The Fast Forward Button
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Remember the Fast forward button?
What a great invention.
I remember zooming through all the previews on my rented movie.
breezing by the songs I didn’t like on my CD player to my favorite in a snap.
And now I can’t wait to press the Skip Ad arrow as I watch YouTube videos.
I still love to fast forward.
Sometimes I wish I could fast forward in other areas of life.
I’d press the button and the folks in the hospital would have a speedier recovery.
I’d skip ahead and that long learning curve suddenly wouldn’t be so steep.
If I could just fast forward through all the trials of life, I could get right to the good stuff.
In our Gospel lesson today, the temptations that the devil offers Jesus in the wilderness
are kind of like a fast forward button.
Phillip Yancey points out in his book
The Jesus I Never Knew
that the temptations are a speeded up version of saving humanity.
If Jesus had listened to the devil, he could have solved world hunger right there
—just turn stones into bread!
If Jesus had worshipped the devil, he could have had authority over all the world right away
immediately ending all possibility of war and evil and destruction.
If Jesus had followed the devil’s lead, he could have
that he was Lord
--not rely on faith which can be fickle, here today and gone tomorrow.
The fast forward version of saving the world would have blown by all the human suffering
and misery we know and get right to the good stuff.
Probably the reason I like the fast forward button is the same reason the devil liked the idea:
It gives one the power of control.
The devil was trying to get Jesus to take control of the situation,
To use his godly power by his own command.
The devil hoped that he could convince Jesus that instead of trusting in God, he should just be God.
At the heart of it all, that’s what temptation is about--
Wanting to take control that is not ours and be like God.
Think of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, for example.
The first humans were tempted to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge
because it would make them wise, knowing good and evil, like God.
And as they tried on the identity of God, they found they liked thinking of themselves
as being in control of their destiny.
They liked the idea of being gods in their own right, in charge, not subject to any limitations.
Does it sound a little familiar?
We like to feel like we’ve got everything under control, too.
We like to think we can handle our lives.
And yet, life seems to have this habit of careening out of control.
At times like these, we are like Jesus in the wilderness:
Alone, hungry and tired.
We are vulnerable to temptation.
The temptation is to take matters into our own hands and forget about God.
We want to press our fast forward button and plow through.
A former colleague and wish Christian once observed,
“It’s so easy to act first and pray later. We really need to pray first.”
And for many of us, this is true.
We only look to God as a last ditch option, after we’ve tried everything else.
We say, “all we can do now is pray.”
Jesus, however, chose a different way.
Scripture says that he was “full of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus chose to be connected with God all the time, not just in a pinch.
And at the same time, he chose to stay in his human skin,
to be subject to the limitations we all experience.
He chose to keep God in control, and rebuff the devil’s attempts to get him to grab power.
He chose to follow the slow and steady plan of God.
God’s slow and steady plan has an unusual consequence:
Since Jesus did not break out in heavenly power and take over
He left room for our choice.
Our choice to use our resources to feed the hungry
Our choice to work for peace and justice
Our choice to believe that Jesus is Lord, and follow him.
He would not fast forward because in the end that would have left our choice behind.
God created us to be partners, not puppets.
And so we come to the paradox of our faith:
The more we let go of control, the more choice we have.
The more we give our lives over to God, the more freedom we have to live
And truly be ourselves.
Every day we face the same choice Jesus did;
will we let God be God, or will we grab control?
Will we pray first, or act first and pray later?
When we decide to let God be God, when we relinquish control,
A beautiful thing happens.
A relationship begins to grow.
We recognize God as the one who has been waiting for us.
We see God as the one who desires us come freely, of our own choice.
We experience God as the lover who will not coerce, but who woos us over and over again,
Until our hard hearts break open and receive God’s love.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they reached the promised land.
Those years were full of trying times of poverty and conflict and doubt.
They struggled with the temptation to fast forward,
They had to choose over and over again to trust in God and not in themselves.
But when they looked back on that experience, they could see God’s faithfulness.
In fact, prophet Hosea called it their honeymoon with God.
In the wilderness of your life, God is inviting you to honeymoon together.
God is inviting you to the divine love affair that flourishes
between the loved and the beloved.
God is inviting you to let yourself be who God created you to be.
Remove your thumb from the fast forward button.
Resist the urge to skip ahead.
Choose to be partner with God, not competitor.
Let go and relax in God’s loving embrace.