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Your Car Is on Fire!

We all fear sudden disaster. Whether it's a tornado dropping out of a night-time thunderstorm, an unpredicted earthquake, or a car darting across the center line, any number of things could unexpectedly ruin—or even end—our day. Even on a spiritual level, some people seem to think of the one big, unforgivable sin that would guarantee an eternity in the fires of hell. Sudden, unavoidable destruction scares us all.

Realistically, however, most people don't die suddenly. They usually die slowly of “natural causes” or accidentally at the end of a string of ignored danger signs. Even those “natural causes” are often the results of many years of poor health practices. Accidents too frequently follow a pattern, perhaps a lifetime pattern, of careless behavior. The need for a storm cellar may be sudden, but the decision not to build one this year isn't. Often disaster is only sudden in the perception of the person who pretended dangerous was really o.k.

While one sin is enough to earn God's judgment, nobody stops at one sin. Day after day, year after year, they keep making rebellious decisions, slowly choosing and earning eternal damnation. While those who turn to God for salvation do receive God's gift of eternal life suddenly, even that was earned by Jesus Christ. He earned it over years of living on earth, hours hanging on a cross, and days lying in a grave. Both in the spiritual realm and the earthly realm, suddenness is often but an illusion. Disasters develop slowly.

Unfortunately, I've proved the slowly developing disaster idea more than once. At the moment I'm thinking of the most expensive car I've ever owned. Of course, I am far from wealthy and pay cash for my cars, so that “most expensive” status is relative. Nonetheless, I paid over three thousand dollars for it. It had low miles, was only five or six years old at purchase, and looked pretty nice. It wasn't the highest quality machine on the road, but I liked my little two-door Plymouth Reliant. I was working at a steady job and could afford something better than I'd been able to drive before.

Things changed. I left my job for technical college. I drove over fifty miles daily to and from school and came home to study at night. I was living off savings. The car had lost the excitement of relative newness, and I planned to get something better after graduation. The car received its oil changes and the most basic maintenance, but the oil leaking from under a valve cover gasket would have to wait.

The car had always leaked oil. Nothing serious seemed to be wrong. I added a quart every thousand miles or so and kept driving. The oil started to build up under the hood. I kept driving. The excess oil started to smoke noticeably. The people I talked to didn't think a little oil leak likely to lead to fire. I kept driving. Oil soaked the layer of insulation on the bottom of the hood. I kept driving. The smoke became really, really noticeable. I kept driving.

One winter morning my mother requested I run an errand for her on my way to school. I parked my car in front of a store and went in search of the item she needed. Outside, a man with a pickup truck was plowing snow in the parking lot. I was almost the only customer in the store that early in the day. The snow plow driver had no trouble finding me. “Your car is on fire,” he said.

Of course my car wasn't on fire. It was just smoking. I knew all about that harmless smoke from an oil leak. But I couldn't just brush him off. I had to be polite and look. I went out to the parking lot, expecting to see a small plume of smoke from oil on a hot engine. I got to the parking lot and found not smoke, but fire!

We pushed the car against a snow bank, hoping the snow might help. It didn't. A store clerk called the fire department. I still remember standing in that hillside parking lot, praying that nobody would get hurt as the fire trucks screamed up the street. It didn't take the firefighters long to extinguish the blaze, but the whole incident took long enough. The car was ruined.

The fire chief apparently thought he was talking to a sensible person. “I suppose you don't have any idea how it happened,” he said.

I had to answer like a careless person, an honest person, but a careless one nonetheless. “I know exactly what happened,” I said. It was disaster, but it wasn't sudden disaster. I'd built that fire one drop of oil at a time. It wasn't my intention, of course, but it was what I'd earned. I retrieved a few personal items and contacted a junkyard to come tow my car away.

The Bible speaks of God sitting on a great white throne judging the world. This event will be a judgment. It won't be a lottery. There won't be a big wheel spinning while everyone holds his breath to see where it stops. Those who have eternal life will already know it. They will have received it because Jesus earned it for them and gave it as a gift when they trusted Him. Those who receive eternal damnation shouldn't be surprised either. They will have spent a lifetime earning it. They will have earned it when their sin led to misery and suffering—a warning that it wasn't God's best. They will have earned it when anything seemed better than letting a loving God control their actions. They will have earned it by choosing inappropriate pleasure against their better judgment. They will have earned it as they ignored the gospel message. Some will have earned it by putting off the decision to trust Christ just a little longer. The drop into hell may seem sudden, but the road there isn't. The final judgment will prove disastrous to many people, but sudden disaster it will not be.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

To learn how to receive the gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ, click here: How to Have a Relationship with God.

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


How to Have a Relationship with God

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