Lost on my Way to Allegany. Help!

A friend of mine (And I consider anyone I meet, no matter how briefly, a friend!) Shared the following experience with me. He and his family had reserved a campsite in the beautiful Allegany State Park, located in Salamanca, New York. As the designated day arrived, the family packed up the camping gear and headed for New York State. It was with excitement that they crossed the Canadian/U.S. border in Buffalo and proceeded down the I-90E, direction New York City. They were sure of their route. After all, all roads lead to Rome!

As they drove along the Interstate, they tried to keep the kids occupied by pointing out interesting scenery and playing a variety of car games, but by the time 4 hours had passed, everyone was beginning to question their route. After all, they had been told that they would only need two and a half hours to reach their destination!

A bit farther down the road was a gas station. What better place to stop and ask for directions? But the initial results weren't very helpful: "Allegany State Park! Never heard of it!"

My friend's heart sank.

"Wait," continued the gas attendant. "Let me see that map. Hmmm… Allegany State Park, Allegany State Park, Allegany State Park…No it isn't around here. Allegany State Park, no it isn't in the next county. Let me look on the other side of the map."

After several minutes of anxious waiting, the family finally heard the man exclaim: "Here it is!"

But their relief was short lived: "Boy! You are way off track! You will have to head back to Buffalo. You took the I-90 east instead of west!"

My friend's mouth gaped open in frustrated astonishment, but the gas attendant was still pointing at the map and giving directions: "Take the I-90W, W…E…S…T. To the 85E. This will take you to the town of Salamanca. From there you should see signs pointing you in the right direction."

His cheeks hot with embarrassment, my friend thanked the employee and proceeded to drive back to Buffalo. Six hours later, with all the car games used up and the scenery no longer interesting, they finally arrived in Salamanca. But where was the State Park???

Understandably lacking in patience, they stopped at a doughnut shop to see if they could find someone to help them. Sure enough, there just happened to be four state troopers stopped at the very same shop.

My friend hesitated before asking the infamous question. After all, what if he were told they still had another 10 hours to drive??? How would they ever keep the kids occupied and happy for another 10 hours on the road? But he swallowed and asked anyway. After all, how else would he ever know??? "Do you know how to get to Allegany State Park?" He asked.

The police man looked my friend straight in the eyes and said: "You won't be able to reach that park from here!"

My friend's heart dropped with his jaw: "Won't be able to . . ." He stammered.

But he was interrupted by the laughter of the other three state troopers. "I'm sorry sir," said the first officer. "Just look out this window!"

My friend turned in the direction the officer was pointing, and just outside the donut shop was a sign that read: "Allegany State Park". After driving for more than eleven hours, they had finally reached their destination!

Doesn't this sound familiar? In the walk that we call life, with our destination being Heaven, we often lose our way. Sin is rampant in our world and if we aren't careful it can swallow us up whole. We think we are heading in the right direction, only to find out that instead of Jesus being in our driver's seat, we have taken over ourselves! Our immediate destination? Misery and self-condemnation!

Paul tells us: "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:22-23 NIV) According to this verse, sin means that we are coming short of our true end. Sin causes us to literally "miss the mark". What a frustrating waste of time!

We have all fallen short. No one can claim to be sin free! "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:10 NIV)

In fact notice what Peter says about this: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV)

We are not the only ones facing this devastating disease. All of our Christian brothers and sisters are faced by it as well. However there is a way to stay on the right road. It comes by knowing that we have been set free from sin's dominion through the blood of Jesus! "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…" (Rev 1:5 NIV); and "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36 NIV)

If we sin, it's because we are paying attention to the devil's attempts to lure us away from our destination. What can be done to avoid continually falling short of the mark? Peter gives us the answer:

1. Be self-controlled (see 1 Peter 5:8)

Know our own weaknesses. Don't boast about our own strengths. They may lead to our own destruction!

2. Be on alert (see 1 Peter 5:8)

From what? "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (see 1 Peter 5:8)

The devil isn't our friend, nor is this world. His plan is our destruction! He knows our weaknesses and will use this knowledge to his own advantage! (Isn't it interesting that we are never tempted by weaknesses we don't have?)

3. Resist him (see 1 Peter 5:8)

Instead of giving in to the devil's temptations, resist him! Know that these attractions are meant for our own destruction. If we stand firm, God will give us a way out! "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Cor 10:13 NIV)

4. Stand firm in the faith (see 1 Peter 5:8)

Acknowledge that we will not stand on our own. Instead let us stand on the Rock of our salvation. Depend on Jesus. If we have to boast, let us boast on the victory given to us through Jesus! "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Cor 1:31 NIV)

God has given us a Counselor who lives in us and who guides us if we listen to His voice. "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- 17 the Spirit of truth." (John 14:16-17 NIV)

5. Know that we are not the only ones facing these kinds of temptations: "Know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (see 1 Peter 5:8)

Draw strength from the knowledge that the devil is after all of God's creation, especially the redeemed ones! He will do anything "to deceive the elect-if that were possible." (Mark 13:22 NIV)

6. If we fall, let us not give up. Instead let us rely on Jesus and ask for His guidance and His forgiveness, for: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 NIV)

Only by standing on Jesus and His word will we reach our goal, not on our own strength, but on His alone! "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24 NIV)

The choice is ours. We can be wanderers, lost in the labyrinth of this life, or we can head home with Jesus in the driver's seat!

By the way, how can I get to Allegany State Park?

Rob Chaffart

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