Jump Start # 2658
Acts 26:32 “And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Our verse today is the bridge that takes Paul to Rome. He had been arrested, mistreated and taken before high ranking political officials. In the midst of all of this Paul appealed to Caesar. Being a Roman citizen gave him certain rights. He was not to be beaten without a trial. Caesar was as high as the court system went. It would be our Supreme Court, except in this case, Caesar stood alone. Agrippa realized that Paul was innocent. The Jews were squabbling, as they always did. Paul should have been released and sent on his way. However, he had already made a request to be seen by Caesar. That was now going to take place. Off to Rome, he would go. Bible students know how this story ends. Paul writes several letters to churches from his Roman prison. He’s released for a short time but then is back in prison. This second time would be the end of Paul. He would be executed in Rome.
I want to lift an expression from our verse today, “might have been.” This man ‘might have been set free.’ This week we’ve been running a series I called, “Articles from the West,” about a recent trip I took to Montana and Wyoming. This will wrap up that series.
While in one of the National Parks, having finished a hike, we came to an area where there was a lot of people and standing there was a park ranger. He was with the National Park Service. He was a young guy. My wife was asking him about other trails, waterfalls and so forth. I just stood looking at this guy. He had his Smokey the Bear hat on, green uniform, badge, complete with National Park patches on his shirt. This was the real deal. My wife talked and I stared.
You see, many years ago, that was what I wanted to do. I pursued two years of college following that dream. I wanted to work out West, where we were, for the National Park Service. What a cool job, I thought that would be. But things changed. I came to an intersection in life and found my real passion was in preaching. I left the Park Service dream in the dust and never looked back. But as I looked at that young ranger, I thought, that could have been me years ago. Borrowing from our verse, that “might have been” me.
I have thought and thought about what that life might have looked like had I put on a ranger’s hat rather than stood behind a pulpit. I know I would not have met the wonderful wife that I have. I expect in time that I would have gotten fed up with the politics of a government job. Church life is thin out West. I’d like to think that I would have stayed with the Lord, but I wonder. I would likely be retired now, and had a good life. But, it would not have been the best life.
Here are some lessons:
First, all of us face intersections in our lives. Stay on the path that I started, or turn down another road? Sometimes these paths are not the right direction. Some lead us away from the Lord. Money and fame too often make the decision for us. But it’s hard to get up Monday morning and go to work at a job one hates. Even if the money is good, the strain, stress and discouragement pressing daily upon the mind wears one out. So many, if not most these days, change their major in college. It’s hard for an 18 year-old to decide what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Many just want to run through Taco Bell and play video games all day. Deciding on a career path is foggy. This is why so many switch majors and change directions. I’m glad I did. Often these intersections in life are not a matter of right and wrong. What others want you to do is not always what you feel like doing.
Second, parents need to be realistic in guiding their children into the best choices. Some college studies sound really great, but can one find a job with that? I saw one university was offering advance classes on the music of the Beatles. Boy, I’d love that. But what would one do with that? College is expensive. And, college is a business. They don’t mind your child switching majors every semester. It’s more money for the school. All of us have a natural bent. That is what Proverbs 22, “train up a child in the way he should go,” truly means. Putting a person in classes that he is not passionate about wastes everyone’s time. College isn’t for everyone. What is your child good at? What excites your child? Don’t wait until he is 18 and graduating to be asking those questions. Find out much earlier. Introduce your child to a variety of different things from sports, to music, to camps, to summer reading programs, to see what he is gifted at and what he is passionate about.
Third, whatever we do, we must honor God, follow Him and glorify His name. Can one go to Heaven as a forest ranger? Absolutely. Is it better to be a preacher than a forest ranger? Not necessarily. It was for me. But that may not be for everyone. Putting yourself in a place where you find a great congregation, you can surround yourself with amazing Christians, and you can serve the Lord with your talents is most important. Honoring God, as an attorney, a park ranger, a preacher, a housewife, an athlete, a teacher, a doctor, a nurse is what is important. Your choices in life will give you opportunity to show others what a Christian looks like. Your choices can open doors for you that you never thought possible. Your choices can lead you to help others and changing their lives eternally.
Finally, all of this is a matter of your choices. No one can live your life. The grass always seems greener in the other yard, but it still has to be mowed and taken care of. Living with disappointments, regrets or wishing that you had followed a dream is a tragic and trapped way to live. Choices involve risks. Choices are often hard. But follow the Lord first, and then your heart next. Don’t be afraid to make changes. God opens and closes doors for us. Paul wanted to preach in Asia but God wouldn’t have it. Instead he was sent to Macedonia and what wonderful, wonderful work he did there. Often our Plan A in life isn’t what God has in mind for you. His Plan A may not even be on our list. But things can happen and with hard work, a wonderful life can be built around what the Lord has for us.
I’m glad that I took another path. A park ranger would be ok, but I think I’d get tired of wearing green every day. Loving what you do, making a difference and honoring God is what truly matters. Are you doing that?