Life is a Gift … Some Assembly Required

Christmas is coming, just 25 days left! Tis the season for toy commercials, it seems every other one is a tempting lure for kids to put on their Christmas list and beg mom and dad for. At the very end of some of those commercials, the narrator says in the very fast way commercial narrators do, the things they have to say but they don’t want you to notice … some assembly required! Some of the most dreaded words for moms and dads all over at Christmas time. We’ll give you all the pieces but you have to rush to put this 1,000 piece, 300 nuts and bolts toy together while you kid stares at you in anticipation and keeps reminding you how long it’s taking for you to build their new toy!

Sometimes I feel the same way about life. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Life is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.” I agree that life is a gift but I think that if that saying were a toy commercial. They would say really slow … Life is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present …and then really fast in the way they don’t want you to notice … some assembly required.

When we become a Christian we are given the gift of eternal life, we are given the gift of forgiveness and the gift of grace. Think about it, we wouldn’t need forgiveness and grace if life came fully assembled. If life came perfectly complete with no problems.

Some people think that since they have a pile of pieces and nuts and bolts, they can assemble life any way they want to. The problem with that is when we don’t assemble life the way that it was meant to be assembled according to the instructions God gives us, it’s not going to work the way that it was meant to work according to the Creator.

If there ever was a people in the history of all people who were bad at following the instructions of assembling their lives, it was the Israelites. They were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament and He promised that they would inherit a promised land if only they followed the instructions He had given them. They eventually got there but they wandered in the desert for forty years because they kept trying to assemble life their own way.

Let’s open our Bibles to the book of Joshua. While you’re finding Joshua, let me remind you of where he was on his journey. He was the leader after Moses. Moses led the Israelites for forty years and died before reaching the promised land. Joshua was the next chosen leader. The book of Joshua opens with that transition. God is speaking to Joshua and says in Joshua 1:7-9

7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   

Basically, God is telling Joshua that he will be successful in assembling his life if he follows the book of law. He tells Joshua not to be afraid or discouraged because he isn’t alone. We go from this very encouraging up moment in Joshua’s life just a few chapters later. We see Joshua in a slightly different situation. We pick up right after Joshua sent a small army to battle and take over Ai, he sent a small army because the spies were confident that Ai would be easy to beat. They were wrong and the small army that Joshua sent was demolished. We pick up in Joshua 7:6

6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring these people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”

Joshua is afraid and discouraged because things aren’t going as planned. He falls face down and threw a little pity party for himself right after God told him not to be afraid or discouraged in his journey.

Sometimes the pieces don’t fit, sometimes we try to skip a few steps, and sometimes we have some pieces and bolts left over. If we follow a different instruction book, like the instruction book of the world, or an instruction book of our friends, or the instruction book of the advice columns in the newspapers, or the instruction book of our favorite magazine, we’re just going to get frustrated that the pieces are fitting together right.

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

So in my translation, God is saying, Joshua, stop throwing a hissy fit and do what I’m telling you to do already! Israel is trying to do things their own way. They are sinning, stealing, lying. Israel can’t stand against their enemies because they are assembling their lives in a way they weren’t meant to be assembled and then they are confused as to why life isn’t working out the way they think it should. Their wheels are on the handlebars and the breaks are on the seat that’s on backward. Can’t you see why this isn’t working? Israel isn’t following my instructions!

We have free will, God will let us put the wheels on the handlebars and the seat backward and upside down, he’ll let us use only half the bolts. But when we don’t follow the instructions, we can’t get mad at God for life not working out. In youth group, we are talking about relationships, and the same principle applies. I told them, you can’t start dating a loser just because you don’t want to be alone and then get upset when your boyfriend is a loser. You can’t raise your kids the way the world does and then get upset when your kids aren’t obedient and acting the way you want them to. You can’t sin and expect there to be no consequences.

Are you getting my parallel? You’re all smart, I think you probably are. If our life isn’t where we think it should be, if there are things that are just out of place, maybe we need to take a look at how we’ve assembled our life. Are we following God and his instructions, the Bible, or are we trying to do things our way? If we are doing things our way and not God’s are we willing to let him reassemble? God is always, always willing to help us take the pieces apart. We just have to let Him take what we build, the wrong way, apart. Maybe, you haven’t intentionally assembled a part of your life the wrong way but you haven’t intentionally assembled it the right way. The pieces of life don’t just fall together, we must intentionally follow the instructions. Either way, taking pieces of our life apart isn’t enjoyable but with God’s help we can start over. He’s even given us an instruction book to follow so that we put the wheels in the right place, the seat on right side up and forward, and he shows us where to put each and every bolt.
I recently got a jewelry armoire that advertised “simple assembly required”. You know that’s a lie, right? Simple assembly, what’s that even mean? To me, that means no nuts and blots, like maybe I would need to put the shelves in or something. After making a complete mess taking everything out of the box, after thinking I was missing pieces and then finding them, after enlisting my dad to help, and getting the screwdriver, we were ready to start the simple assembly. About 15 bags of screws a box full of wood pieces and an hour later, we were done. A few things had to be reassembled, a few things took a few tries to get it right. It took energy and work but by following the instructions, it’s now a fully functional jewelry armoire. If the armoire had come without instructions, or if we chose to ignore the instructions, I promise you it would hardly be functional and I would have surely been significantly more frustrated in the assembly process.

So what ever happened to Joshua and Isreal? They let God disassemble the parts of their lives where there was sin. We find that Achkin was the one taking stuff that didn’t belong to him and unfortunately was turned to bacon for his disobedience. Read the book of Joshua and you will see what I mean. Isreal repented of their sin and went on to not only capture Ai and take possession of all of their stuff but defeated many kings, each king representing a land that they would take possession of. As a matter of fact in Joshua 7:12 the Bible doesn’t even bother to list the battles or lands but only lists a very long list of kings who Israel defeated.

The Bible says that we were made in the image of God. The word made is a process, when we make a cake it doesn’t come fully assembled and baked it comes in pieces just like our lives. We have all of the pieces to be all that God wants us to be but the assembly part is our job with God’s help. With God’s help, Israel was successful in doing what they were created to do. Let me warn you about some assembly required thought.

The thing about some assembly required is that we can think we’re making really good progress. We get one part completely done like the handlebars of a bike, or we get the whole front half of the toy perfect and we’re so proud of ourselves. Then, God moves the spotlight and shows us another whole pile of nuts and bolts and tires that are completely a mess. It’s very easy to get discouraged when that spot light switches from the completely finished part to the completely un-finished part of our life. From our perspective, we feel like our life is just always in pieces. From God’s perspective, we are growing and always improving, every day assembling a little more of his masterpiece. We can just give up and get discouraged about all of the not assembled pieces that we have left but just the handlebars of a bike aren’t  going to do God or us much good.

By the end of Joseph’s life, he realizes that life is a process, we are always assembling and reassembling. He realizes that God can use us in the process of assembling but only if we agree to follow His instructions. Joshua gives us a verse that is often memorized or written on plaques. In Joshua, it says, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Again, in my translation, he is saying to follow the instructions of God not of the world and we will end up assembling our lives into a masterpiece worth something very valuable instead of a mess with left over pieces and few loose screws. God doesn’t want his people, me and you, walking around, doing His work with loose screws! How are you assembling your life? Are you intentionally placing the pieces or just letting things fall where they may? What areas have you assembled your own way but are extremely frustrated because it’s just not working? As we pray, ask God to show you those things. Ask him to help you assemble or take apart and reassemble. Pray this Christmas season as we buy and give gifts fully assembled or not, remember that the gift of life doesn’t come perfect but we can perfectly assemble it with Gods help and instructions.
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