The Secret of Life


Several years ago when the kids were younger we re-visited an old friend in a board game called ‘Candy Land’. I’m sure most of you played it when you were little and know what it is about; but it came back anew to me as I played it with my grandson Luke. It was Luke’s first time. We were out at the Hill and he was about five at the time. I must admit that I was unprepared for the number of questions I got from Luke as we played. He wondered ‘Is there a real Candy Castle’ and ‘Why do I have to go backwards through the candy cane forest to get there?’ Why are there gooey gumdrops that make you get stuck and lose my turn? How come I can’t take a shortcut – but you can? Why does Lord Licorice have pointed ears? . . . . and so it went, on and on and on. We played two games and Luke won the first one, but on the second game Luke nearly won on the first few cards but then started to have a lot of set backs that were so devastating to a kindergartener that he finally gave up in humpf and said . . . ‘you win Grandpa, I don’t want to play this game anymore’ . . . . and so we went on to another game; the game of Life.
I really never realized it before but board games teach us a lot about life. Our little yellow and red mini people face much the same hardships that we face in real life. They get stuck. They have reversals. They gain rewards. They suffer losses. And in some games they even pay taxes and can end up in jail! . . . such is life.
And that of course begs the ultimate question in the game of real life. Is it all a game of chance? Just how much influence does God have over the advances and set backs in our lives? I think God probably gets blamed for a lot of things that happen to our detriment and probably doesn’t get enough credit for the things that happen to our benefit. But where do you think God stands in your life . . . on the outside as an ambivalent observer or on the inside as an active participant? And if God is there with us, where is Satan and how does he fit into the equation of our life? These are the questions we want to explore today.
In the Old Testament lesson this morning, Abram bemoans the fact that he is soon to die and will leave no heir to inherit his land or possessions. You have to remember that Abram is in his 90’s and Sarah, his wife, is probably in her 80’s, so their chances of having a child of their own is zero. And so Abram laments the fact and says to (God) “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” But of course this is kind of hard to believe and Abram asks God to prove it . . . which he does and then nine months later as you know, Isaac is born to Sarah and Abram.
So if this is a game called Life, was this some kind of a magic Chance Card or is it a story of faith? Many, over the years, have said that it was a complete fabrication, because everyone knows an 80 year old woman cannot have a baby . . . yet today we read of grandmothers carrying their grandchildren to term while acting as surrogate mothers for their daughters who cannot have children. What, even in our lifetime, would be considered science-fiction has become fact. Is it the work of God or science or of chance, know one knows for sure?
In our New Testament reading Paul writes to the Philippians to beware of others who are enemies of the cross of Christ . . . “Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things”. These are those who we might call hedonists who are self indulgent and seek only pleasure out of this life. They are the enemy of the cross, not because they do not believe, but because they refuse to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. They are obsessed with avoiding any kind of pain in the world. They are those who are tied so strongly to the world and its pleasures that they cannot see the forest for the trees.
A number of years back Johnny Carson had Archbishop Fulton Sheehan and one of the tele-evangelists on his show for a chat about religion. The subject of the ‘god of this world’ came up and how he owned everyone on earth. Bishop Sheehan mentioned that if it wasn’t for the god of this world human beings would truly be free. The tele-evangelist became incensed at the Catholic bishop and started defending this god as necessary to every man’s salvation, that this god made every person and that all creation was his. At which Bishop Sheehan calmly informed the clergyman that the ‘god of this world’ is not Christ but Satan; that everyone in world was given over into slavery to Satan the day that Adam fell. What this showed was that many (even the elect) are so deceived by evil that they reject what is real and cling to what is a sham. Case in point is a Discovery Channel program that aired recently on the “Lost Tomb of Christ”. Does anyone here actually believe that something as significant to Christianity as Christ’s Tomb could be lost? I wonder . . . At any rate there will be many who will eat this up as fact because it was brought to them by television, and everyone knows that if it’s on television or the internet then it’s got to be true.
And finally today we have the gospel of Luke that recounts for us the steadfast resolve of Jesus to see His plan through to the end. The enemies of Jesus, the Pharisees, even they, were concerned that King Herod was out kill him, and came to him to warn Jesus on the Mount of Olives of the plot against him. But Jesus already knew of his impending suffering and death on a cross because it was, in fact, ‘the plan’ for our salvation, even from the beginning. Jesus shows us that the ultimate measure of any person’s life is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. If we are to follow Jesus, we must be willing to take up our own cross and follow him.
God is not about destroying lives and He should not be blamed for the problems in this world. Not all circumstances in this world or the decisions that are made are God’s will. Some are simply chance happenings, others, of course, are more malevolent.
We must remember there is a god of this world who is crafty and very deceptive. Many do not recognize his deceitfulness because the workings of Satan and of evil can be very subtle. Some of the work by him or his minions may seem harmless at first. However, ultimately, their goal is to bring about darkness to this world through pride, theft, murder, lies, and utter destruction.
We don’t have to get all ‘spiritually freaked out’ running to and fro looking for devils and saying the devil made me do it. That is a false statement because the devil can’t make anyone do anything . . . he can only use someone if they allow it to happen. Just remember when you see and hear of something really terrible happening, somewhere down the line, the devil is most likely responsible for planting the seeds of doubt and desperation.
Our lives are a lot like the games we play, they are about choices and about chance. We all have problems to solve and we all have battles to fight. It can be a challenge at times but we need to know that God continues to hold things together even when it looks like they are falling apart. What do you think holds this planet, this solar system, this universe, and all the heavens all together? It is held together by a harmony of forces far beyond our ability to understand. Chaos can never hold anything together. If God was not in control we would all be wiped out in an instant and everything would fall into darkness.
We all have responsibilities and we all need to make the right decisions for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for this world. We need to be able to deal with situations and be able to overcome whatever this world may throw at us. When we are in tune with God, he does have a will for us and an answer for everything. Nothing catches God off guard no matter what the struggle you are facing or what is going on in your world. All He asks is for us to go to Him in faith, just like Abram in the story this morning. If and when you do, miracles will begin to happen.
My grandson Luke was looking for the secret to winning at Candy Land. But, he was really looking for what we all want to know . . . i.e. the secret to life. Well, the biggest secret in life is that there is no secret. Whatever your goal is, whether it’s a game, a career, a marriage or a life, you can get there if you’re willing to work at it. But for Christians, knowing Jesus Christ is with you in all things, in all places and in all circumstances makes one’s life so much easier. Amen.