Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Running from Bears

Two hikers on a trail came around the bend to find an enormous brown bear about 75 yards up the trail. The bear spies them and begins running toward them at a full gallop. One hiker drops his backpack, sits down, throws off his boots, and starts lacing up a pair of running shoes. The other hiker says, "What are you doing? You will never outrun that bear!". The first hiker replies: "I don't have to outrun the bear…I just have to outrun you!” I’m sure you have all heard that joke before. Personally, I have heard it way too many times. However, a news story this week reminded me of it.

In Colorado Springs, Colorado, a 26 year-old woman, who is five months pregnant, was walking on a popular biking trail. She suddenly heard rustling in the brush. When she investigated, she was looking at a full-grown bear.

She backed up and began walking away, but the bear walked behind her. She walked some more, and the bear followed. Soon, she thought she could run away, and made a break for it. The bear began running after her. She ran towards the street to get help. When she did, she was struck by a car. She and the baby are fine.

In the Old Testament book bearing his name, the prophet Amos has some hard words for his audience. Amos was not a prophet or a priest. He was just a simple sheep farmer who tended sycamore trees in his spare time. God called him to preach to the people of Israel.

His message was harsh. He compared them to a leaning wall that was about to collapse. He told them that God was holding a plumb line up to them and they did not measure up. He listed their violations with specifics.

The Israelites, like ourselves, look forward to the “Day of the Lord”, when God will judge all who are evil. We seek justice for wrongs done to us or others. We want God to come down and make those who are sinful pay for their sin. We imagine that we will be able to see or witness their demise before the throne of God.

However, Amos says to the people of Israel in 5:18, “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light.” What they, and we, do not understand is that when we call for God’s judgment, we are calling that same judgment down upon ourselves also. Amos continues on to say, “It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him!”

Like Israel, we cannot point fingers at everyone else, when we are as sinful as they are. When we wish that God would punish others for their wrongdoings, we are calling His judgment and punishment on our own heads.

What should we do? We should start by trying to rid our own lives of sin. When we encounter the “bear” of sin, we need to apply the strategies suggested by the Department of Wildlife for encountering bears. (1) Be on the lookout for it. You never know when you may encounter one. (2) If you see one, slowly back away while keeping an eye on it. You cannot outrun a bear that wants to catch you. (3) Although it is easier said than done, stand your ground if a black bear charges. This is typically a bluff charge so the bear can see what you'll do. If you stand your ground, it often will stop, but if you run it will follow. (4) If a bear attacks you, fight back with a rock or a stick or whatever is handy. The advice to play dead applies only to grizzlies.

These suggestions apply to the sin in our lives as well. (1) Be on the lookout. When we forget that we are weak and start putting ourselves into situations that are wrong, we typically fall into sin. (2) We should always try to avoid sin, while keeping watch on it. If we turn our backs and try to run away of our own strength, sin will pursue and we may run into something worse, like a lion (or a car!). (3) Stand your ground. Satan cannot make you do anything. Resist sin. (4) If you fail to avoid sin, you must fight. If you do not fight when attacked, then you will be devoured. Your whole life will be consumed by it.

Do you sometimes feel that you are running from bears or lions, but running into cars? Life was not meant to be that way. Give your life, your sin, your heart and will to Jesus Christ today. He will guard your heart from “bears” as long as you walk with Him.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

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