Life is a Journey, Are You Enjoying the Ride?

During the 1996 Superbowl, Nissan launched its now famous “Life is A Journey, Enjoy the Ride” advertising campaign.  In the two-minute spot, a young boy finds himself in an underground garage, where a mysterious man shows him some old cars.  As the boy begins to leave, the old man offers him a parting word of sage advice: (You have to say this with a thick Japanese accent for the full effect) “Remember….Life is a journey.   Enjoy…..the ride.”

Of course the commercial was designed to sell Nissan’s, so people could “enjoy the ride” in a nice car!  It had a different impact on one young pastor who was watching.

I paused to reflect on my life and the journey I was on with Christ.  How far I had come, how much I had changed since I knelt down before the Savior that first time.  I was not the person I wanted to be, but I was definitely not the person I had been!  Like my brothers and sisters who had lived before me, I was indeed on a journey.  A journey that was taking me down an ancient path, sometimes through stops I did not want to make, often through places I did not understand, but always towards a destination.

It is the same destination for every Christian:  to be formed into the image of Christ.  God is quite serious about His promise to “conform (us) to the likeness of his Son…” (Rom 8:29), to enable us to “participate in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4) and to see us “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2).  That is the purpose of Christianity and to that end, He guides us along the journey, overseeing the process in our lives.

This line of thinking may cause you to reflect on your own life journey.  There have been many things that have conspired against you to side track you along the way.  We’ve all had families, classmates, schools, peers, work associates and the ever-present media, who have helped shape our character.  Sadly, these influences have often mis-shaped us.  Rather than forging us into the image of divine fullness, we were conformed into the image of human brokeness.  Much of that brokeness, we carry around with us.

The call of Christ to follow him, to embrace his life transforming Gospel, has the power to change our course!  I have learned that this journey to become like the Savior will often take us kicking and screaming into places we do not want to go!  But go we must, for it is only through those doors that we learn the transformative lessons we need to learn.

We don’t like pain or hardship.   We want everything to be smooth, easy and trouble-free.  Often, Christianity is portrayed as a way to make all our problems disappear.  The problem with this is that it just isn’t true.   God mercifully uses difficulties in our lives to 1) get our attention when we get off track and 2) as a tool to lead us further on the journey to become like His Son.  These are just two of the reasons that  James could say:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV
 

There is something very important in this passage that we often miss and it warps our view of Christianity in the process.  You don’t see this clearly in the NIV translation, but most other translations include the three-letter word “Let”, which is in the greek.  We are commanded to “let” this perseverance complete its work in our lives.  We urged to “let it” finish its work.”  That word means “to hold onto, seize, possess, be affected by, subjected to,  to retain, to wear (like clothing), to embrace” what God may be doing through the trials.  In other words, when we are going through God-ordained trials, we are not to fear them, or run from them.  Instead, we are called to seize them.   God wants us to embrace our trials because He can use them to shape our lives for the better, if we “let” Him.

How counter-culture is that? My normal response when things are going wrong is to find the quickest way out it.   The opposite of the “Let” command is “to drop, to dispossess, to be unaffected by, to not be subject to, to reject, to take off.  Isn’t that how we naturally react to difficult circumstances in our lives?  We get rid of them as fast as we possibly can.  I wonder if that is why some of us keep going through the same trials over and over again.  Could it be because each time God brings us to the valleys of transformation, we refuse to enter them?  It is clear that God give us the freedom to make that choice.   I think it is also clear that, because He is sovereign,  God can bring us back to the same trial over and over again until we submit to His will.   Often times, I think he does just that.

If you are going through hard times right now, perhaps it would be beneficial to consider what God is doing.  Is God trying to get your attention because you have gotten off course?  If that is the case, you can look at your trials as God’s merciful gift to you.  Is God working in your circumstances to make you more like Christ? Rejoice!  If you find yourself praying and praying for your circumstances to change, and they aren’t, perhaps it is time to ask God why He allows them to continue and what it is you are being taught?  Often times we can look at the trials in our lives and feel that God is picking on us.  Actually, He may have picked us out for a special work of His transformative grace.

Life is a journey!  We can enjoy the ride even in the midst of difficulties.  We just have to “Let” God accomplish his goal for our lives.

Now it is your turn to share your thoughts.

Would you agree or disagree with this statement:  Some of the most important changes in my life were birthed out of adversity?

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the serious issues that exist within the American Evangelical church. It is a place for like-minded people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on May 12, 2012, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, The Christian Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Oh, that question of “Why?” That is one of the first things I find myself asking – not as though I am questioning my Creator – but as a way of finding out what I am supposed to be doing with or learning from whatever circumstance I am in.

    Love your writing Jim, and am sorry I have not been by more recently. Will try and find the time to come back and to keep caught up on your articles. All the ones I have read today have truly blessed and shown something that I needed to be reminded of. Thank you.

    • Welcome Back! Come and visit any time you can or want to. I can not keep up with all the great blog posts in the blogosphere. Thanks for your encouraging words.

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