Epiphany in Europe

February 3, 2009

This past summer my family and I were blessed with the opportunity to visit Europe. One of the more awe-inspiring excursions was a visit to the top of one of the breathtaking peaks of the Swiss Alps. In order to get to the top you must take 3 separate rides by cable car, which is an experience itself. Once you the top of the mountain you are able to witness one of the most picturesque views on earth.

While we were having lunch in the visitor’s center, the view of the the peaks of the Alps outside were quickly obscured as a cloud descended on the mountain. The cloud remained all around us even as we returned down the mountain in the cable cars. Riding in a cable car that is traveling through a cloud gives you a strange feeling because it seems as if your not moving anywhere, its hot, crowded, depending on the person next to you it smells, it can easily make you claustrophobic and it seems like you’re going nowhere. During this ride down the mountain it hit me.

Sometimes life seems like riding in a cable car, its crowded, uncomfortable, and many times you feel as if your going nowhere. I’ll admit that there have been plenty of times in my life that ive felt immobile and that from where I stand the outlook is pretty bleak or as if God was somehow silent or even as if he wasn’t there in my life. But as with the cable car, there is a fog all around me, and I can’t see clearly.

Being surrounded by a cloud in the cable car I couldn’t witness the amazing beauty of the Alps because I simply couldn’t see them, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t there, much in the same way, when we feel like God is distant or that he is silent, the real reason is that there may be a fog between us. Maybe the fog or cloud is pride, or guilt, our doubts and fears, or perhaps we’re not close enough to Him. Whenever we feel as if God isn’t near we should first assess our emotions and our state of mind and then ask for God to lift the cloud so that we may fully see His presence that is all around us.

FEAR  AND  DOUBT

I think many of us would admit that the cloud that seems to overwhelm us throughout our lives is our doubts and fears. We are constantly bombarded on all sides by messages that only seem to bring us down. Constantly we may be asking, “Am I strong enough, smart enough, attractive enough, or even Christian enough to make it?” But the real question we have to ask ourselves is, “From whom do these messages come from?” Satan is constantly whispering in our ear that we can’t possibly face the challenge, to give up and throw in the towel, we constantly hear that we are inadequate. But then we have to remember that we are inadequate, we don’t have it all together.  Moses, a man who led an entire nation after escaping one of the most powerful empires in the world was scared to death that he wasn’t up to the task. God has a distinct plan for all of us in this room. You may not be as smart, or athletic, or as outgoing as you would like, but for God’s plan he doesn’t need you to be. God crafted you the way you are for a specific purpose, something that he has entrusted to you to carry out, and he custom made you for that very reason and there’s nothing in this world that can detract from that. We have all been given spiritual gifts and abilities in order to fulfill God’s will for us and we should never let anyone tarnish what God has made beautiful. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11  states,

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (NIV)

Whenever we feel discouraged we can take pride in the fact that the same God that hand carved the majestic peaks of the Alps and the breathtaking landscapes of Tuscany or Switzerland created you and I in his image, and the God that all this amazing beauty his most prized work of art is us.

PRIDE

Fear and doubt are things we all struggle with, but sometimes the cloud that surrounds us is one from the opposing end of the spectrum, pride. During my family’s trip to Europe we visited another awe inspiring site, this time of the man made variety. While we were in Paris we made a short stop to the Palace of Versailles, a perfect representation of what happens with an inflated ego and an unhealthy sense of pride.

The Palace of Versailles contains 551,218 square feet of pure opulence. It is also home to one of the largest formal gardens ever conceived. The King and Queen lived in Versailles in pure luxury with a seemingly endless list of court etiquette. Regardless of a mounting national debt King Henry XIV continued construction on the palace, which cost France anywhere from 13-300 billion dollars in today’s money. Maintaining the cost of quartering hundreds of servants, gardeners, maids, chefs, horses, carriages, and noblemen consumed nearly 25% of the governments. However despite all this opulence, King Henry XVI no longer enjoyed all these luxuries after he was beheaded in front of a cheering crowd following the French Revolution. An unhealthy sense of pride and vanity are poison to our walk with God.

Sometimes as Christians we often become nearsighted and begin to gauge success based on earthly priorities. Some Christians believe that being close to God will mean that they will be blessed with earthly blessings. But often we forget that God and the people of this world have two very different vies of success. It’s easy to look at people in the world who seem to have it all and to wonder if God is holding back on us, or when troubles comes to think that maybe God is neglecting us or that we are being punished. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you will never suffer heartache, being a Christian means that that you will never walk alone, that God will stand by your side in the good times and bad. Often we think that being blessed with earthly riches is the same as being blessed spiritually, but sometimes the opposite is true.    

In Mathew 6:19-21 God has this to say, “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. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

Again, God doesn’t measure us against the same standards that the world does.We need to constantly evaluate ourselves and make certain that goals we are setting for ourselves and our priorities are centered around God. After college, when I go in for an important job interview I don’t anticipate to be asked how popular I was after being asked about my work experience and personal references. I expect to be asked what kind of grades I got what my academic record was. Much in the same way I don’t expect on judgment day to be asked by God what car I drove or what my yearly salary was, or how much airtime on T.V. I got. I expect to be asked what kind of person I was, how did I treat others less fortunate than myself, was I a good ambassador for Christ, was I ever guilty of corrupt thoughts, or dishonesty, not how high the societal ladder I had climbed.

CONCLUSION

Success is measured in many different ways. We are extremely blessed to be receiving an education that integrates tools for not only success in our various fields but tools for spiritual success. We have an amazing ally in this world that can lead us to more blessings than we can even fathom. We just need to ask that God bring us out of the haze of pride and fear that we too often find ourselves in. What more valuable resource is their than to have the creator of the universe on our side, Romans 8:31 reminds us that”

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

We must always make certain that we are storing for ourselves heavenly treasures, treasures worth far more than anything we could see in Versailles or in the entire world. Because, when God returns on Judgment day he will lay waste to everything we have worked so hard to create, the Swiss Alps, St. Marks, St. Peters, Venice and all that man made wonders will be wiped away. All our expensive cars and name brand clothing, our houses in nicest neighborhoods, everything will be laid to waste and we will stand before God who will then review our spiritual resume and dependant on that will decide whether we enjoy the amazing creation he has waited so long for us to see. We must ensure that every day our actions our building us an impressive spiritual resume not only an impressive academic one.

Doubt Fear and Pride are things we need to keep in balance. We can take pride in the fact that we belong to the creator of the universe and never doubt our inner glory for we are beautifully and wonderfully made. The following is a quote by Marianne Williamson, later used by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural address.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

As we go about our daily lives we should always remember to keep our sights focused on God, and when that sight is obscured by our emotions or the trappings of this world we need to readjust our priorities so we can fully embrace the Glory that God has placed in all of us.

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