"Live Life, Traveling Well"#86-49
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 4, 2019
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Live Life, Traveling Well)
Copyright 2019 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: 1 Peter 1:17-25
"Since you call on a Father who judges each person's work impartially, live out your time in this world as foreigners here in reverent fear." Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, and He is the wisdom and strength to finish well the journey of your life by faith in Him. Amen.
What's the first question you hear from kids when you take a road trip in the car? Now, I know you know this one. Yes, that question that's asked over and over again. "Are we there yet?" Our family vacation when I was young was to visit our family in Ironwood, Michigan, going "up north," as they say. It was great to see our family, but the family fun was 650 miles away, one-way trips, long ones. They often begin with excitement. There comes a point when we just want to get there. We want to know when the journey ends. Now, you may not be taking a road trip vacation at the moment, but you may very well still be asking the question, "Are we there yet?" because you're asking it in the context of this journey called life.
You wonder when you will arrive at certain destinations. Will you meet the right person to become your husband or wife? Are we there yet? Will your dreams be realized for starting a family? Are we there yet? Will you reach the career goal you're shooting for? Will God's plan for your life be clear, so you can understand what He wants you to do? What will your purpose be as your life changes as you experience new challenges along the way? Are we there yet?
How will you handle aging, health issues and, ultimately, the end of your life? When will you feel at peace? Will life be okay? Are we there yet? Those are really important, are-we-there-yet questions for your life, and all of us have to answer them eventually, and the words of the Bible help us face those questions in confidence that can only come by faith in Jesus Christ. So, this lesson from the apostle Peter speaks to anyone asking those are-we-there-yet life questions, but did you notice what he says first?
Peter says, "And if you call on Him, God as Father, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile." This journey, our life, he calls an exile. Peter was saying to them, to us, "No matter how things are at the moment, they weren't home yet. They were merely traveling here on a road trip to their most important destination: to be home with God in heaven." And about that important trip, he wants us to travel well, but it's not always easy to do that.
In fact, as sinful people, we don't always travel well. We often travel poorly. When life isn't going the way you want it to or the way you hoped it would, it's very easy to do that. Face a few major obstacles, and you may sink into despair and lose hope for the trip. Experience a few detours, and you may develop a little road rage, becoming angry or acting out in rebellion and sinful behavior. Or get stuck in the traffic, and you can easily find yourself ready to turn around and forget the whole thing.
If we travel poorly, we can not only lose our cool, lose our focus, or lose our purpose, we may miss the whole point of the whole thing, even getting sidetracked from the main destination. Traveling poorly can do that. Thinking back, I can remember a few times when my brothers and I ruined the trip, which took away the joy of the destination, too. So, the apostle Peter offers some help for you and me. He knows our propensity to travel poorly, so he helps us travel well to make the very most of this journey that we have in life towards our home with Christ in heaven.
Listen to what the Bible says in 1 Peter 1. "If you call on Him as Father, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ like that of the lamb without blemish or spot."
First, in order to travel well then, Peter tells you to travel with fear. Fear? Fear? Now that doesn't sound very good. What does that mean? Well, let me explain. Do you remember the excitement of getting your license so that you could drive? Do you remember the excitement of getting behind the wheel and going wherever you wanted to go? Ah, the joy of freedom to travel, right? But do you also remember taking driver's ed classes before getting your license? I do. I had to sit through some Saturday classes and test drives with other students under the watchful eye of our instructor.
One of the first things that we were told before getting behind the wheel, before experiencing the joy of being able to go anywhere at any time—the first thing we were taught—it was to drive defensively. That's right: defensive driving. It's important. It's driving, anticipating what other drivers might do wrongly, not just doing what's right. When you're on the road, it's watching for other cars, watching for people, suspect that anything and everything may go wrong. Why? So you'll be ready. You'll be safe.
It's driving with a healthy fear, and that's a good thing, especially when you're traveling down the road at 60 miles per hour in a 2,000-pound car that has a flammable liquid in the tank. There's joy in driving, yes, but you might want to be careful not to hit another one of those potentially combustible battering rams. That joy can be snatched quickly. Lives depend on everyone driving smartly, defensively, with a healthy sense of fear. It's fun to drive, no doubt, but that joy should be focused, undistracted, alert. That's how God calls you to live your life in this sinful world.
Peter says, "That's how you travel the journey of life well." There are practices in life that will cause you to crash. There are habits that will hurt yourself and others. There are attitudes that will drain your soul of hope. Traveling with fear means that you live on the alert for hazards, hurt, and distractions. You listen to God's guidance, and you resist the temptations that would cause you to fall asleep at the wheel of your life.
But Christians, we don't just travel with a healthy fear of the potential potholes that might knock us off course. We travel ultimately with the excitement of the destination, with the wisdom of how to manage the trip, with the knowledge that the trip and the destination are going to be special because God is with us all the way. Peter says believers travel with hope.
In 1 Peter 1, he says Jesus "was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." Jesus was manifest. He was made visible, shown as the Savior to our world. He made the ultimate journey to make a way, a highway, if you will, back to the Father. He not only made it possible; He made it clear. The death and resurrection of Jesus was God making a way home for all of us who had lost our way.
One of the great feats of engineering today is tunnels. If you've ever driven in New York City, you know that it's an island, so you either need to drive through a tunnel or cross a bridge to get into Manhattan. Before there were bridges or tunnels, drivers were faced with the absolute barrier of the Hudson River to their journey into the city, but someone made a way where there was no way. They dug under the water. They made a tunnel, and voila, cars driving on dry land under the water into New York City.
Well, today, maybe you're facing an absolutely impossible obstacle, too. Maybe it's the impassable river of grief or stress. Maybe it's a mountain of guilt or shame or loss. There are times in this world when we are all overwhelmed by our inability to finish the journey we're on, and that's why the Bible's message is so unique in all the world. God doesn't tell you to drive a little harder or smarter and take on the water, the mountain, that won't let you pass. God, the very Engineer of our salvation, makes a way for you and me on His terms by His efforts for us as a gift. The cross and the resurrection of Jesus are more than a tunnel under water or a tunnel through a mountain. It's a highway of grace back to God, paved by His death, offered toll-free by His resurrection. When God makes a way possible where there is no way, you can trust Him that you will finish the journey well, and not only does He make a way possible, He offers a destination that's beyond our imagination.
Think about what keeps you going on a long journey. It's the promise of a wonderful destination. Now, I know of a family who loves going to Disney World. The first time they went, they had a brochure and a guide book. One summer, they piled into the car with their kids, and they set out for Florida. It was a long drive, but whenever fatigue started to set in, they looked at the pictures and remembered the amazing place they were heading. Whenever they got grumpy, they would talk about the places they wanted to explore.
Whenever they felt hungry or cramped or dissatisfied, they would remember the reason for the journey—Mickey, Minnie, the Magic Kingdom. They traveled with a destination of hope. Well, what keeps you going on this journey of life? It's not that sun-drenched getaway or the promises of the Magic Kingdom. No, it's the ultimate destination of hope. It's the hope of heaven delivered through the gifts of God's grace. On your journey, when you feel isolated even alone, God strengthens you with His Spirit-filled Word and Sacraments, and lets you know that you are never alone, and He will see the journey through with you. On your journey when you feel hopeless, disheartened, God's Word reminds you that you have a worthy purpose for this trip to be His ambassadors of His destination for all. When you grow weary, weary of the challenges of this journey in exile, God lets what awaits you, abundant joyful life with Christ, home with Him forever.
Those who trust in Jesus, they travel on this journey with fear, not dread, with hope, not despair. Yes, but above all, the believer travels with the power of love and action for the journey itself. Peter's words in the Scripture say it this way. "Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love. Love one another earnestly from a pure heart since you've been born again not of perishable seed, but imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God." It's amazing the power of love, isn't it? It's amazing what love can do when it travels with you, right?
Well, let me explain. My dad was a guy who could get things done. When he was young in his teens, he worked hard, took care of his brothers while his father was away fighting during the War. He did what he had to do for the ones he loved, and that was an attitude of love that was evident in our family, too. In fact, he and mom took care of us with that kind of dedication, always providing whatever it was we needed so that we could accomplish whatever was in front of us, too. That's what someone else's love can do for you.
Well, I can remember the feeling I had one day when I realized that that love travels. That love was something I could count on for my journey as their son. I was away at the University of Michigan for my freshman year, my first time away from home, and one of my science classes at Michigan, my faith was being ridiculed, so I decided that I'd also take a class at nearby Concordia College, Ann Arbor. They had a world-renowned science professor there who was a creation scientist, so I thought I'd hear both sides, get the facts, as it were. But to do so, I had to make the trip from my dorm at South Quad to Concordia every week.
But then one late afternoon, on one of the coldest, snowiest days of the year, my car suddenly died out in the middle of nowhere on the way to class. I checked the basic things that could have gone wrong, but this was something more. The engine was dead. Later, I found out that my car had thrown its timing chain. Bad news. So here I was stranded. No money to fix the car. No AAA to get it towed. No cell phones then either, but one thing I did know. If I could get to a pay phone and get a hold of my dad, he would know what to do. So I did.
I ran to a phone a few miles away, called my father, and he told me to stay put. He'd be there after work to get me, and we'd figure something out together. When he got there, sure enough, he knew what to do, who to call, and how we could take care of this thing and get me back on the road. But even before he got there, I was sure everything would be all right as soon as I knew that he was coming. That's the joy of knowing that love comes to you and then even travels with you. The love of a mom, dad, or committed friend, one who's willing to be there on that journey with you even when you made a mess of things, it's amazing, isn't it?
For those who love us, they often do it with no benefit to themselves at the moment. They do it because they love us. So, let me challenge you, my friend. This week, when you get a glimpse of any undeserved kindness in your life, when you think back on a time when you received a blessing from someone, even though you didn't deserve it at all, let that remind you of the truth of our lesson today that God loves you even more than you'll ever know.
His love traveled to the cross and back so that you might have life, a real journey to eternal life over the obstacles of sin and death. And His love traveled to you, and even now travels with you, as Jesus Himself promises to be with you each and every step of the way. But that's what God did when He sent His Son to you just in time, sidelined in our own failing strength, immobilized in our inability and sin. God sent His Son to save us.
Tires go flat, cars break down, our lives run out of strength, and our spirits become deflated, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. The good news of Jesus never fails, and the love of God encourages you and keeps you on the journey. But traveling well is not merely knowing that love is our travel companion, but sharing it, too. God's love travels, and with His love on your journey, you can travel well as you share it with others. Traveling well means that you can show you've received.
In fact, the journey of life is not some boring journey, sitting still in a car until you get there, constantly asking, "Are we there yet?" No. Life is a wonderful journey with eyes wide open to all the opportunities around us to be God's people for others, to stop and help those who are stranded, to give God's directions to those who don't know where they are, or where they're going, to enjoy the ride with our loved ones and friends as a glimpse of the joy that will be in heaven for all those who trust in Christ.
What a joy it is to be on the journey of life in Christ—pedal to the metal. Peter's challenging us all today on the journey of our lives. Travel well as one prepared, focused, alert in the grace of God and Jesus, directed by the wisdom of God and His Word, and with His presence and promises, His guidance and strength, ready to hit the road of life with hope and love. Because in Christ, by faith in Him, you can travel well until you're at home with the One who has made a way for you where there was no way. So, rev the engine of your life! Chart the course, give it gas, and by faith in Jesus Christ with His hope and love and action, travel well. Amen.
Reflections for August 4, 2019
Title: Live Life, Traveling Well
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour, and that was a classic message from Dr. Gregory Seltz, titled, "Live Life, Traveling Well." I'm Mark Eischer here once again with Lutheran Hour Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler. What were your impressions of that sermon that you heard just now?
Mike Ziegler: Mark, the first thing that stood out to me was the way Dr. Seltz described traveling with fear. It sounds like it's not a good thing to be traveling with fear, as we are on our exile, as he mentioned. However, I really appreciated the way he framed it as defensive driving. When you think about it that way, there is a healthy fear to have when we think we're driving around these 2,000-pound battering rams filled with flammable liquid.
Mark Eischer: Right. Yeah, that's a vivid image.
Mike Ziegler: Right. I've been thinking a lot about this preparing for our next sermon series. After August we're going to be doing a series on the book of Genesis and going through those narratives of Genesis. You know the stories of the fall into sin, and Cain and Abel, and the flood. You see the terrifying power that humanity has, that we have to destroy ourselves, and so there is something about traveling well defensively with some fear and trembling.
Mark Eischer: Also, the terrifying power of God's wrath over sin.
Mike Ziegler: Right, absolutely. You see that in the flood. You see that in the scattering of the people after the Tower of Babel that God is serious about this stuff, and we need to take it seriously.
Another perspective on that is I was listening to a pastor talk about preventative wellness: that not waiting until your burnt out, not waiting until you completely crash and burn, not waiting until you fall into some terrible, shameful sin, but to before that reflect on where I am with my faith, and my walk with God, and my relationships with others. That is, I think, is another part of that traveling well, traveling with defensively, yet preventative, wellness.
Mark Eischer: Then also traveling in the protection of God's love and God's mercy. We also heard that theme brought up in the sermon.
Mike Ziegler: Right. That was the other part of it—so not just traveling with fear, but traveling knowing that God's love will make a way when there is no way. I really liked that analogy of the tunnel under the Hudson River. There is no way that God's love will make a way, kind of like that.
I mentioned earlier that I had talked to Greg that we were doing these sermons in August. I shared with him how much I enjoy that story that is about his dad coming to him, coming to his rescue, when he didn't have a prayer. He said, "Oh, I got a great update on that story. Apparently, recently his daughter was in a car accident. She was sideswiped. It really frightened her, and she didn't know what to do, so she called her dad.
Mark Eischer: Yeah.
Mike Ziegler: He said that she was very apologetic that she was bothering him because he's, as you mentioned, he's a busy guy. He's traveling all over the world. She didn't want to bother him, or be a trouble to him, and he said, "Dads live for this kind of stuff. I'll be right there." That's that love that makes a way, is going to set everything aside, and then that's the kind of love that God has for us.
Mark Eischer: The third point of that sermon was the idea of traveling with hope.
Mike Ziegler: Right. I mentioned the series on the book of Genesis that we're preparing for in September and that hope for the destination, that joy, not just are we there yet, but are we there yet? I hear that in Genesis 1 how God delighted in His creation and made everything good, and very good, and that hope of the new heavens and the new earth God making all things new. That is a powerful hope that can keep you going through anything. I think that's part of what traveling with hope is.
Mark Eischer: Next week, we continue this tradition of using the month of August to honor the past and carry it into the future, as we feature a classic message from Dr. Oswald Hoffmann. He's going to be talking about prayer, specifically, how to pray.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Gracious God, You Send Great Blessings" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)