The Signpost (Matthew 7:24-27)

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Close to where I live, there is an old fashioned signpost. You probably know the sort I mean. A sort of black and white ‘finger post’. It tells the traveller the direction for Southwater, Horsham or Barns Green. When it was first set in place, these were quiet country lanes, with occasional visitors using horse drawn vehicles. Back then, we would have been reliant on this kind of signpost to help us to find our way to places. Now, of course, the roads are much busier with fast moving cars and delivery vans. Even if they are unfamiliar with the area, most drivers rely on SatNav to help them get to where they want to go. The signpost seems to belong to a different time. It’s a relic of times passed. It’s largely ignored. But it’s still there. And interestingly, it’s still accurate.

The point is that we have a tendency to overlook ‘old things’ which have, in our minds at least, been overtaken by events, time and technology. Map books. Signposts. They belong to a different era. They seem irrelevant. We take no particular interest in them even if they’re still there.

And that’s fine, except gadgets and technology are not infallible. Occasionally, SatNav lets us down. Sometimes we lose signal. There are moments when we need to make a decision and there is simply no app to help us out. We need to look somewhere else for wisdom and direction to give us the reassurance we need. There are moments when we wish we still had a ‘road atlas’. Sometimes we wish there was a signpost at the next junction to give us a clue.

Scripture is fairly old. Abraham lived about 4000 years ago, and it’s around 2000 years since Jesus started His ministry. It’s easy to think that the things of faith belong to a different time. A different era. We’re modern people with gadgets and technology. Apart from passing curiosity, what can Scripture possibly have to do with us.

Scripture is a bit like that ancient sign post. It was put in place ages ago, when the world was a very different place. The world has changed beyond recognition, yet like the Southwater signpost, the Bible still tells the truth. It still points us in the direction we should be going, and spells out where the alternative path leads.

Just noticing the Bible is there, even just reading the Bible isn’t enough. Our response to what we have read is what matters.

‘Signposts don’t walk in the direction they point. It is we humble mortals who must choose which way to go. The signpost is not responsible for our decision.’

John le Carre, Agent Running in the Field, Penguin, 2019, p.231

So, here’s the plan

A few short months ago, I felt good. I was ahead of the game. Christmas was approaching. I had published my Advent posts. My Christmas blog post was drafted and pretty much ready to go. I had my New Year’s blog post sort of worked out in my mind.

One of the reasons I was getting prepared was because I was taking the first week of January off. I was excited. It’s a long time since I took a week off, and I’ve never done it at New Year. We made last minute plans to spend Christmas with my daughter in Bristol, and then to spend that precious first week of January in York. It had been a very busy few weeks. I was mentally clinging on for the break, and it was good to have my blog planned and mostly sorted.

Then, stuff happened. Family stuff. Most of it was small stuff, but some of it was massive. Someone really important to me was taken ill, and then sadly died. You get the picture. Christmas was not what I planned, and the New Year was a very muted affair. Some of the family live around 350 miles away. In the average year, I drive around 6,000 miles. By the 18th January this year I had already driven 2000 miles. My wife and I are physically and emotionally exhausted.

So much for my plans.

Of course, the Bible says that my plans are not actually what matters. It says that God has a plan for my life.

 Jeremiah 29:6 I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you..

He has a plan. It’s a good plan. It’s a plan which will do me good, not harm me.  So why, when for the first time in ages I had planned some proper sabbath style downtime, does a good and gracious God throw in a bunch of unexpected and very heavily weighted curved balls and leave me floundering at the start of this new year in an exhausted muddle.

The point is that it often seems that my plan, your plan, our plan, doesn’t always tie in with His. That can be disappointing. That can be frustrating. That can make us angry. But it shouldn’t. It really, really shouldn’t. That’s exactly how He said it would be.

In fact, it just emphasizes the risk of taking one verse out of context and imagining that it’s the whole story. Of course, the verse is true. If you are in Christ, God’s plan for you is perfect. And it is good. It’s very good. But it has more to do with your whole life than with the things you were planning to do next week. God looks at our lives from a very different perspective. He sees whole life differently. His plan for you is eternal. And it is awesome. God gives us the freedom to make our own plans – we’re designed to be able to use our own initiative – but you see nowhere in the Bible does He give me the right to make my own plans and expect them to always work out. That’s not how it works.

I can plan as much as I like, but He will always have the masterplan.

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

So, right now I’m exhausted. I’m a bit low. I’m mourning, and I’m hurting for some of my relatives who are really in pain and experiencing loss right now.

But I’m trusting the Christ who said he would always be with me. I’m trusting a God who will not let me down.

Psalm 138:8: The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. 

So, you might ask. If I had been so far ahead, where is my well carefully crafted Christmas message? What are my sparkling philosophical reflections for the New Year?

As I said, they’re drafted and ready to go. I’ll publish them next Christmas. I really am ahead of the game!