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When the Train Jumps the Tracks

When the Train Jumps the Tracks

This week a tornado ripped through the countryside where I grew up, creating the usual property damage, loss of electricity, plus derailing a freight train. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Has a storm ever derailed your train? I mean: maybe the Lord gave you a vision and you started out on the right track. You could actually see that vision being fulfilled, but then a storm came along—a heart-wrenching circumstance—and it derailed you. You lost momentum and soon you were off track altogether, indulging the lust of the flesh instead of walking by the Spirit.

I’ve seen people who have experienced grief that left their lives permanently “derailed.” They were moving down the track of life, following Jesus, when SUDDENLY something unexpected happened, and it knocked them off their track. Everything they did, from that moment on, was defined by that tragedy. Every decision was based on that trauma. Every happy occasion was overshadowed by that pain. They were unable to move beyond the event, unable to get themselves back on track. Their soul was left crippled by their tragedy.

Then again, I’ve seen people (several here) who’ve experienced equally tragic events, who, after a period of mourning, get on with their lives. They are somehow able to get “back on track,” though admittedly, it may be a different set of tracks. They are changed, indeed, but able to function, make decisions, and enjoy productive lives in the Lord.

Sometimes, we think we are on the right track and God purposefully derails us so that He can mercifully put us on His track. Whatever causes our train to jump the tracks, Jesus teaches us what to do when our lives get derailed.

John 6:3-14 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Bible scholars estimate this crowd as being between 10,000 and 15,000 people when the women and children are counted with the men. The sight of the vast crowd must have encouraged the disciples. It confirmed they were on the right track, following the right man.

Yet as the crowd gathered, Jesus pointed out a hard reality. Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Phillip’s vision of grandeur suddenly faded and panic began to arise. This ministry is going to be harder than I thought.

Is this scenario familiar to you? Think back to the first “great” job you had. You were excited because it seemed like the first step in fulfilling your vision. But after a few days you learned your boss wasn’t who he appeared to be. You had to work with a colleague who seemed to resent you. The demands on your time were far greater than you were told, causing you to miss precious time with your family. You realized, “I had no idea it would be this difficult.”

Many newlyweds have this same experience and realization. Soon, they find living with this person is not what they fanaticized. They look totally different in the morning. Their spouse has some habits they can’t stand. They argue. They wonder how they are going to pay the bills. The in-laws interfere too often. They realized, “We had no idea it would be this difficult.” As a result, too many marriages get derailed.

The question Jesus asked Phillip derailed his grandiose vision with a real difficult situation. Phillip answered Jesus, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little”. Two hundred denarii was a lot of money, equivalent to 8 months wages.

The phrase “would not be enough” derails most of us. How often does this thought arise in our minds when we face problems? How often do we think, “I’m not sure I have what it takes. I don’t have the resources, and I doubt I have the ability. I don’t have enough maturity in Christ. I’m not sure I have enough of the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus’ question to Phillip had a purpose: “He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do”. Jesus would teach Phillip and everyone there that day that He is enough. When all you have is Jesus, then you realize He is all you need.

Jesus has called us to expect great things in our walk with Him when we face difficult situations. That is hard to do in the midst of a storm. That is why God must give us faith to believe.

If our train jumps the tracks in a situation requiring faith, it is most likely the result of having the wrong engineer in control of our train. Our eyes do not see all that Jesus sees, nor does our mind understand all that Jesus knows. Therefore, without faith, we fear what we do see and we doubt what we have not experienced.

In 1895, a Frenchman came up with a marvelous innovation called motion pictures. He learned that by organizing a sequence of photographs and moving them quickly in front of a bright light, it gave the illusion of real life being lived before his eyes.

This inventor knew he was onto something special. So he scheduled a premiere for what would be one of the most famous public showings of a movie. Expectations were high as dignitaries and guests filled the auditorium. The film, “Arrival of a Train at a Station,” was only fifty seconds long, but it had a powerful impact - too powerful, in fact. It showed a train chugging directly toward the camera and when the people saw it, they panicked. With no context for their experience, they thought an actual train was about to run over them! The people were convinced their lives were in danger, when in reality, what they experienced was an illusion.

This is the trick Satan plays on us whenever our faith is challenged. At such times, our needs seem to outweigh our resources. Panic arises. It looks like our God-given vision will be destroyed by a runaway train. That’s when the devil tells us, “See what happens when you follow Jesus. He lets you get run over. This is too much for you. Run while you have a chance. He’s abandoned you. You are still a sinner and a failure.” But what Satan presents is an illusion to frighten us.

The truth is Jesus is greater than anything we lack or any hardship we face. We see in this story, as Jesus faced the hungry crowd, “He himself knew what he would do”. And so He instructed the disciples, “Have the people sit down.”

When facing a difficult situation, we are to do the same. When all seems lost in the face of an oncoming train, Jesus tells us not to flee but to “sit down before me. Sit down and listen to me and watch what I will do.”

The problem is we don’t know what He’s going to do. That’s the dilemma the disciples faced. To just sit down in His presence when there is a train coming is one of the hardest things to do. However, after they obeyed and sat down before Jesus, THEN they saw Jesus meet their need.

You may argue and think, “My train has already derailed. I’ve hurt my spouse too deeply for us to recover. Even marriage counseling can’t help.” Or, “Even if my child goes to drug rehabilitation, he’ll always turn back to his addiction.” Or, “I’ll never be able to get where God has called me. I’m not educated enough. I don’t have the resources. I have sinned too many times.”

Well, if that is your argument, you might as well sit down before Jesus, because it is obvious your train isn’t going anywhere but towards further destruction as long as you are driving it! You need to quit driving that derailed train and give Jesus control so He can get you on His track!

Most of us rehearse our need or our failure over and over in our mind: “If only I had this one thing... If I could just conquer that one weakness...” But Jesus tells us not to focus on our need or failure, but on our supplier and redeemer.

Matt. 6:25-27 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, nor about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Not only are we to sit in His presence, Jesus also shows us we’re to give thanks in the midst of our situation. Facing the hungry masses with just a handful of fish and bread loaves must have looked ridiculous, but Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.

Jesus thanked the Father before the need was even filled—and a miracle followed: And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Your situation doesn’t depend on your resources. It depends on God’s resources! Philippians 4:19 He will meet all of your needs according to his riches in glory. 

Now is no time to review your failures; instead, it’s time to remind yourself of God’s greatness and goodness. It’s time to stop fretting over your vast need and instead give Him thanks. It’s time to draw on the faith and strength of your church family when you don’t have it for yourself.

We limit Jesus by remembering only what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past, and we also limit Him by unbelief.

Matthew 13:58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

The thing that is beyond any human power is the very thing we, as disciples of Jesus, ought to believe He will do. The reason some of us are such poor examples of faith is that we have failed to remember that Jesus is almighty! The weakness is in us, not in Him. We come to Jesus as our comforter or our sympathizer, but we refrain from approaching Him as Almighty God!

When we get into difficult circumstances, when we get off track, we weaken Christ’s ministry by thinking, “It can’t be done or He can’t use me now.”

You will know it can be done if you will look to Jesus. Make the effort to look away from yourself, your lack, your shortcomings, and to look toward Him. Sit in His presence. Worship Him. Give Him thanks and praise. Give Him control of your life, and find peace and rest in Him! God will glorify Himself in your life. Believe it.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

In summary, what can we take away from this today? Hopefully you have learned:

If you have derailed, got off track, now is the time to repent, turn to Jesus, and give Him control to put you back on the track of faith.

Secondly, if there is a train coming down the track of your life that threatens to run over you, sit down before Jesus and listen to what He tells you to do. Don’t worry about your meager resources, He is your supplier and He can multiply what you give to Him. Jesus is all you need.

Lastly, if you have never given your life to Jesus, you are on the wrong track, one headed to the gates of Hell. To get off this track of destruction, believe that Jesus is the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the Cross. Repent of your sin—of being your own god, the engineer of your train—and give your life to Jesus. You do that by confessing Him as your Lord and Savior and dying to yourself in baptism. Then you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will guide you on the right track of life.