I live in a fairy-tale land, a land where logic and mathematics and common sense were banished long ago. A land where the impossible is possible, where certainty is forever uncertain, where the probable is very unlikely.
I live in the land of the Dallas Cowboys.
The land was not always this way. Long ago, when dinosaurs and a fedora roamed the earth, the Cowboys were in the NFC championship game 10 out of 13 years. They set the record for most consecutive winning seasons at 20, a record that still stands, at least until next year. They played in a stadium with a hole in its roof so God could see His team play, or so the saying went.
But then the Oilman came to town, and he fired the Fedora, and replaced him with his bosom buddy the Hair. The Hair remained the Oilman’s bosom buddy until they won two Super Bowls, when suddenly the Hair became Water, and Oil and Water definitely did not mix but instead separated due to irreconcilable differences. The Oilman declared that 500 knaves could fill the shoes of the Hair, and has spent the last 25 years trying to find all 500.
Far away from this land is the land of the Cowboys’ enemies, a land called the Capitol of Disfunction. It is a land of Left and Right but no Middle, a land of a million words and zero actions, a land where reason goes to die. And in this land of disfunction there is an Adman, who, although unrelated to the Oilman, resembles him in word and deed and, apropos of his land, disfunction. Like the Oilman, the Adman has many dollars but no sense, and, like the Oilman, his team attracts pity and scorn but few wins.
What do these two men have in common, besides futility on the field? Neither of them understand the most basic thing in business: the giving of responsibility requires a requisite giving of authority. They’re both quick to state they’re in charge, which would be OK, if either of them actually knew what they were doing. They’re also both incapable of giving up control, and consequently they continue to get mediocrity.
This is not an uncommon affliction. Many of us go through life thinking we’re the boss, thinking we’re in control, when nothing could be further from the truth. Even (especially?) those of us who acknowledge a higher power, who believe in God, whether He watches His team or not, who have trusted Jesus with our lives and made Him the boss, or so we like to say.
All too often, it is just a saying. This also isn’t new.
Please pray to the Lord your God for us. As you can see, we are only a tiny remnant compared to what we were before. Pray that the Lord your God will show us what to do and where to go.
May the Lord your God be a faithful witness against us if we refuse to obey whatever he tells us to do! Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.
They sound pretty sincere, right? “Whether we like it or not.” We’re going to do what He tells us to do, no matter what! All we care about is what He wants. Obedience is the key to our future. Just tell us what He wants us to do, and we’ll do it!
But, as in the Capitol of Disfunction, it was all words and no action. This is the message that came back from Jeremiah.
You sent me to the Lord, the God of Israel, with your request, and this is his reply: “Stay here in this land. If you do, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you. For I am sorry about all the punishment I have had to bring upon you. Do not fear the king of Babylon anymore,” says the Lord. “For I am with you and will save you and rescue you from his power. I will be merciful to you by making him kind, so he will let you stay here in your land.”
Their response? “You lie!” and they promptly left for Egypt. All that talk of “whether we like it or not” went right out the window.
All believers claim obedience, until what’s demanded is something we don’t want to do. Then suddenly what God wants isn’t nearly as important as what we want. Except that it’s not “suddenly,” is it? Our obedience has always been conditional, something we do as long as it doesn’t inconvenience us.
We’re fine with the minor irritation of tithing, at least until money gets tight. We’re good with gathering with fellow believers to worship, until we stayed out too late Saturday night. We’re enthusiastic about taking the gospel to the world, until it’s us, or, worse, the parents of our grandkids, He wants to do it with.
The Oilman and the Adman continue to get mediocrity because neither of them can give up control. And many of us continue to get mediocrity in our lives for the same reason. But there is a disarmingly simple solution.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.