Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

Life is not fair, and it does not always make sense. As a matter of fact, as for me and my house, it rarely does. I’m just very grateful that asking God, “Why?” doesn’t mean that I am committing a great sin.

Growing up, when I asked the question, “Why?” more often than not, I got the answer, “Because I said so!” No dialogue. No venting allowed. I was pretty much demanded to just, “Grin and bear it and keep my curiosity to myself.”

“Why?” screams from the depths of every one of us. I believe that one of the reasons it does is because we have been created in the image of God. This is what makes us yearn for right over wrong. This is what causes us to pursue purpose and not settle in the muck of mediocrity.

Why do you think that humanity despises injustice? Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul and even Jesus who knows all things, cried “Why?” on the cross. This basic human inquisitive nature was expressed as one of our Savior’s last words before he died on the cross.

I am beyond grateful that God allows us to voice both our dreams and our doubts. He hasn’t outlawed our need to vent our disappointments or spell out our disagreements. This doesn’t mean the Almighty is obligated to answer us back in the manner we want Him to. But it is not a misdemeanor to express the cries of our heart and souls.

I often ask God to help me and even to deliver me miraculously from my unpleasant present circumstances, and it is nice to know that I no longer have to feel guilty about it. I thought it was not holy to question God—and maybe it was even sinful. I think God understands by now that as hard as I could try to stuff my real feelings, sooner or later they come spilling out anyway. When it comes to stifling my true colors, I let them fly in living black and white.

Here are some of my questions that will never go completely away this side of Heaven. Why is life so hard? Why do people inflict such premediated devastation on each other? Why does God seem so absent at just the times I need Him to show up and speak out most?

Why do bad things happen constantly to those who really do care about serving the Lord? If you say You really love me Lord, then why does my life translate into a language that communicates to me that You truly don’t care?

Where can I find you Jesus amidst the chaos that rolls in way too often like a thick fog that blinds me from catching any positive glimpse of a bright and hopeful future? If this is the best life is ever going to be, is it really worth the blood, sweat and tears to only obtain two steps forward and 40 steps back?

And yet deep down in the portals of my being, I know that my lifeline is continuing to stay plugged in fully to the One above me. No matter what event or circumstance may come my way in this Christian pilgrimage of mine, apart from any unchecked sin, nothing should be given permission to diminish true joy.

Joy is not something that can be turned on and off like a faucet. And the last thing I ever want to do is to paste some plastic smile on my face to hide the debilitating disappointment in my gut. Will I ever learn not to base God’s love for me solely according to the surroundings I see all around me?

If I have any real chance of rejoicing in the rock of my salvation, I must regularly fix my gaze intently upon the move of God despite whatever is happening. Let’s just say that I am guilty of a short attention span that makes it hard to base my life upon what the Bible says, when what I see contradicts sharply what I hope to be. 

How did Jesus maintain his positive pulse? How did the Lord not lose focus upon His Father when so much of what He encountered here on this planet turned out to be an unfair force? What was the specific joy set before Him that gave Him the perseverance and power necessary to endure the cross with all of its suffering and shame?

Why didn’t Jesus pack it in and beam Himself up back to paradise prematurely? What was this race that God ran all about? Do I have any chance of finishing this marathon well? My view from here will determine my joy in getting there. I know that I allow the enemy to steal my joy every time that I operate in such a way that I behave as if I forgot what I was recreated to believe. When I forget the destination, I frustrate my daily destiny.

Christianity is more like a cross country meet and not a track and field dash. I used to run cross country and while each race was the same in distance, each course was unique. No two were exactly alike. Sometimes it took you through the woods.

Here in Wildwood, the runners must tread the sand. In Middle Township, the steps include a portion where the zoo is part of the scenery. My life will take me through rough roads that maybe you will be able to avoid. But the one common denominator is the finish line will culminate in the loving arms of our Savior.

When we get too caught up in the path that we are travelling that we forget the who we are supposed to be persevering to and for, we are in danger of bailing out before the run is done. It’s funny that just about the moment I want to collapse in my exhaustion, the Holy Spirit never lets me go. He picks me up and infuses me with the strength that I need to get back up again, just in the nick of time.

The Spirit obviously desires to work in us and through us. The Holy Spirit is like a fire whose flame we want to be careful not to extinguish. The Holy Spirit wants to intensify the heat of his presence among us, to inflame our hearts and fill us with the warmth of his indwelling power. On our own ability alone, we won’t experience the truth that God says we can.

A 19th-century immigrant, after passing through Ellis Island by way of the Statue of Liberty, was found walking the tracks of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in New Jersey. On his back and in his arms, he carried everything he had brought from the old country.

Though fatigued and footsore, he shuffled along the rails until an agent stopped him and warned him to get off the tracks lest he be hit by a train or arrested for trespassing. The man refused, instead producing a railroad ticket good from Jersey City to Scranton. The agent looked at him in shock and asked why he was walking when he could ride. The immigrant said he thought the ticket gave him only the privilege of walking the rails. He almost danced for joy when he learned that he could ride the train instead of trudging the tracks.

Religion will kill you. It is like trying to walk the tracks to glory in your own effort. If the rushing trains of life running us down don’t kill us, the mere exasperation of trying to be good on our own merit definitely will. Jesus paid it all. We’ve got a ticket to ride, and we need to care.

God has given us a ticket to ride in the Spirit. We must not be content to walk in the flesh. Are we losing our joy to there because we keep forgetting where we are going and who has promised to get us there? Renew the wonder of your relationship with the Lord daily. Your lasting joy depends upon it.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.