Obstacle Course

My all-time favorite game show is Double-Dare.  I grew up in the 80’s, and the idea that you could have green slime fall on your head, pick through a giant nose filled with whipped cream, climb up a sundae slide, and stand inside a gumball machine . . . that was really novel.

Double-Dare appealed to me for a deeper reason, too: every obstacle had a prize if you got the orange flag hidden or hard-to-reach within it, and if contestants raced through all 8 obstacles in 60 seconds, they won all the kid-centered prizes, including the grand prize.

I think most of my life I wished my life was an obstacle course with 8 orange flags.  It would be hard, maybe even almost impossible, to get all the flags and win everything, but you could.  But in life . . . well, there is only the vague time limit of knowing you will die one day.  And there is no guarantee—or any likelihood at all—that you will encounter only 8 obstacles.  Instead, the field of life is littered with challenges, challenges that aren’t fun at all.

Some seem impossible to get through, and you spend years inside them, wondering how you will ever get out.  Others are quick to get through, but they damage us so deeply we never forget them.  They leave scars or maybe even open wounds on our soul.  What’s even worse is that some of these obstacles are completely avoidable, but we are tricked into going into them, and when we look back we see how easily we could have dodged them.  Other obstacles are filled so full of our past we are sure we will be stuck forever, halfway between regret and terror, not sure which way to turn to find our present.

For thousands of years, many people have tried to make it through the obstacles of life to reach the prize of Heaven.  Some brag they have succeeded; others give up and sit down inside an obstacle to die there.  But most, most will work their whole lives at finding ways through obstacle after obstacle, determined to make it to the finish . . . only to die somewhere in the middle of the mess, a total and abject failure.

There is no way for us to finish the obstacle course of this life.  Even if we had all eternity, we could not do it.  Because no matter how hard we try, how diligent we are, or how brave, or how smart, we can’t find the “orange flag”.  We can run from obstacle to obstacle, getting all the while messier and more confused, but we can never pull a single flag out, earn a single prize.  Our sin, you see, has already stolen away all the flags; we frantically search in vain.

If among this disaster, trapped in an obstacle, worn out by the strain, struggling to find what is not there, we would only stop for a moment . . and listen to the Word of God . . . we would see that we are making a mess of ourselves for nothing.

Jesus has already won the prize for us.  We need to get off the obstacle course and go to Him, because He will freely place Heaven in our empty hands, and lift us up to be applauded by the angels.

I think most of my life I wished my life was an obstacle course with 8 orange flags.  But now, now I’m glad to be off the obstacle course altogether.

Remind me I’m off the obstacle course, Lord.  Every day.  Remind me I don’t have to get back on.

Jesus, our Lord, was handed over to death because of our failures and was brought back to life so that we could receive God’s approval. (Romans 4:25, GWT)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6, ESV)

But He took our suffering on Him
and felt our pain for us.
We saw His suffering
and thought God was punishing  Him.
But He was wounded for the wrong we did;
He was crushed for the evil we did.
The punishment, which made us well, was given to Him,
and we are healed because of His wounds.
(Isaiah 53:4-5, NCV)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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