“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it” is attributed to Mark Twain. I thought about this on Sunday after so many churches canceled services due to icy road conditions in our area. I'd much rather have delivered the sermon I labored on last week, but I suppose it will keep another week. I may even have some better insight after thinking about it a few more days.

The weather is one thing beyond the control of us mere mortals. And there are others.

One is the false assumptions people make.  

I was a hotel desk clerk many years ago when a traveler began to scream at me: “I have a confirmation number! It's right here.” He never did understand that his confirmation was for the following night and we were currently full. He insisted on calling the manager at home who instructed me to release one of the rooms we had reserved for a later traveler who had the correct date on his confirmation.

We all struggle with false assumptions when we leap to conclusions that aren't correct. I've learned I can't control another's false assumptions, but I can control my own.

And it's beyond my control to force a student to succeed. Every semester I see young people who begin well and then lose interest in their studies. I try to cajole them and to encourage them, but it boils down to personal motivation. This is why I've found adult returning students are often the best students. They're motivated, knowing this may be their last chance to get an education, and most likely they're paying tuition themselves!

A pastor friend worried quite a bit about the declining Sunday night worship attendance in his church. He tried to shame his members and tried a number of other innovations to no avail. Finally he came to terms with this being something outside his control. He began to quote Yogi Berra: “If they ain’t comin’, you can’t stop ’em.”

And I’m burdened about people who have such potential for God’s kingdom, but who live beneath their privilege. I see so many with energy and gifts and insights, but who don’t seem to value their spiritual lives. But I have no control over this. Following Christ is a decision one must make for himself or herself. No one can ever be bullied or nagged into the fold.

Jesus met a person like this. “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” he said (Mark 12:34). We don’t know whether this young man ever found his way to the kingdom.

Can anything be sadder than coming so close, yet falling short in the quest for spiritual significance?

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website issiluriabaptist.com.