Pastor Jeff Needleman
Rabbit Trails & Stuck At Home Tales (Video & Text)
Chasing Rabbit Trails & Stuck In The House Tales!
With our lives
-turvy due to shelter in place, social distancing, the shut down of non-essential businesses; with so much time on our hands, perhaps some of us, or many of us- or all of us- at 1 time on another have asked this timeless question. What is the meaning of life? How do we chase after it? & once found… now what?
Invited to dinner, the host told Alice & I we were eating chicken cacciatore. But I knew it was rabbit stew- it had hares in it! OK- another hare-brained groaner! But have you ever noticed how easily we hop down rabbit trails that direct us away from the point? How effortlessly we get distracted & take insane turns & crazy tangents! Ooo- squirrel! Sometimes we don’t even know where we’re going but we’re still surprised at where we end up. The Rabbit Trails term arouse from watching dogs sniffing around in circles, getting nowhere fast & never find the bunny! While rabbit trails can be fun & interesting, they seldom get you to where you want to go!
We follow rabbit trails in hopes of finding happiness, hope & fulfillment but instead we sniff round & round & don’t get anywhere because these trails are really just distractions & detractions that lead us way from our true purpose. We spend countless hours on the internet or watching TV or on our phones but they don’t get us anywhere! We spend our moments chasing after things we believe give meaning to life.
The fact is, Scripture tells us that God chases & chases after us, His sheep, & never stops. Meanwhile, we’re busy chasing rabbits while God’s chasing us! Now, there’s nothing wrong with rabbit trails unless they take on a greater priority then our relationship with God! Which is the true fulfillment & meaning of life!
& God has gifted us with talents, abilities, desires & interests to help our chase, but He wants our full attention. Here’s a short rabbit trail list I compiled that’s by no means is complete… ready? We chase relationships, money, success. We chase elevation of reputation, position, power & prestige, toys & material possessions. We chase love, acceptance, approval & affirmation…
As we seek happiness & personal-fulfillment, we chase popularity, personal dreams, education, & fulfillment in external things like sports, art, music, dance, gourmet food, golf, reading, pets, cars, guitars, homes, social media, video games & fashionable clothing. & whatever we’re addicted to.
If any of these inconvenient truths hit home & makes you feel uncomfortable after hearing them, well I’ve been told that’s what a sermon is supposed to do; to convict & help us change direction by chasing after God, even if it’s inconvenient to our life style- even if what we are truly after & need is not what we want! Jesus very often addresses these little treasures that we chase after instead of Him!
We read in: Mt 6:19-21, & 24 NIV "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money… Mt 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. And in: Lk 12:15 NIV Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." & in: Lk 14:33 NIV In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Jesus’ words are inconvenient to our lifestyles for sure, but teach us that those little treasures we chase after are truly worthless-if they hold a higher priority in our lives then the Lord. Without a Godly spiritual base they never turn out to be enough for very long. I know this to be true in my own life.
I’ve chased after guitars & musical equipment. But within 2 weeks of getting what I thought was my heart’s desire… even before the newness wore off, I was ready for the next one. I was unfulfilled.
But when I started using those rabbits with 6 strings in the service of God, there was a new & different appreciation for them… a lasting one! I’ve learned that keeping my eyes fixed on the Lord…that chasing after Jesus is the key to true & lasting contentment. &… it’s easier for me to avoid wandering down rabbit trails when I hit rough but brief patches in the road. & if I do veer of course, it’s not for very long!
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us some of the major aspects of chasing after Jesus, including pursuing holiness. Holiness- now there’s a word that a fair amount of people recoil from- & just like the words sin or obedience, we rarely find them in the news! So my question is… are we chasing holiness or, disobedience? Are we pursuing right living or sin? Are we chasing after God, or rabbit trails? Let’s read:
Heb 12:1-14 NIV Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, & he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined and everyone undergoes discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet, "so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Let’s take a Godly rabbit trail & break down passage this passage a bit! 1st, with the help of the Holy Spirit, into the garbage can goes anything that can ensnare & keep us in bondage to self & not the Lord!
We’re told to discard our disobedient behaviors- sinful or otherwise that distract us from our relationship with God & living for Christ; anything that hinders our race for Christian spiritual & emotional formation, growth & maturity.
In the verse “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”, the Greek word used for race verse means conflict, contention, fight or struggle. We have no choice but to run life’s race, but it’s a fight & struggle to maintain real loyalty & true commitment, as well as a boat load of effort & sacrifice. So, we may not want what we truly need with because of the oh so attractive rabbit trails… but the benefits of pursuing Jesus are out of this world!
2nd, if our eyes are steadfast on Jesus, we find encouragement & real help in overcoming the tempests, trials, troubles, tribulations, temptations & inconvenient truths to our lifestyles. With His help we find victory over all those dilemmas that would impede our race- whether of our own makings or influenced by the world, whether problems set upon us by the devil or God’s heavenly spankings of discipline. With Jesus as our focal point, we stay on course because can see past our current problems with hope & trust. This instead of resisting & being blind to the lessons that lead us to greater holiness & away from a life that is filled with 1 crisis after another.
3rd, it’s important for us to know that Christ, fully God & fully man, isn’t only the creator & nurturer of our faith, but when our eyes are firmly set on Him, His Holy Spirit dwelling within us sustains & helps us in our daily walk & spiritual journey. We are never alone!
There are a lot of comic strips with the classic scene of someone on a spiritual journey finally reaching the mountain top & asking the all-knowing & wise sage- “what is the meaning of life?” Now my wife Alice would say it’s coffee. Some of us might mention a BLT. If you google it you’ll find answers offered from the Dalai Lama to the Cookie Monster!
While most of the 613 googled answers are humorous, they’re never true or satisfying. The mountain climber descends with frivolous & meaningless answers that leave him feeling empty & disappointed. What is the true & lasting meaning of life? Well it won’t be found in the Rabbit Trail list I shared earlier.
Solomon, the likely author of Ecclesiastes came to this perspective in his old age. We read in Chapter 1: Verse 2 NIV Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. His teaching in this writing, reveals that feeling lost certainly has its root cause in seeking happiness in worldly things.
This very wise king had the means to experience almost every form of worldly pleasure but none gave him a sense of meaning or satisfaction for any length of time. In the end, he comes to accept that faith in God is the only way to find personal meaning. He accepts the fact that life is brief & ultimately worthless without God. Solomon advises us to focus on God instead of temporary pleasures.
Now I love Albert Einstein’s ingenious answer to the question: What is the meaning of human life…? He says you must be aware of God to know the answer & that “The man who regards his own life & that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life.”
True & lasting meaning is always wrapped around God, so chasing down those rabbit trails means we’re running the race in the wrong direction! The real & lasting answer to the meaning of life is summed in the opening lines of The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Let me paraphrase & expand on it; the meaning of life is to chase after & glorify God & enjoy Him forever.
I know this sounds like a cop out answer- simple & contrite, but the answer it is nevertheless. The meaning of life is to be devoted to our pursuit to see God. Pursuit is a verb… which mean we have to active in our relationship with God. We don’t get to sit on our laurels… Did you ever wonder that means… to sit on our laurels?
In ancient Greece, laurels were crowns of victory, status & achievement. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary states that “not resting on our laurels” means we don’t get to do nothing…
… which brings us to our closing Verse… Verse 14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. In our next episode we’ll chase how to be holy! For now, be blessed & hang on… pursue Jesus during our down time!