Don’t Give Up When Hard Times Show Up!
This is what I feel EVERY TIME I get on a roller coaster.
Part of me wants to ride, and part of me doesn’t.
It would be safer NOT to ride,
it would be safer to just admire the towering masterpiece of steel from a distance…
Some people die riding on roller coasters;
Some people get injured;
Many people get nauseous;
Some lose prized belongings (including their lunches, know what I’m sayin’?)…
But you don’t go to Great America or any other type of amusement park to walk around, play the arcades, or eat the funnel cake—as fantastic as those attractions are, you don’t pay nearly $60 for a ticket to do those things.
You go to Great America for the ROLLER COASTERS…
The park was designed around the roller coasters as the centerpiece…
The roller coasters attract the crowds…
And the roller coasters keep the crowds coming back for more (or cause them to stay away permanently)
Just Like Jesus
My friends, following Jesus is similar to riding on a roller coaster:
1. He paid a huge price—dying on a cross and conquering death—to offer anyone who wants to accept Him free admission to the park;
2. It’s very easy to get distracted by the arcade games, cotton candy, and lazy river attractions of this life—these things aren’t bad in themselves, but they can become bad if they distract us from the purpose
of this great amusement park called life: knowing, loving, enjoying, worshipping, and following Jesus.
3. There are even rides that claim to be roller coasters—and look a lot like them—but they’re really not. I’m sorry, but THE WHIZZER at Great America is NOT a roller coaster! Like Porsche says,
there are many imitations…
4. And with Jesus, in the short run, it’s safer NOT to get on board and trust in Him, believe in Him, seek after Him, follow Him:
-It’s becoming more and more fashionable these days to NOT believe in God.
-Loving Jesus can cost you your reputation.
-Believing what Jesus believes can cost you your popularity.
-In the Bible, obeying Jesus cost many people their earthly lives (and still does today)
No Pop Quizzes With God
Jesus Himself says as much—listen to these sobering words from Him:
A. “”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
B. “Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to…your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”
(Mark 8:34-38 The Message)
C. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
(2 Timothy 3:12 NIV).
D. “Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it”
(2 Timothy 3:12 The Message).”
E. “And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved”
(Matthew 10:22 NLT).
F. “If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you”
(John 15:18-19 The Message).
Wow. Those are some tough words. God is not trying to dampen your parade but prepare you for the roller coaster ahead. There are no pop quizzes with God—He wants everyone to be prepared so that we can all pass the tests that are ahead, so that we can survive…so that we can…THRIVE!
You will face valleys, my friends, in your walk with Jesus.
Dictionary.com defines valley as:
1. an elongated depression between mountains.
2. an extensive and low region.
3. any depression.
4. a low point in any process or situation.
5. any place, period, or situation that is filled with fear, gloom, foreboding, or the like: the valley of
I have been following Jesus for nearly ten years, and I have faced many valleys…
-There will be times when you can’t feel God’s presence, when it will feel like He has abandoned you (or never existed in the first place)
-There will be times when you will get punished for doing the right thing
-There will be times when you will doubt God’s existence, or even doubt His goodness,
whether He really loves you
-There will be times when you will want to give up, give in, get out, and go away.
But hang in there…Don’t give up on Jesus…
Grip the safety bar if you have to.
Scream at the top of your lungs if you need to.
Shut your eyes if you can’t take it.
But whatever you do, don’t jump out of the car!
Don’t get off the ride!
Just like you can’t feel your body digesting a delicious meal, you can’t always feel Jesus being with you, protecting you, comforting you, encouraging you, guiding you, forgiving you, helping you, cheering you on.
But He is with you…always. He promised.
And if there’s anyone we can trust through our doubt, it’s Jesus, who suffered and died for us.
The Superman Ride at Great America
The very first time I rode the Superman ride at Great America, I was so pumped, so excited. I got in the cage and my heart was racing. I looked over at Sarah and smiled—here we go! But then the cage went from vertical to horizontal as it started up the slow climb to the first drop. I was literally staring at the concrete—and I freaked out. My face went white, my stomach dropped—I just KNEW I was going to physically die on this ride. I looked over at my wife Sarah—who was calm as can be—and I said, “Sarah, I think I made a mistake. Uh…Yeah. I made a mistake. I never should’ve gotten on this ride!” I was dead serious.
But you did not make a mistake, those of you who have spent time and energy seeking out Jesus, getting to know Him better, studying His life and words and actions and intentions, deciding whether or not you are going to trust your life to Him. You did not make a mistake…
I want to close with a song about sticking with Jesus through the valleys, a powerful song written by a young woman who loves Jesus even though she faces a valley everyday, the valley of physical blindness. Ginny Owens has been blind since the age of two—she probably cannot remember seeing anything. And yet she is sticking with Jesus through this difficult valley—she is not giving up on Him because she is looking forward to the day when she sees again for the first time. She is not giving up because she is looking forward to the day when she sees the face of Jesus, her Savior, God, and Friend…
May the hope of that amazing day encourage all of us to stick with Jesus as well…
You won’t be alone…We’re all in this ride together!
“If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens