Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. (Colossians 1:9-14, The Message)
So many of the great stories, the ones that we love, have common themes. One that shows up often, especially in high-adventure tales, has a great rescuer who lays down his or her life for the rest of the group. This is a critical story turn because it usually puts the rescuer in position to not be rescued in order for the rest to survive. We see it in Narnia when Aslan offers up himself so that Edmund can go free. We see it in Middle Earth when Gandalf stands alone on the bridge and falls into shadow, allowing the rest to escape out of Moria. Yes, the great sacrifice made by the rescuer is hailed in song and verse and always loved in the context of a story. I think we're wired to love it, most likely because that's the heart of God's story for us.
In this brief introduction to his letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks of his prayer that the believers would "acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works." Then, near the end of his introduction, he tells them exactly what God has done - He has rescued them. He has pulled them out of the dark places. He has set them up (other versions say "delivered") in His kingdom. And He has removed the sins of the past, allowing them to move forward in freedom and know Him in a deeper way.
Notice that Paul doesn't tell them they can now "turn over a new leaf" because of this. God doesn't work that way. His rescue is a completely different basis on which they can live their lives in new ways, not just try to be better. Their status as residents of Earth (and ultimately Death) has been transferred into the status of sons and daughters of God, complete with a home in His Kingdom. The change is so compelling that it leaves one wanting more of it and a greater understanding of how it all fits together. No, it isn't just a "try again" ... it's a complete "do over" with no record of the past. That is exactly how God works.
So then, why do we keep trying to work it out ourselves? The work we are called to do in His Kingdom is to be done under our new positions as children, not outsiders. But somehow, we (at least I) have difficulty getting that through our thick heads and stubborn wills. But, as Paul exhorted the Colossians, we would do well to understand how God works and how that plays out in our lives. His rescue, just like the ones in the great stories, came at a dreadful price. His rescue hung His own Son out to die for us, so that we might be counted as His very own. It seems to me that questioning that cheapens the rescue considerably. Oh, and lest we forget, the rescues mentioned resulted in a resurrection. Gandalf became the White Wizard, Aslan came back to defeat the Witch, and Christ rose again with a power that conquered Death and Hell for good. Because that's exactly how God works.
As I travel my Crooked Path, I will encounter times of doubt and fear, times that make me question what is really going on. When those time come, I need to remind myself that God's love has rescued me from it all - perhaps not a temporal rescue - but most assuredly an eternal rescue. This is something far greater than the stories that carry the same theme. This is how God works ... and I am rescued!
- Have you gotten a glimpse into how God works? What have you seen and how has it impacted you?
- How about the concept of "rescue" ... what does that mean to you? Do you wince when the story comes to that part and the rescuer seems to be defeated? Or do you understand it is part of something much bigger?
- Are you comfortable or uncomfortable with the whole concept of being transferred to His Kingdom? Do you somehow feel like you don't belong even if God Himself says you do?