Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the Center of God's Will and Stuff Still Happens

Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do to have a perfect life was to become a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or liberal, a vegetarian, a used car salesperson, a doctor, a telemarketer, a religious leader, or even an ordinary Christian? Just think about how nice it would be to not worry about getting behind on the mortgage or car payment, adolescent anguish, sickness, accidents, marital strife, midlife crisis, growing old, and even death.
For years people have been looking for the fountain of youth, or a magic elixir that would make you invincible and immortal. No one has come close to finding anything quite like that in this world, but that doesn’t stop us from looking. We keep looking even though 2000 years ago a man named Jesus told us what the secret was to eternal life. Many people grab on to that bit of information and then get disappointed when ‘stuff’ still happens. A big problem for the 21st century church in America is that we often confuse things and forget that Jesus didn’t say that things would automatically get better for the duration of our time here, but rather that He was talking about salvation and eternal life.
History students remember that the early Christians were persecuted for their faith and belief in Jesus. And in some countries today professing belief in Jesus Christ is still a dangerous thing to do. In many cases we’ve dummied down the Gospel message to the point where a statement of belief is supposed to guarantee a fairy tale ending to any life. If we want to be a little more realistic, we look at things the way Eugene Peterson explains them in his wonderful book Leap Over a Wall (Harper, 1997): basically he said that no matter how devout of a Christian life style we follow, illness and accidents are still going to happen, we’re still going to feel pain; and when that stuff happens it will hurt as much after we accept Christ as it did before we made that decision
Yeah, the bad stuff still happens to us, but Jesus didn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t, what He did promise is that there was something much better waiting for us. Eternal life. Abundant life.
Our problem is that we don’t always remember that. We don’t remember that God is more interested in healing us from our sin so that we can have eternal life, than He is in healing our physical frailties so that we can be comfortable for whatever number of years that we will be on this earth.
But this me oriented generation assumes that if we turn to Jesus then we must be in the center of God's will and He’ll protect us from anything that might pop up. Sorry, that’s not what the Bible tells us. There are lots of people in the Bible that seem to have been fairly centered in God's will, and I’m not sure that there were living what I would call a life of ease. Jonah had to face the Ninevites, the bad boys of his day; Daniel ended up in the lion’s den; Shadrach and friends got thrown into the furnace; David had some really bad hair days; James was beheaded; Paul and Peter were flogged, arrested and martyred. Even Jesus, the ultimate center of God's will, ended up going to the cross. So much for being safe and comfortable.
So God's will may not be the safest place for us to be, at least according to the standards of the world, but from an eternal perspective, it certainly is the best place to be. Are you moving closer to the center of God's will, or are you still trying to move God to the center of your will?
Guess what, if you’re trying to move God, you need to remember that God won’t fit in your man-made box. Let Him tell you where He wants you to be and what He wants you to be doing, and without even realizing it, you’ll be moving closer to being in God's will. Then buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life.

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