It has been good to spend a few days staying with my parents in Devon. They are blessed to live by the sea, with the beach a five-minute walk down Smugglers’ Lane. At the bottom of Smugglers’ Lane it is possible to walk beneath the railway to gain access to the seawall and beach, except at high tide.
Surprisingly the seawall has no railings. It didn’t when I was a child and it doesn’t now despite the health and safety culture of present times. There is the potential to slip and fall, while the steps down to the beach provide further possibilities for life threatening injuries. Then there is the challenge of not getting hit by cyclists who choose to ignore the signs forbidding the riding of cycles. All sorts of other warning signs proliferate. It would be easy to look at the signs, and then turn around and walk back up Smugglers’ Lane and take the risk free approach of catching the bus to Teignmouth.
I love walking along the seawall and beach to and from Teignmouth, regardless of the risk or the weather, although I do keep an eye on the tide. Although I am prepared to accept the various risks, I would be a fool to ignore some of the warnings, particularly those about not trespassing on the railway line or clambering over the crumbling breakwater!
All the warning signs got me thinking about how Jesus once pointed out to the ultra-religious folk of the day that they were great at using signs in the sky to predict the weather, but less competent at reading the signs of the times (Matthew 16: 1-4 NIV). If they had read the signs a little better then they might have listened a little more carefully to Jesus. But following Jesus is sometimes comparable to walking along a slippery seawall with no railings, and the dodgiest steps down to the beach that you have ever seen. I guess that’s why most folk take an easier route and miss out on the beauty of a relationship with Jesus. Sadly, it seems like time is running out – taking the easier way will ultimately end in disappointment and a lost eternity. That’s not a risk I’m prepared to take.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24: 3-13 NIV)