Monday Morning Blog: “Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice ~ Don’t Forget The Elephant In The Room” ~ To subscribe call 415-333-1970
By Richard Gazowsky
Caroline walked up to the pleasant, attractive ticket agent to book her plane flight back to San Francisco. Suddenly she smelled the pleasant aroma of cherry blossom flowers coming from the direction of the agent. Immediately a flash crashed through the mentally dark, depressing walls of the poor way of thinking that had been snaking through her mind. The voice said simply, “Compliment her.” Caroline knew it was the Lord speaking to her, and the little girl inside of her giggled because she smelled cherry blossoms so strongly.
“Wow!” Caroline exclaimed, “I love cherry blossoms! And they are smelling so refreshing at this time of year.” The agent smiled, took Caroline’s identification and began processing her ticket. It was then that Caroline noticed the agent had fresh cherry blossoms pinned right above her nametag. Caroline and the busy agent glanced at each other, giggled and smiled, then turned away with girlish embarrassment ~ for they both knew that they both might sound silly if others heard them laughing at such an innocent observation.
While the agent continued her work Caroline turned around and looked at the dark cloud still lingering in the seat at the center of the airport lobby. It was Joe, and he had followed her. Joe was like the tar baby in the early American Uncle Remus’ story. The tar baby just sat there and said nothing. But just its presence annoyed Br’er Rabbit so much (because Br’er Rabbit was such an outgoing friendly sort) that before Br’er Rabbit knew it, the tar baby had stuck him all up. Caroline knew that Joe was a real tar baby in her life. He was going to sit around and annoy anyone who tried to be her suitor until she ended up being “stuck” with him. It is just what Joe had done to Sebastian.
Caroline knew what was going on in Joe’s mind as he sat there in the airport lobby. If he simply kept on bugging her, she would finally give up and become his companion for his boring life. After all, he had caused an emotional nuclear explosion in her life. Every dream of hers had come crashing helplessly down to the ground in ashes just hours earlier. She felt there was absolutely no way the rest of her life would ever be safe. She knew the kind of controlling spirit he had was destined to be permanent.
It was almost as though some advanced spirit in the angelic and spiritual realm orchestrated Joe’s movements because his timing and cleverness was beyond human comprehension. There is no way Joe could have known that she was in a blooming love relationship with Sebastian, the son of the President of the United States. There was no earthly reason why her parents were attacked by serious health conditions at the exact time she was about to take her final exam. The coincidences were too extreme. They had to be plotted and planned by a very sinister spirit. There was no way that Joe could have orchestrated them. The source had to be from the much more evil and advanced world of satanic angelic warfare.
Caroline remembered that this kind of thing had happened many times in biblical history. The most well-known story that applied to her circumstance was when Job was praying in the morning to the Lord. Satan also showed up and declared to God that he wanted to bring calamity into Job’s life so he would lose his way and break his intimate relationship with God. But the calamities that came upon Job did not turn him away from the Lord, even when they became so distressingly intimate and personal that Job developed huge sores upon his body. He was in such pain and misery that he sat in sackcloth and ashes.
And to make matters worse, Job’s friends showed up and talked to him for a long time about how miserable he was and looked, and what they knew he had done wrong. But Job had not done anything wrong. Job’s calamity became the reason for God to bless him extraordinarily ~ not only with great wealth, but with extended life and the most beautiful children in all the land. “Wow! That about says it all”, Caroline had thought as the preacher was explaining the sermon. “But now,” she wondered, “is it really going to be worth it? Is this my Job experience?”
Caroline still felt the pain of Joe’s verbal abuse after he destroyed her relationship with Sebastian, the President’s oldest son. So devastating were his cutting words that they still rang like clashing knife blades in her ears. And to think Joe called himself a Christian. Yet he lied and said that he was “supposed” to marry Caroline. How absurd and ridiculous this was to any person who knew them over the years. But what really troubled her was the look on Sebastian’s face ~ when he embarrassedly pulled away from her ~ while she was yet unable to speak because she was still coming out of unconsciousness. Caroline knew that such a respectable young man of Sebastian’s sensitivity would not take lightly to such harassment at such an inopportune time ~ especially when it was in the presence of his fellow students.
Caroline’s hand reached down and touched the Bible that was in her purse. She smiled to herself because she had remembered something about Sebastian’s name that made him so special. It was why his mother chose to give him that name. She first heard his story one night while the two of them were sitting together on the dormitory porch. What he told her was quite incredible. His mother named him after St. Sebastian, one of the early Christian military martyrs for Christ.
St. Sebastian had converted to Christianity at a time when it was illegal for praetorian guards to renounce their Roman gods. And it was a crime punishable by death. But St. Sebastian’s conversion was so real that he converted many of the prisoners of the Roman government to Christianity before they were executed. At one point seventy-two prisoners gave their lives to Jesus before their deaths.
Once, when St. Sebastian was visiting the home of a wealthy Roman, the man’s daughter (who was blind) was miraculously healed and her eyes were suddenly opened. Another famous Roman, who had lost his hearing, had it completely restored when St. Sebastian happened to visit him. When the Roman emperor found out about all of St. Sebastian’s converts, he immediately ordered his praetorian genius be put to death, in military fashion, on the open field. The praetorian guards tied Sebastian to a post in the center of a field, then had an array of archers fill his body with arrows. But when a young Christian lady came to remove his body to bury him, she discovered that miraculously St. Sebastian was still alive. She secretly took him to her own house and nursed him back to complete health.
Throughout the years the story of St. Sebastian surviving the fiery arrows of death caused many Christians in the Dark Ages to also believe, and God saved them from the bubonic plague that raged throughout Europe. But the story of St. Sebastian is even more memorable because years later the same emperor saw St. Sebastian in the streets alive and well ~ and had him martyred a second time. That was the reason the First Lady of the United States named her first-born son Sebastian. She felt that name represented trusting God without borders, because even death had not been a barrier to the Roman soldier’s life.
Caroline had felt such a warm glow when Sebastian relayed the personal facts about his life to her, because she so wanted to trust Jesus without any borders ~ be they financial, social, relational, or even the laws of nature that appeared to be physically set in stone. She wanted to be like a little child and believe that anything could happen. Joe interrupted her thoughts as he tapped her on the shoulder. “Here, I have your ticket. Let’s go get on the plane, Caroline.”
“There he goes again,” Caroline thought, “assuming he is something he’s not. No wonder God hates the sin of presumption.”
Caroline continued to think, as she walked next to him towards the plane, how Joe was such a perfect example of trust “with” borders. Everything about him spoke of confinement, restrictions, hindrances, and control. Joe wanted to dominate her life and put borders everywhere ~ to let every hope of hers to remain only a dream ~ not a reality. Oh, how much Caroline wanted her life to be like the 747 that she was just about to enter. She desperately desired to be free to fly away to her heaven-high aspirations. Yes, she wanted all of her dreams to come to pass.
Caroline knew that her hopes of going to West Point had been shattered because she did not take the final exam within the allotted time period. She had met with her counselor, before she left for the airport, and he informed her that there was no chance of her entering West Point. There was no recourse for those who did not take and pass the exam. Her desire of ever going to West Point had vaporized into smoke. To Caroline it looked like every dream that she had been blessed with for years had vanished before her eyes. And this man Joe was right there as a witness to declare that everything was over.
Caroline and Joe arrived at the airline gate together and the agent proceeded to take Joe’s ticket and direct him to the door of the plane. But when the agent looked at Caroline’s ticket he said, with a surprised look on his face, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you are in the wrong line. You are in first class.”
Taken aback, Caroline replied, “But how can that be?”
“Honey, it looks like you’ve been upgraded.” The agent then smiled and pointed Caroline to the first-class entrance.
Joe instantly froze at the doorway to the economy class. He had heard the words of the agent and they’d stuck like icicles into his back. Caroline briefly looked at him and smiled, careful not to say a word as she hurried towards the first-class gate, knowing that this must be the beginning of God taking her calamity and doing something wonderful with it.
It was Caroline’s first time to step into a first-class cabin, and she was unexpectedly pleased when the agent at the gate greeted her by her last name. “Miss O’Reilly, we have your seat prepared for you. Would you like something to drink as you wait for the plane to embark?”
Just the sound of those personal words caressed Caroline’s thoughts like an invigorating massage. There was something about this proper greeting and accompanying offer that seemed to be a sign that she was going to move up in society ~ and in life. As she lowered herself into the luxurious first-class lounge-seat, she was impressed by all the roominess. She felt like she was in her parent’s living room. And the leather was so soft and smooth. She took several moments to enjoy the refined details. While she sat there contentedly, a Scripture suddenly came to her mind:
“If you are having trouble with the footmen, how shall you fare when you encounter the horsemen?” The Scripture, which was referring to a soldier’s advancement from battling footmen to fighting against those on horses, was really trying to prepare people for promotion in life. As one gains more responsibility that comes with wealth and power, one also has an increase in tension, trouble, and calamity. More blessings mean more devils there are to try to steal them away.
Caroline suddenly understood that she was going to have to stop fighting her battles alone. She realized that the trouble that she was in right now was too great for her to figure out, plot, or plan for. She was going to have to trust Jesus every step of the way. This way was different from her cultural upbringing. There everyone talked about being a self-made person. But now she was thinking about becoming a Jesus-made person. Yes, she was aware that wealthy people had servants, secretaries, and managers to take care of everything.
But to be a Jesus-led person she would need to develop a different process in her own heart and mind. She was going to have to let God be her daily manager and planner, and literally “serve everything” to her heart, mind, and soul. Though it was an old phrase, it now was taking on new meaning to her, because she was really going to make Jesus “Lord of her life.” It was something that she had done in church when she was a little girl, but she never before realized its full meaning.
Caroline’s thoughts were cut short by the stewardess. “My dear Miss O’Reilly, we have the Earl Grey tea you requested, with some cream and sugar. I also brought you a travel satchel, where you will find all the necessary conveniences you may need for the journey.”
Caroline, out of reflex, responded, “Does it cost anything?”
“No ma’am, everything here is complimentary. And from our gourmet menu you can select what item you would desire our chef to personally prepare for you during your flight.”
“I am a bit overwhelmed,” Caroline said softly. “Oh…thank you.”
“Don’t worry, my dear,” the stewardess said codially, “you will get used to it.” The stewardess then smiled warmly and continued on with her duties.
Caroline silently sipped her cup of English tea as she felt the peace of God flood her mind and soul. She glanced around her special first class seating and then opened up the satchel the stewardess had given her. What thoughtful amenities! Inside was a beautiful robe for her to put on if she needed to awake from her sleep to use the bathroom. There was also a pair of warm socks and slippers; a toothbrush and toothpaste to refresh her mouth after sleeping.
Inside the satchel there were also two sets of cream ~ a night balm for her face, and a day application for after she awoke. She remembered a cosmetic lady once telling her about the necessity of having good clear skin by cleansing it properly. She never imagined that by flying first class she would receive these items as a matter of course. It was at that point that the Lord spoke to her very clearly:
“This is what I am about to do with your life, Caroline. You are going to be promoted. This means you are going to have to accept My perfect will for your life and not have control over everything you do. But remember what I have told you ever since you were a little girl. My plans for you are only to bring you good and to an expected end. Didn’t I tell the disciples if you asked Me for fish I would not give you a serpent? The reason I have had to say this to so many of My disciples is because the enemy wants you to assume that I, the Lord, have some ulterior motive when I ask you to do something. Evil spirits have tried to convince you that I want you to heal the world or change mankind by making some horrible sacrifice so others will experience happiness ~ but you will be left very unhappy. All of this has been a massive lie. I, the Lord, have only one desire for you; that you, above all are prosperous, are in good health, and live a long life. This has always been My plan for you.
“I am not using you to accomplish some greater good, I am not using you for any other person, but only to bless you individually, I mean you. It sounds selfish on your part to accept such a gracious gift from your Father in heaven. But because the blessings come from Me, their only basis is righteousness, and My righteousness is as high as the heavens are above the earth from man’s righteousness. Let your Father bless you, and this happens by you following My word every day. The next few weeks in your life are going to be confusing whirlwinds of activity so it is necessary, Caroline, that you do not make any plans or calculations for your future. Only listen to My voice for you ~ fresh and new every morning. Sit back in this first-class seat and relax. Just as the stewardess provided you a satchel with amenities for your every need, so I, the Lord, have a spiritual satchel that will provide for you every day what you need for just that day. Yes, you will go to West Point; yes, you will marry the President’s son; yes, your father and mother will live long lives. The only question is, are you willing to listen to My voice one day at a time?”
Caroline’s thoughts were interrupted by an announcement by the captain that there would be a slight delay to their departure from the gate and to please remain seated. Caroline looked around at the double-decker airplane. It appeared to be one of the brand-new planes of Singapore Airlines. Her first-class area was actually called a suite, which meant that her and only one other passenger were seated in the private compartment together. Suddenly a man opened the door to the suite and stepped into the compartment. Caroline, who was naturally shy, had quickly bowed her head and was asking the Lord to help her through the process of traveling with this unknown male companion. Immediately the Lord reminded her of something that was said in a sermon that a prophet had given: “Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
In other words, the prophet was saying that when God promotes you to a higher level of learning, you are going to meet new friends and relationships, and have interactions with total strangers that you are not accustomed to. He explained that many times people (who are used to things being done a certain way) when they face new situations they claim it is the devil’s doing because they have not learned to be “comfortable with the uncomfortable.” Every one of God’s promotions is going to cause a change in your life. As Caroline’s eyes were still closed, she suddenly felt a man’s hand rest on her back and she felt the living daylights being scared out of her! Instantly she sat up erect in her seat, ready to cry out with alarm when she saw the face of Sebastian. So he was the new passenger that was going to travel with her.
He smiled. “Did I startle you?”
She immediately broke into tears and hugged him with uncontrollable waves of emotion, “No,” she sobbed joyfully. “You thrilled me, and caused my emotions to leap out of my spirit.”
The next words Sebastian spoke answered and confirmed so many of Caroline’s reasoning and questions. “Caroline,” he said sincerely, “I understand that you had to leave to see your mother and father. But I am also aware there are many forces that are fighting against us coming together in our lives. I had to make sure that you were upgraded to first class so I could be alone with you for your flight home. I know what that young man said is not true. But more than that, the calamity which has befallen you has confirmed to me that you are the woman that God has chosen for me to be with for the rest of my life.” He then reached into his pocket, pulled out a red velvet box, and opened it. There, was a shining 5-carat engagement ring! “This was the ring that my father gave to my mother,” Sebastian said softly, “and it is the one I desire to give you to keep always. Will you be my wife, Caroline? ”
Seeing the wondrous look on her face, he passionately embraced Caroline as she whispered in his ear, “Yes, yes, yes!” At that exact moment the huge jumbo jet left the ground and sailed into the skies towards their bright and exciting future.
That message from God changed Caroline’s life forever. Her children became American royalty, her daily life included visits to all of the royal families on planet earth ~ and her husband loved her charismatic church in San Francisco. They even joined in a crazy dance with her new friends at the front of the sanctuary. Joe found another woman, who was comfortable with living a life of modest expectations. But Caroline and Sebastian lived their borderless lives of faith. Sebastian gave Bible studies to kings, and also established prayer rooms in faraway military hospitals. Caroline touched millions of wealthy women around the world as she shared with them, through many versions of her story, her “first-class” experience. She truly reached the pinnacle of all of her dreams ~ and found that every day she experienced the joy of trusting without borders.
Richard Gazowsky pastors a church in San Francisco called A Place To Meet Jesus. He has directed the films, “Guardians” and “The Roman Trilogy.”
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