Job’s first fork in the road was when he repented and was transformed, and we find that in chapter 38 where God spoke to Job out of the storm of personal loss, but even though he didn’t get the answers he wanted, he did realize that God was more powerful than he could ever understand, so he repented!!
In fact, he changed his mind about who God was, because he says in Job 42:5-6 (KJV) 5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. The Hebrew word for “repent” is “nacham”, which means “to change.” A man like Job?
I want you to notice something very important: When Job was suffering, and grieving deeply, the death of his children was tearing him apart!! His body was covered with painful sores, but after seeing God, his attitude changed!! In the GLORY as Bro. Phil was referring to.
The lesson Job learned was: You can change your attitude easier than you can change your circumstances.
Now listen carefully, in most cases, we have no control over our painful circumstances, but we can choose the right fork in the road, in terms of our attitude!!
You see church, all our world wants to see, is someone to prove to them that Christianity and following Jesus REALLY works!!
The apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote in Philippians 4:12-13 (KJV) 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Our natural response to suffering, when we choose the wrong fork, is to complain to God and beg Him to change our circumstances, but Paul wrote that he had “Learned this secret: Changing your attitude, in the midst of pain is learned behavior; it isn’t instinctive!!
Ted Turner is a famous media mogul worth billions, and in his book entitled: It ain’t as easy as it looks, he writes, “I grew up in a religious family and even considered being a missionary, but all that changed when my younger sister, Mary Jane was diagnosed with lupus and died. I was taught that God was love, and God was all powerful, but I could not understand then and I cannot understand now, how someone so innocent, could be made to suffer like my sister. I decided right then and there, if that’s the kind of God He is, I want nothing to do with him.”
It is tragic, that Mr. Turner’s ordeal with his sister made him bitter, instead of better, but that happens more times than we know, which is why WE believers MUST prove to the lost world that: God is love!! God is compassionate!! God is fair!! God does care!! God is always here and always there!!
George Mueller of Bristol, was a pastor in the 1800s, who ran an orphanage in Britain, for over 30,000 orphans, and never once did he ask for financial support, because God always supplied his needs, Why?? because Mueller was a man of faith.
In his book entitled: George Mueller of Bristol, A.T. Pierson writes on page 161, “In 1870, Mueller’s wife, Mary died after months of suffering and Mueller spoke at her funeral saying: “I miss her in numberless ways, and shall miss her yet more and more, but as a child of God, and as a servant of the Living lord Jesus, I am satisfied with the will of my heavenly father. Therefore, I will continually kiss the hand that has thus afflicted me.”
Now let me ask you: As you face the never ending changes of life, is your response closer to Ted Turner’s or George Mueller’s?
II. Two–We see Job vindicated.
After Job suffered the loss of all things precious, three of his buddy’s came by to comfort him, but instead of supporting him, they accused him of being a wicked man who was getting what he deserved, and their argument was logical, because everyone knows the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper, right??
No!! the problem with that logic is: Your logic may be faultless, but if your thinking is wrong, your conclusion will always be wrong!!
Job’s vindication is described in 42:7-8 which says: Job 42:7-8 (KJV)
7 And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. 8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.
God rebuked Job’s friends, because they were wrong about God and Job, who was not suffering because he was the worst of men!
Four times in this passage God calls Job, “My servant.”
Now don’t miss this: Satan will use religious people to discourage you, who have false concepts about God.
Satan even used Job’s wife, who counseled him to: “Curse God and die” so the lesson is: when you are God’s servant, He is your loyal defender!!
Psalm 5:11 (KJV) 11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
Psalm 68:5 (KJV) 5 A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
According to our justice system, if you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney,
And if you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided you by the court. You can also serve as your own defense attorney, but if you defend yourself, you must “Waive counsel” and forfeit your right to outside counsel.
There is a famous saying I learned in my short lived Law School experience: “He who serves as his own lawyer, always has a fool for a client.”
Now as we move through the narrative, we find Job was arguing with his friends, in an effort to defend himself and while he was busy defending himself, God wouldn’t defend him, so like most of us, Job gave up!!
III. Third–Job’s prayer of intercession.
The next fork in the road in Job’s life was when he began to intercede for his three friends, which is absolutely amazing to me.
God instructed them to go to Job and make a burnt offering in his presence, and this was to be Job’s final test. Forgiveness
Would Job vent his resentment on these three knotheads who slandered him, or would he accept the terms of God’s treaty and forgive them?
Well, unlike me, Job simply did what God commanded: he forgave his friends and prayed for them.
This fork in the road is found in Job 42:9-10 which says, 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the LORD commanded them: the LORD also accepted Job. 10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
The most important word in that passage is the word “when” because I believe Job was still in agony, but the moment he interceded for them, God reversed his situation!!
Job had tasted God’s grace, and he was willing to show the same spirit to his friends. Lesson Learned, NUFF said!!
There are a lot of people out there where you live and work, who think prayer is nothing more than manipulating God to do something that He otherwise wouldn’t do.
In fact, a lot of well meaning Christians think prayer is like rubbing Aladdin’s lamp, and God will appear and say, “Your wish is my command, BUBBA!!”
You see that THEOLOGY taught by many of the TV preachers every night, so don’t miss this: Prayer is not getting God to do what we want!! Prayer is God getting us to do what He wants!!
Now listen carefully: You will be forever enslaved, by those who hurt you, until you can sincerely forgive them and pray for their prosperity and happiness!!
L. Jesus said it this way in Luke 6:28, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
Remember it was “After Job had prayed for his friend, God turned Job’s captivity.” But what captivity is he talking about?
He was talking about the psychological captivity that enslaved Job, by his attitude of bitterness and un-forgiveness!!
Now the most common Hebrew word for forgive is “shalach”, which means “to release,” so when you forgive someone, you release them from the grip of your bitterness, and in releasing them, you surrender your desire for revenge.
P. Dr. S.I. Mcmillan said in his book: None of these diseases, p. 72, “The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. I can’t even do my work anymore because he controls my thoughts. The man I hate owns me. I cannot escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. The person I resent may be thousands of miles from my bedroom, but more cruel than any slave driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that my inner spring mattress becomes a rack of torture.”
Now here’s what we must learn: The point of your pain today, may resonate from someone who has hurt you deeply, so forgive them right this minute!!
IV. Fourth–we see Job’s restoration.
The final fork in the road in Job’s life occurred when God restored what Job had lost, but it was more than a simple restoration, because God gave Job back more than he ever had before, according to Job 42:11-17.
God gave Job three specific blessings:
1. One--doubled his wealth.
2. Two--doubled his children. [ten in heaven and ten on earth]
3. Three--added life to his years. [he lived until he was 140 years old]
Now here’s what I want you to notice: Job’s wealth was measured in terms of his family.
The older you get, the more you will understand the greatest gifts we have are our relationships.
Hey by the way, you want to know how rich you are? Count up everything you have that money can’t buy, and death can’t take away, and that my friend, is how rich you really are!!
Now if the metaphor: “Life is a Journey” has merit, those moments happen all the time!
So can you remember a time when you stood at that famous fork in the road, looking down one path as far as you could, to the place where it bent? Sure we all can!
M. To borrow the language of Robert Frost: “As you look in the rear view mirror at your own journey, were there forks in the road that you didn’t know were there? Do you wonder, gratefully or with regret, about the road not taken?”
God offers us two divergent paths; one that seeks conformity to earthly things, the other to spiritual, heavenly things. The path of choice, is yours to make!! It’s YOUR call!!