Interruptions In Life

Luke 12:13: "A man out of the crowd and said to him…"

Interruptions happened to Jesus almost every day.
Someone out of the crowd would interrupt Him, or the people would interrupt His rest.
One day He had arranged for a period of quiet time with His disciples, and the people interrupted Him.
They interrupted His prayer, saying, "Master, all men seek thee."

Often throughout the Gospels we see this.
"While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, saying…"
Another time: "Behold, two blind men… cried out, saying…"
Or "Behold, a woman… cried unto him, saying… Lord… My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil."
People were always interrupting Him.

Interruptions can be very annoying, and sometimes quite expensive.
There is a famous interruption in literature about which literary critics still are speculating.
It has to do with a poem by Coleridge, which he started under the title, "Kubla Khan."
He never finished the poem.

Nobody, including the poet, knew what he meant to say.
And the reason he never finished it was that he was interrupted.
Someone knocked on his door when the thought was taking shape in his mind,
and the whole idea was knocked completely out of his head.

Coleridge himself tells about it.
He says that the whole pattern of the poem was clear to him and, taking his pen,
he eagerly wrote down the first few lines of it.
At that moment, unfortunately, he was called out by a man from Porlock, on business,
and detained for an hour.

On his return to his desk, he found, to his surprise and dismay, that, with the exception
of a few scattered thoughts and images, all the rest had left him.
Literary people have wondered much about that poem, about what the poet might have said
had he not been interrupted.

One well-known minister of that day was very curious not about the poet or the poem,
but about that man from Porlock.
Who was he?
What did he want?
Was he a bill collector?
Was he selling magazine subscriptions to pay his way through college?
Was he selling tickets to a raffle?
What did he want?
Did he ever come to know what he had interrupted?

Then that minister goes on to draw a parallel to the modern preacher,
whose world is peopled by men from Porlock, who have the uncanny gift of knocking
on the preacher's door while he is in the midst of sermon preparations.
Thus interrupting a thought which possibly might have arrived somewhere.

Maybe some interruption is from someone wanting to sell magazines.
Or maybe it's someone who wants the pastor to speak at a civic club next week.
Or maybe someone is trying to enlist the pastor in some worthy charity.
Or maybe someone just also say, "Hello."

We all have interruptions.
Life is full of annoying and costly interruptions.
Everything goes along smoothly for a while, and then the spell of sickness interrupts your schedule.
Or you get your plans neatly arranged for a year or two, and someone upsets everything
by interrupting some of those plans.
Maybe you have a lifelong friend who has suddenly just died.

Nobody is completely free from interruptions, and for some, the major problem of life
is learning how to handle the costly interruptions.
Such as the door that slammed shut or the plan that got sidetracked, or the marriage that failed,
or that lovely poem, that didn't get written because someone knocked on the door.

In fact, world history for the past turbulent century could well be written in terms of costly interruptions.
Nothing will stay settled anymore.
Nothing anywhere moves in an even flow.
There is a vast uneasiness that has come on the world, apparently will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Caught between the futility of one war and the failure to prevent another,
the call to battle comes again and again.
Just as we have beaten our swords into plowshares and our spears into automobiles,
here comes another costly interruption – home broken up again, business unsettled,
thousands of our youth living day-to-day anticipation of a knock on the door
which means for them that their education will have to be postponed.

Vast sums of money which should be used for constructive work is now earmarked for killing.
All of our dreams about a decent, friendly world are grounded, while the jet carriers of war
and destruction go roaring through the skies.
Perhaps, we are the most interrupted generation in history.

While there are many kinds of problems, there seem to be three possible solutions.
To of which may not be solutions at all.

First, we may take our interruptions resentfully.
We may allow ourselves to be irritated by them.
That is a common way, and a hopeless way of facing them.

You set yourself against life's upsetting experiences.
You look down on them only as intrusions on your welfare, to be resented or resisted.
You settle down with your problems in a mood of self-pity, telling yourself how awful it is,
and you have automatically unfitted yourself for corrective handling of anything.

There is not a more corrosive, negative emotion than that of resentment and self-pity.

The first fact we have to accept is this – life is the certainty of change.
Interruptions are a part of our daily lives.
Life was never designed to run smoothly.
In the very nature of existence, there is a certain inevitableness of opposition and interruption
which must be accepted and surmounted.

If we are not prepared for upsetting experiences, we are not conditioned for life.
Too many people stand resentful as they face their problems because they have never come to terms
with this simple fact – that storms are a part of the normal climate,
and that adversity is a part of the normal life.

Brought up with a success psychology, some start out with the idea that the ideal life is the unruffled life,
and that happiness is its goal, that the Providence of God means security and protection from adversity.
And when that doesn't happen, and when the formula doesn't work,
many become like Job – baffled and resentful.

When the interruption comes, they do nothing except trying to resist it.
They are so taken by surprise that they cannot adjust to the unexpected event.

That is what resentment is – a brittleness in our personality that will not bend to the new demand.
Psychologists are writing a great deal about mental health, and emphasizing
as an important factor a resiliency of spirit that will bend,
as a tree bends before the wind, but does not break.

Some years ago Dale Carnegie said that the manufacturers of automobile tires
tried at first to make a tire that would resist the shocks of the road.
It was a tire that was soon cut to pieces.
They started making tires that would give a little and absorbed the shocks.
Those tires are still with us – they are lasting because they are resilient.

So our first necessity is take the shocks of blocks with resilience, and not with resentment.

We should expect interruptions, and accept the fact that life is full of uncertainty and change,
and that that disturbing knock on the door is part of everyday life.
There is no use resisting the inevitable.
Accept it!

Nor is there much to be gained by taking life's disturbances stoically.
That is a second way
in which we sometimes try to deal with the upsetting experiences of life.

Take them as a turtle takes the prodding of a stick on his shell.
You can't hurt a turtle very much by knocking on his shell.
We can live in our shell and take whatever comes, and get pretty hard and callused in the process.

Lin Yutang, a Chinese philosopher, has a good story about that.
He tells an ancient Chinese parable about an old man who lived with his son in an abandoned fort.

One night the old man's horse – the only horse he had – wandered away,
and his neighbors all came to say how sorry they were about his misfortune.
He said, "How do you know this is ill fortune?"

A week later the horse came home, bringing with him a whole herd of wild horses.
The neighbors came again, helped him capture the wild horses,
and congratulated him on his good fortune.

The old man smiled and asked, "How do you know this is good fortune?"

As the days went on, the old man's son took to riding horses.
One day he was thrown off a horse, and wound up with a crippled leg.
The neighbors came again, and told him how sorry they were about his bad luck.
But the old man asked, "How do you know it is bad luck?"

In less than a week, a Chinese warlord came along and conscripted all able-bodied men
for his private little war, but the old man's son, being a cripple missed the draft.

Once more the neighbors came to rejoice with him in his good luck, and once more the old man said,
"How do you know this is good luck?"

The story ends there, although it could go on forever.
It was a typical Chinese reaction to the blows and blessings of life.
They took them stoically, passively, and they took whatever comes.
They had the philosophy that they were not supposed to do anything about it.
In other words, they would just simply resign themselves to the inevitable, enduring it or enjoying it,
as the case may be.

However, there is this partial truth in this situation.
No event is final.
Nor can it be properly appraised on the day that it happens.
It cannot be put down as either good or evil until all the days are in and the total is added up.

Someone has said, that "no one really knows when it's a good day."
It seemed a bad day when the old man's horse wandered all, but all the days weren't in at that time.
It seemed a bad day when Joseph was sold by his cruel brothers into Egypt;
but when all the days were in, that became a good day.

No day is good, no day is bad, until all the days are in and Life adds them up together,
and in that picture we must enlarge the Providence of God to include the stormy days, the broken plans,
and sometimes even the sin that threw us on the mercy of God
and the failure that makes us lean more heavily on His everlasting arms.

This brings us to the third way of handling lives interruptions.
It is the Christian way.


It is the Christian way, which takes them, not resentfully, not stoically, but creatively,
making them pay and produce, using them to add new height to our stature.
You have heard it said more than once that everything depends on the spirit with which we face things.

When the storm strikes a rooster, he folds up – he just endures it.
He wraps his wings about him to protect himself as best as he can, just drooping through to the dreary end.
When the storm strikes an eagle, he spreads his wings and makes the winds carry him high above the storm.

The same choice is ours.
Blowing on all of us are the winds of opposition.
Breaking in on all of us are the disturbing changes of life.

We cannot choose the climate or the circumstances, but we can choose the spirit with which we face them.
We can endure them, or we can employ them.
We can be rotated by them, or we can be stimulated by them to strike for higher altitude.

Some years ago there was an illustration of these two attitudes in a Knoxville, Tennessee newspaper.
There were two articles in that paper about two almost similar situations, and two almost opposite reactions.

The first was the story of a boy who, jilted by his sweetheart, left a note on Henley Street Bridge:
"To who it may concern; I'm going to jump off this bridge because my people is all against me,
and the only one I ever loved is mad at me, and I think this is the only way out
."
And so he jumped.

The other was a brief editorial comment on a young Air Force corporal who, when his best girl jilted him,
wrote out of his heartbreak a song which became a popular hit,
and brought him and thousands and thousands of dollars.
Put these two stories together, and you get a moral solution.

When your romance is interrupted, don't jump off the bridge, but instead turn your sorrow into song.
Make your interruptions pay.

It may surprise many to know how many songs have come out of heartaches, shattered romances,
and broken dreams, all the way from "Good Night, Irene" to Handel's oratorio in "The Messiah."

When Handel read the lines of Isaiah, "He was despised and rejected of men,"
his whole being flowed with creative passion, and music to match the words
gushed through his soul like a torrent, fittingly describing his own heartbreak.

Also Schubert, after a bitter experience in which he had been disappointed in love
and disillusioned by his friends, and translated the anguish of his heart
into the exquisite strains of "Ave Maria".

Goethe's mother used to say that whenever her son had agreed,
he always turned it into a point; and thus got rid of it.

That is it!
I believe all of us could use a bit of that.
We see it all through the New Testament.

Look again at the interruptions of Jesus, even the minor ones.
He didn't merely endure them.
He employed them, and used every one of them to promote the purposes of God.

When the man out of the crowd broke in on His teaching, He used the interruption to magnify His teaching.
When the Pharisees broke in with their ugly criticism of His morals
which was eating, as they said, with publicans and sinners,
He did not merely endure their criticism, He employed it.
He took their nasty insinuations which were meant to discredit Him,
and made them the sounding board for the loveliest story in all literature
– the story of the Prodigal Son.

In this, He said, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Every interruption -- He accepted as a divine opportunity.
Every ugly thing -- He transformed into something beautiful.
Even the Cross, which was the utmost interpretation which was meant to destroy Him
and His purpose forever, provided Him with a force by which He lifted men to the very heights of God.

Follow this spirit into the Book of Acts, and see it at work among the early Christians.
They also had learned from Him how to make the winds of opposition serve the purpose of God.
For instance, put those New Testament Christians into jail,
and they would start a revival meeting in the jail and convert the jailer.

Persecute them, scatter them, and they would break out in a passion of preaching.
Bring them before the courts and kings, and they would turn the courtroom into a church,
and the prisoner's jail cell into a pulpit.
Put them in prison to silence them, and they would make the prison cell an author's workshop,
and come out of dark dungeons with the New Testament in their hands.

Every disappointment was a door, every interruption was an opportunity,
and every frustration was a stimulation to them.
I believe that we could use a lot of this today.

Dr. Boreham of Australia told the story of a man who lived in a comfortable house by a river.
Under his house he had a cellar in which lived His prize hens.
One night the river overflowed its banks, and flooded his cellar, and drowned the hens.

Early the next morning he went to his landlord to complain about the house,
and gave notice of his intention to move.
The landlord asked "But why? I thought you liked the house."

The tenant said, "I do like the house very much, but the river has flooded the cellar,
and all my hens are drowned."
"Oh," said the landlord, "Don't move on account of that – try ducks."

It is a good Christian story.
Interruption is a chance, and opportunity, and in the days ahead of us,
we shall need all the Christian ingenuity that we have to know that God never shuts one door,
without opening another.
He is the truth and the life, by whose grace and renewing power we are entitled
to do and to endure all things.

What we need to do now is not to resent our setbacks and interruptions,
and neither should we face them negatively, like the Stoics.
Rather, we need to renew the faith encourage of our hearts and the gain from our crosses,
as Jesus gained from His, faith and hope and glory.

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White