Wednesday, March 3rd Isaiah 55:8-11

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11

In sports they call it “mailing it in.”

“Mailing it in” is what happens when very gifted athletes don’t try very hard. They don’t play their best. They just show up and expect that good enough will be good enough. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. The fans are never satisfied when the best players mail it in.

There is a subtle difference between fate and destiny. “Fate” is rooted in a deterministic way of looking at life. Everything that happened was preordained to happen and there is nothing that anyone can do to change it. Oedipus was consigned to fate, he had no choice in the matter. It was inevitable that he would kill his father and end up blind. Many Christians misunderstand “God’s will” or “God’s plan” in a fatalistic manner.

The trouble with that (among many other troubles with that) is that it can lead Christians to “mail in” their spiritual lives. We can listen to verses like these from Isaiah and conclude that it doesn’t matter much what we do. “God’s thoughts are higher than ours” so what point is there in trying to discern God’s will for our lives, at this point in time, with the future wide open before us?

These verses tell us to trust in God’s Word – that it won’t return empty but will “succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Taking that too far, thinking fatalistically, leads to mailing it in. Who cares if a Christian listens to God’s Word or not, if everything is already “in the cards”? Why ought a pastor pour time, energy and passion in preaching the absolute best sermon they can on any given Sunday if all that is needed is just showing up, mailing it in? Just let the Word do its work. Yuck.

Destiny is a little different than fate. Destiny is rooted in relationship. Destiny says that we have been gifted with distinctive gifts and that our lives are about discovering and living out those gifts. Life is going somewhere and our task is to discern where and do our best to get on board. From a Christian point of view, our ultimate destiny, our final destination, is life with God – but this isn’t a “sweet by and by” destination, it is a destination we taste today that will be fulfilled in eternity.

So – yes, God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours, but God invites us to call upon him, to seek direction from him, to listen to him. And yes, God’s Word will accomplish what it will, but we are players in God’s working all of that out. We are players, not pawns, real people, not robots. God’s work – our hands.

“Mailing in” the Christian faith is not good enough. It isn’t good enough for us, it falls short of the good God intends for us. But more importantly, it isn’t good enough for the world around us. We can’t just throw our arms up in the air, call everything “God’s plan” and fail to show up for our neighbor. Instead, trusting in God’s ultimate goodness, day after day, we are called to do the absolute best we can at whatever we do, for the good of the world. We’re called to play to win, in the best sense of that word.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, thank you for the promises you speak to us. The good news that, although you will always be mystery to us, you still draw near to us in ways that help and guide us. The good news that we can trust your Word and know that it carries your loving intentions for our lives. Let that good news propel us to doing the best we can in living out our destiny as your children, for the good of the world. Amen.

5 Responses to “Wednesday, March 3rd Isaiah 55:8-11”

  1. bob Says:

    “the good is the enemy of the best”

  2. Lauri Says:

    I’m so glad you don’t ’email in’ your devotions! The ‘tie-to-real-life’ points help us focus much than an ‘explanation’ of scripture.

  3. loretta Says:

    thanks Kerry…..Unemployment is just like that practice drill….and when we can”t see a big game just around the corner, we can get sluggish…..BUT the act is God doesn’t say that only “paid employment” is His field…we are working for Him always….at least in theory…and should be on top of our game, full court press, all the time. Thanks for reminding me Mailing In isn’t good enough…I needed this today

  4. Carolyn Novak Says:

    An especially good devotion. Thanks!

    CN : )

  5. Virginia from Tucson Says:

    Pastor Kerry. Once again you hit home for me. This devotion also brought to mind that as a member of the parish I can’t go to church on Sunday as a “Mail-in’ attendee. I can’t just show up. I have to participate and carry through. I have to “be in it” every day and always.

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