It’s that season of the year again, ladies and gentlemen! You think the Olympics were thrilling? You think NASCAR is breathtaking? You ain’t seen nothing yet! Join me, if you will, on the roadways of the great Midwest for yet another exciting season of pothole paradise. You know, it takes a special breed of maneuverability, masterful execution and careful attention to successfully navigate a daily commute! However, if done correctly, tires are spared, windshields are saved, and front end alignments are avoided. If you have ever had that excruciating brain-jarring experience of watching a newly purchased steel belted radial meets its maker in the jaws of an eight-inch-deep divot on one of America’s thoroughfares, you know exactly what I mean. Those aren’t the only potholes that come to mind, however… there are the potholes of life.
So, while we are not driving at the moment, let’s take a good look at a few potholes that are out there that we need to be aware of. The first is introduced to us by a follower of the Lord, one who heard him speak and watched his miracles and yet fell into the same pothole that you and I have to avoid. It is the pothole of doubt. Thomas was his name and doubting was his game. Even when he heard that Jesus was alive, he just couldn’t believe it. Even when he had heard the testimony that Jesus had visited the disciples he couldn’t quite take hold of it. He needed evidence, hard evidence. He needed to see Jesus’ hands and feet, the holes, the scars, then he would believe. Well, a few days later when Jesus did show up, and Thomas was there. Jesus went right to him and produced the very evidence he desired. When Thomas found himself in the very presence of Jesus though, he found all the evidence he needed. Jesus’ words echo through the years to us today and remind us that he knows the doubts of our hearts, and he wants us to trust in him by faith even when we cannot see him with our eyes. We can’t afford to get stuck in the Pothole of Doubt.
Let us also consider the pothole of complacency. And so, we look to a church for this lesson. The church of Laodicea was closely examined by Jesus, just as ours is today. And he warned them of the Pothole of Complacency—you know, going through the motions, doing the same thing over and over and not really putting your heart into it. Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and generally causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things the way they are. The second is rejection of things the way they might be. “Good Enough” becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and doubt the new. Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course…. downhill! If Jesus was displeased with the complacency of a new testament church, you and I can be well assured that he still doesn’t like it today. The potholes are out there folks! And with God’s help, we can steer clear of all of them… so watch where you’re going!
These and other potholes catch us off guard when we forget to pay close attention to road before us. An old sports illustration comes to mind; in fact it’s one of the classic baseball television shots from the 1975 World Series, in which NBC captured Carlton Fisk, jumping up and down, waving his arms, trying to coax his hit to stay fair. It did—for a home run. That colorful close-up would have been missed had the cameraman followed the ball with his camera, as was his responsibility. But the cameraman inside the Fenway Park scoreboard had one eye on a rat that was circling him. So instead of focusing the camera on the ball, he left it on Fisk! The danger of experiencing the pain and damage from a pothole increases dramatically when we focus on the wrong thing!
We are going to experience ups and downs, twists and turns, detours and trials along the way… like potholes and bumps in the road. However, we must manage to navigate them. Jesus told us to not think it strange when you fall into diverse temptations. We will have trials and when they end we will move on to mountaintop experiences. Eventually, we will encounter valleys again. We can stop along the way, breathe the fresh air, and take time to smell the roses. Or we can grit our teeth and see the problems rather than gaining a view from God’s perspective. The key seems to be… keep your eye on the road! My father in law used to tell me every time I would drive away from his house, Timothy, keep it between the ditches!” Pretty good advice… allow me to take it step further and say, stay focused and away from the potholes of life!
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.