Sometimes I give my grandmother a ride to the mall. As soon as we enter the parking lot, she always begins to pray. One time, I asked her what she was praying for and she told me that she was praying for a really good parking spot. Sometimes we get a good one and sometimes we don t. God doesn t always give us a parking space by the door. That doesn t mean He doesn t love us or isn t with us.
In today s lesson, upon hearing of the impending judgment day, Daniel begs to know when will the bad times pass, in essence, when will he get his break, his parking spot up front? When the LORD speaks, even though He implies that life could get worse for Daniel, He is ultimately comforting. Although God is ambiguous about when the end will come, He gives Daniel relief. It is almost as if God is winking at Daniel, telling him not to worry, because if he keeps his faith, he will get into heaven. All Daniel has to do is to wait, keep the LORD s secret, maintain the faith and he will receive the final reward of rewards.
God does not only speak to Daniel here, but speaks to us as well. He s telling us that our guidelines are the same as Daniel s. All we have to do to receive the greatest reward imaginable, is endure life, keeping God and faith in our minds. Many of my friends and I are going through the college application process. As many of you might know, it is tough. The top colleges only want the perfect, the top of the class, the leader in everything. Thankfully, God s admittance policy to heaven is not like that. He does not have to pick out only the best candidates for admission and send the rest to an eternity of suffering. He wants you to get in, and He can accept everyone He wants.
In these guidelines are the facts, and there are no ways around them. They are also simple. God chooses the time for judgment and as long as we remain faithful to him buoyed by his strength and love, we get into heaven. Nothing should change our degree of faith, because faith is the path God gives us to heaven. The readings tell us that God will not alter anything in life, he will not stop human atrocities and He will not end any worldly sufferings. God proclaims that keeping faith will not offer any shield to bad things. Although maintaining a relationship with God does give us comfort, staying faithful will not offer an escape from suffering. God will not protect us from bad things until after the ultimate moment of suffering death.
God does not give people free passes like many wish and pray for. We need to just roll with the punches, and if we get knocked down, get back up again, knowing with relief that God loves us and that we will one day be in heaven. For those of you who do not already know, I was hit by a car two years ago while running with my cross-country team and was unconscious for two days. When I woke up, I discovered it was going to take a long time and a lot of work to recover. The doctors weren t sure a full recovery was possible. But I was determined and after months of physical, vocational and speech therapy I made it back at school and my team. I am proud to say my running times improved and I became co-captain of the Freeman team which came in 2nd in the Colonial District. I had been knocked down but not out.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, my cross country team was in a prime position to make it to the State Championships. All I had to do was run my usual time. I was feeling good and was confident. However, in the beginning yards of the race, someone stepped on my ankle and my shoe came off. Having to run a 3.1 mile race with only one shoe is very, very bad. This was going to really hurt my performance since almost half of this course is on a trail composed of gravel and rocks. I finished almost two minutes slower than expected and our team lost by only two points and we were not able to go to the state championship. Again, I was knocked down but not out.
Now, I m facing another challenge. One where there is a chance I could get knocked down again. As I mentioned, many of us are applying to colleges. I really want to go to UVA. Throughout my entire life, I have been obsessed with the University. My family s picture albums include distant football games and even me as a baby, clad in Virginia pajamas and sweatshirts. In the fifth or sixth grade, I was introduced to my first formal paper. In the assignment, my history teacher told us to pick a famous figure in the United States history and write at least three pages on why he or she was a great American leader. I chose Thomas Jefferson, and half my paper was about his Academical village. I am not absolutely sure, but I think that was the only A I got on a paper that year.
I submitted my application at the end of October and since then, I have been consumed with suffering anxiety. Everyday, people ask me what I will do if I don t get in. Everyday, I worry about how many more days until the letter comes. Now it seems as if I have been living my life, waiting for December 1, 2006 when I find out if I am good enough or not. I have lived for 6070 days and I have twelve left. Up until I read today s lesson, I thought this was my judgment day.
Getting into the University of Virginia would be amazing and it is ok for me to think that way. However, now I realize that if I do not get in, that is perfectly fine too. I will be knocked down, but with the comfort of knowing God is with me I can get up again. Also, I can use this sermon to make me feel better and continue to go my way, just in another direction.
Even with the accident and the disappointing race I went through, and probably with the disappointments you have faced in your lives, we have still suffered less pain than the persecuted Hebrews in the Bible. And like them, God will not alleviate our pain and suffering. If we fail at our goals, God will not make it alright and just go away. But He will give us comfort. We know that He loves us and is with us. Just remember God s grace works in all situations.
As we keep God with us in our daily struggles, He also wants us to remember the big picture. Just as God told Daniel to return to life by himself and rest, he lets us know that we must return to life knowing that heaven waits for us. He tells us to go our own way, and to still try to find happiness in life, but to remember that the worldly happiness or suffering will be meaningless compared to the ultimate happiness in heaven.
No matter how tough life can get, just remember to roll with the punches and not take the world so seriously. However big you mess up in life or whatever unlikely things happen to you, remember that God s love is with you. Isn t that warm and comforting?; even if terrible things constantly happen to us, all we have to do is get back up and remember the love of God. If we can simply do that, the gracious God will open His arms to our acceptance into a place that is better than life could ever possibly be. AMEN