As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. – Luke 24:15-17
Sadness was written across their faces. They were in retreat from a great hope. They had misunderstood God’s great plan. All their fears, disappointment and sorrows were right there for anyone to see as they walked slowly home.
What’s written all over your face every day? Have you thought about that? I have to stand up in front of classrooms full of college students every day. Most days you’d think they had each just received the news that their pet had been run over by a train. Very doom and gloom, no matter how much circus I try and drag in…I need to get a better book of jokes.
I frequently remind people that our attitudes shape our actions. That’s not hard to believe. What’s more difficult to figure out is how our actions shape our attitudes. People in the fitness world know this. If you can get people to be more physically active, they tend to feel happier. There’s a famous experiment in which people holding a warm cup reported more positive feelings in their rating of an unrelated product than those who were holding a cold drink. The temperature they felt in their hands helped to shape their attitude while forming an opinion about that product.
I’m not suggesting that this couple on the way home to Emmaus should have stopped off at Starbucks first. Actually I want to remind you of some things that you already know:
- You and I walk around all day with our attitude written all over our face – what are people reading about us?
- We’re not walking away from hope like these two were. Each one of us is walking in hope – does your face show it?
- Sure, all of us have ups and downs and even long periods of time when the going gets dark, but if we determine to smile, laugh, move, and look at people, these actions will help to shape our attitude into one that’s more in line with the truth about us.
If you see me walking around with a scowl, just ask me if I’m on my way to Emmaus. That ought to remind me that my face looks like it’s heading in the wrong direction!
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
Americans like explanations. It’s an important part of our pragmatic culture.
I often notice that when we don’t know the reason why we often spit out some sort of fatalistic explanation. It doesn’t hold much theological water, but it makes us feel better in the midst of those storms of uncertainty.
- “This just must be what God meant to happen.”
- “Somehow it’s all going to work out in the end.”
- “I trust that all these things that are happening to me are God’s will”
There are lots of problems with this kind of thinking and believing. Let me just present you with a few examples from the Bible that challenge us to be actively engaged in our life of faith and might perhaps help us understand why things don’t always work out the way we hoped…
James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Seeking forgiveness and praying for others produces results. It changes the way things are. Our spiritual activity can alter the course of our lives.
Mark 6:5-6 – And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Jesus is ministering in his own hometown and he can’t do what he wants to do – perform miracles, change people’s lives, show people how much God loves them. Why? Because they don’t believe. Our lack of faith can prevent God’s plans from happening.
Luke 18:1 – One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. This is the story about the persistent widow who badgered a mean and heathen judge day and night for justice. He finally gave in just because she was bothering him. Jesus says, So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! He concludes by warning that he fears he will return to earth and find that not many will have kept the faith. Justice comes as a result of our persistence. We are persistent because we have faith. We have faith because we put it to use by being persistent (??).
The Christian faith is not a fatalistic experience at all. Jesus taught that we are to be fully engaged in bringing about transformation in our own lives and in the lives of everyone around us. It happens because we have faith, faith that acts. And maybe it doesn’t happen, not because that’s the way it was meant to be…but because we didn’t have the faith.
If you’re praying for rain, then why aren’t you taking an umbrella with you each day?
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? – James 2:14