Jesus, Train Tables, and Resolutions

My goal was firmly set. I had assessed the situation, and was excited about the notion of doing this on my own. It was Christmas Eve night of 2010. My new years resolution had come early. Id resolved to put together my five year old sons monster of a train table by myself. This was a monumental task, because for starters, putting things together is not one of my God given talents. But I had a point to prove, more to myself than anyone else. I could do this. I kept repeating this to myself, psyching myself up the same as an athlete would do before a major competition. I had the instructions, and I had the parts to the train table, which came to a grand total of one hundred and fifty parts crammed into an oversized box. No doubt this endevor would take me well into the early morning hours. But I was not to be swayed from the mission at hand. With instructions laid out in front of me, and tools that I knew nothing about in my pocket, I opened the box, and ventured into the unknown world of product assembly.

Its not that I didnt read the directions, because I had the common sense to know that without them I would be lost. My folly wasnt due to a lack of obedience to the instructions I read, but rather, my failure was accredited to the order in which I did things. Simply put, I didnt have my priorities in the correct order. Here I had one hundred and fifty pieces, mostly small, laid out before me. The job seemed overwhelming. “Where do I even begin”, I thought to myself. Most of the pieces and work went into assembling the larger portion of the train table. But the simplest part of the whole job was putting together a single drawer that was basically the centerpiece to the table. It would literally take me five minutes or so to put the small drawer together. The hardest part of the night was going to be the construction of the massive table. I followed the directions to a T…I just rearranged the order a bit. I decided to skip step one, which was putting together the small drawer, and get the large table put together first. In my mind, I would get the hard work out of the way and save the easiest job for last.

I labored for the better part of the night and into the early morning, following the instructions just as I read them. Finally, after  hours of tedious work, I had completed the assembly of the large train table. It was beautiful. All that was missing was the draw that was to be placed in the front center of the table. It only took a short time to put the draw together. What transpired next I can vaguely recall, as my consciousness gave way to a title wave of anger and sorrow, very similar to Dr. David Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk.

After hours of construction, I had finally reached the end of my journey in train table construction. It was time to complete the  process and call it a night. I proudly picked up the drawer and began to place it in the hole in the center of the train table. But there was an unexpected problem. The drawer, for a reason that was unknown to me, would not fit in the hole. I push and twisted and did everything I could think of, but to no avail. “How could this be happening?” I thought. I had followed the directions perfectly. I quickly retraced my steps reading over the directions and seeing that I had indeed done thing correctly with one exception. I hadn’t assembled the draw first. Upon further examination, I came to the conclusion that I had made a monumental mistake. The draw would not fit in the hole for one very important reason…..

The drawer was to be assembled first…because the train table was to be build AROUND the drawer. Putting together the drawer in the beginning was of first importance in the process. Therefore, even though I followed the directions down to the letter, since I didnt make the center piece a first priority, the beautiful table would never work properly. In order to finish the table and make sure the drawer fit, I would now have to disassemble the whole table and start from scratch. I could argue all day long that Id worked so hard and that the table was beautiful but it wouldnt change the fact that the drawer wasnt going to fit because I had rearranged the order in which things were to be done. As frustrated as I was, I had no one to blame but myself. Nothing was going to work without the drawer being put together first.

This new year many goals have been assessed. Many resolutions have been made. More times than not, the focus of these resolutions is centered around self improvement. We want better relationships, better finances, and an all around better life. So we draw up blueprints of sorts to achieve these goals. Instructions on how to accomplish this. In Christian evangelical circles, some pastors will even begin the new year off by preaching topical sermons like, “Ten Ways to Be a Better Husband”, or “Forgetting Past Transgressions.” And step by step points are laid out on how to build your better life in the coming year. And while Jesus is a part of the plan, many times He becomes more like the drawer in my train table illustration.  We tend to focus on treating our spouse better or working through past issues with Jesus occasionally sprinkled in via a Bible verse that pertains to our situation.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 5:3.

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is to be of first importance as the apostle Paul so plainly points out in this scripture. He is the center piece to making every aspect of our lives work.

“Jesus is, ““‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” Acts 4:11.

Jesus is described over and over in the old and new testament as being the cornerstone of our lives. The story goes that builders over looked a small irrelevant piece of stone in building their temple. However, as their project neared completion, the builders realized that their foundation wasnt going to work. The only stone that would fit to hold up the structure would be the cornerstone that in the beginning they had disregarded. The stone that the builders originally rejected had proved to be the most important part of the whole structure. Without the cornerstone, the structure would surely collapse.

Our lives cannot work properly unless we have first set our foundation as the cornerstone which is Christ Jesus. We can set new years resolutions, but the improvements we resolve to strive towards in 2013 will collapse unless our priorities are in check. Because our lives were never meant to work without Christ. As king Solomon repeatedly points out in Ecclesiastes, we were all created with a God shaped void in us that we try to fill with all sorts of frivolous things. Look at every magazine cover in the supermarket. They tout headlines like, “A Better Body Will Lead to Better Relationships”, or “More Money Will Bring Greater Happiness.” And while working towards these goals, you may be able to step back in the process and marvel and the beauty of it seemingly coming together. But in the end, you will be left with an empty table with a missing drawer, rendering all of your hard work as useless and a waste of time. Because the center piece was not of first importance, leaving you with sorrow and regret.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matthew 7:21-23.

To be sure, this is a verse that will no doubt haunt many people on the day of their judgement before God almighty. In a sense, it would be like me calling the manufacture of the train table and telling them, “Hey I deserve for this train table to work! I put in long hours and I followed the instructions!! This isnt fair!!” To which the makers of the table would respond, “Yes but you obviously thought you could make it work by adding the center piece last. Without first focusing on the center piece, nothing else will work.”

On that day many will stand before God claiming many good things they have done. But if they have neglected the gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing him personal as of FIRST importance, they will have missed the whole point. What a waste it would be to follow all the rules but neglect the most important relationship in life. And after living a life by the rules hear the Lord say, “You may have done some good things, but you never made me a priority….depart from my presence.”

This new year, I want to challenge you to reevaluate your new years resolution list. And although your goals may be honorable and good, ask yourself…”Where does my relationship with Christ fit into all of this?” Because when Jesus is first in your life, then your relationships will be better. When Christ is first, then money can just be money and it doesn’t own you. The good in your life becomes just an overflow of Christ in your heart. In our humanity, not matter how hard we persevere towards a goal, we will eventually fall short. But in Christ, everything works. Because Jesus is the cornerstone to your life. It’s not you trying to be the God of your life, but you letting Jesus be God of your life. And he is very good at God. What is at the top of you new years resolution list?  Dont make something more important than that which Paul deemed “of first importance.” That which the world would say is of no importance, is actually the center piece to the train table of our lives!

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