How long has it been since you attended a formal banquet?  For some it has possibly been a long time.  Maybe it even goes back to high school and the senior prom.  However long it’s been, I suppose there are certain things about the occasion that you still remember – the  person with whom you attended, the dress or suit that you wore, the flowers that you kept and may even still have, pressed between the pages of a book.

I hope everyone has at least one memory like that.  For one thing, it’s just good to have fond memories.  And sometimes the recalling of an experience can be richer, sweeter, and better than the experience itself.

And yet, most of the preparation for that banquet is made for us by someone else. Banquets never just happen.  Someone plans a menu.  Someone cooks the food.  Someone decorates the hall.     Someone sets up the tables and chairs.  Someone serves the food, and someone cleans up the mess after it’s all over.  Anytime we have a good time at a banquet, it’s because someone else made most of the preparation for us.

Life is much the same way.  Most of the good things that we enjoy in this world have been prepared by hands other than our own.  We can start with the air, water and sunlight that sustain life on this planet.  We had nothing to do with them.  They were ready and waiting when we arrived.  God prepared them with His own hands long before we were ever born.

But that is only the beginning.  Take inventory of your own life and you will be hard-pressed to think of any    essential product or service that was not prepared for you by other hands.  One man said it like this:  “Other than the fact that I was born through no thought or effort of my own, cared for by a father and mother when I was too small to either feed or dress myself, taught by teachers whose salaries I did not pay, sustained and enriched by the efforts of thousands of people, many of whom were dead before I was ever born – other than that, I am a self-made man.”

Life is like a banquet.  It’s a voluntary matter.  Someone has said that there are only two things that we must do.  One is to die, and the other is to live until we die.  All the rest is optional.  That, of course, is over-simplification; but there is a sense in which it is true.  Life comes to us with all kinds of invitations, some good, some bad, some indifferent.  We must decide which we will accept and which we will refuse. 

So, life comes to you and me and says, “Everything is ready.  Come to the feast.”  That is where the matter now stands.  It is up to each of us as individuals to decide what we will do with the invitation to great character.  We can accept it and move ahead, or we can refuse it and slide back.  The only thing we can’t do is stay where we are.  Life cannot be put on hold.  It keeps moving along, and we are going with it one way or the other.  Which it is depends upon what we do with God’s invitation to greatness of character. 

Years ago, a famous protestant minister in New York preached a sermon entitled, “On Catching the Wrong Bus.”  In it, he told a story about man who intended to go one way but accidentally got on a bus that was going somewhere else; and after long hours of riding the wrong bus, he ended up where he never planned to be.

Life is like that.  Good intentions are not enough.  If we accept an invitation to a better life, we must meet the necessary conditions or else we are only fooling ourselves.  Right now, we are riding a bus that is either taking us toward that destination or away from it.  We will not just wake up one morning with strength of character.  The little daily decisions that have to do with right or wrong, integrity or compromise – those are the conditions that must be met. 

God has done everything that even God can do.  What happens now is up to us.  What will you do?