“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Most of us are familiar with Frost’s famous line from his poem “The Road Not Taken” which was published in 1916. However immediately preceding these lines are the words:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:”
Ironically, the “sigh” can be interpreted as one of regret or one of self-satisfaction the reader is left up to his or her own interpretation. When we look back on our lives at the decisions we have made will we look back with regret of having trusted in this world or with the satisfaction of knowing we placed our trust in God?
Have you ever stood at a point on a hiking trail where the path splits off in two different directions and in order to continue hiking you must choose between the two? Have you ever been driving down the highway and come to a split in the road and you are torn between which of the two directions to take? Are you willing to admit that there have been times when you pulled your car into the area in between where the road forks to the left and right and stopped your car to reach for a map, or just ponder for a second before choosing your course? As human beings this is the story of our lives. We have choices and we have free will.
Allow me for a minute to stick with the hiking metaphor because hiking is one of my favorite hobbies. I have hiked in all four seasons and in all different types of terrain. Here are two pictures, one from a hike in the desert in southern Arizona not far from the Mexican border and the other is from the mountains of the Carolinas. You can see that in the desert it was dry and barren and the other teaming with green leaves, water, and life. Now look at the contrast between these two verses from Jeremiah 17: 5-10
“Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.”
Next we read:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”
Then Jeremiah concludes these verses with:
“More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.”
In yet another Bible verse from Psalm 1:3
“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.”
I suspect that most of you reading this have not had the opportunity to walk in an actual desert, but most likely everyone has experienced the beauty and maybe the refreshing shade of a tree alive and vibrant growing near a source of water. In Robert Frost’s poem, he says that he chose the road less traveled and that made all the difference. In our lives Jesus is calling you and me to choose the road less traveled too. It would appear an easy decision to choose between the lifeless desert or the flowing water and the abundant trees. Yet each day our hearts are tortured by the decisions of following man verses following God.
Unfortunately the twisted nature of our human hearts has deep roots in original sin. The sin of Adam, disobedience, has been passed down to us throughout the ages. The resulting impact of this original sin leaves our souls weakened. The end result of this finds us often choosing the road more traveled, the road of trusting in man and the road fraught with sin. Yes my friends too often we choose the desert road.
It has been said that in order to determine a person’s ideal in life you only need to observe where they spend their time, their thoughts and their money. So allow me to ask you three questions:
Where do you spend most of your time?
Where do you spend most of your thoughts?
On what do you spend most of your money?
Do your answers to those three questions reflect that you place your trust in man or in God?
So where is our time being spent? Is it being spent gossiping? On weekends is it spent working in the yard or hanging out at the beach or golfing, or partying with friends rather than spent in church or helping the people God calls us to help? How many of your late evening hours are spent on the computer?
Where are your thoughts? Are you spending time in scripture and reading good Christian books and growing in your knowledge of God or rather are your thoughts spent on other things. Maybe your thoughts are focused on how to get ahead at work by stepping on or over someone else. Perhaps your thoughts are focused on shopping for that new boat or camper you just can’t live without this summer. Maybe your thoughts are on how to get even with someone who has harmed you in some way. Maybe your thoughts are filled with lust while watching a provocative televisions show or movie.
What about your money, does your spending reflect your trust in the Lord? Do you spend more money on cigarettes, alcoholor onsporting events than yougive to your church and to charities? Go back and look at the last twenty checks you have written or the last twenty places you spent your cash. If someone else examined your spending patterns would they conclude that you place your trust in the Lord? What does your spending reflect as your ideal?
In John 15:5 we read this: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” My friends Jesus is the source of living water and apart from him we are doomed. We also see Jesus saying this in John 4: “but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Take a minute to read a few of the lyrics from these two songs:
“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say“by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1899
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely giveThe living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.
Healing River of the Spirit
byRuth C. Duck
Healing river of the Spirit, bathe the wounds that living brings.
Plunge our pain, our sin, our sadness deep within your sacred springs.
Weary from the restless searching that has lured us from your side,
We discover in your presence peace that world cannot provide.
We have all seen the consequences of making bad decisions in life. We have seen it in our own bad choices and we have seen it played out in the news in the lives of so many who chose not to trust God but instead to choose to follow their own desires. No doubt our heart is tortured by the choices we must make. It has been written of St. Philip Neri, who, on seeing a murderer being led to the gallows, said in all sincerity, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Our choices matter. We need the grace that only Jesus gives.
When we make the wrong choices in life it is often because we believe that that choice will bring us happiness or joy. Psalm 1 says this:
Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, Nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers. Rather, the law of the LORD is their joy; God’s law they study day and night.They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers. But not the wicked! They are like chaff driven by the wind.Therefore the wicked will not survive judgment, nor will sinners in the assembly of the just.The LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.
There have been times when I was hiking that I temporarily got lost. There have been times while hiking that I chose the wrong path. In the end, I either had to back track to where the path split and then go down the other path or I had to do some other course correction to get back over to the right path. Sadly like everyone else, I too have at times chosen to walk down the wrong path in life. But through the grace of God I have been led back to His path. Will I get lost again——most likely? But I know that the more firmly I am rooted in Jesus, the less likely I am to choose that wrong path in the future. We have all experienced the sadness of placing our trust in ourselves, our friends, or this world rather than in God.
Dear friends if today you find yourself on the wrong path of life do not despair. God is there for you. Simply call out to him and say “my Lord and my God”. Tell him you are lost. Tell him you regret having placed your trust in this world. His mercy and grace are abundant. He longs to lead you home.
Dear Lord you and you alone are my GPS in this life. Give me the grace to follow where you lead me. Give rest to my tortured heart and refresh me with your living and eternal waters, amen.