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Spurgeon once said that when God begins to work, it always looks more like an undoing than a doing. That is because it is often necessary to tear down before one can build up. Or, as the numerous home improvement shows on television demonstrate, demolition is the first task of the remodel.
The best stories often take you to the brink, all hope lost; and then, the reversal or ending no one saw coming leaves the reader aghast. Mouth open, left in wonderment, we mutter to no one in particular, “I didn’t see that coming!”
The greatest storyteller of all time is our God. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man wrote of this historical theme running through Christianity, “Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” Interview a disciple when you get to heaven. “Tell me, sir, were you thinking it was over when they put him in the tomb?” They all will says yes.
The Bible is full of great reversals, all hope gone and then God moves. Abraham and Sarah, old and dried up, would not have their child of promise until she was ninety and he was one hundred. Isaac was that child but he is on an altar a few years later with a knife poised to plunge before he is rescued. Jacob went to find a wife but would not return for decades, tricked and taken advantage of before he made it back to Canaan. Joseph was sold into slavery and then thrown into prison’s darkness for years before being elevated to the Egyptian court where he would be second in command. And that is just Genesis.
We look around and it is easy to get depressed. The earth is shaking and the sky is falling. How can any of this end well? I am here to suggest that when things go wrong, that means we are right on schedule. Someone said once that the Kingdom of God proceeds from triumph to triumph, with all of them cleverly disguised as disasters. And the greatest one in the bunch, the crucifixion.
Things may be bad right now but they are not that bad. I’m not aware of anyone being hoisted on a wooden cross. American Christianity may be in intensive care right now but it has not died. That means our resurrection is still in front of us. But that also means so might be our crown of thorns, stakes in our limbs, and sword in our side. In other words, things may get much worse before our Resurrection morning.
For much of my life the church was left alone. As such, it became “fat and sassy”. Now we are in the lean years. Famine may even be in front of us. But if it is, that is okay. For our story ends well. It has to. God always has the final word. And his stories don’t end in tragedy, they end in triumph.
So, be encouraged Christian. It may look like more of an undoing. It may look like more of a demolition. It may look like Christianity is dying. All to say, the storyline is right on schedule. Our resurrection is ahead.
Pastor Rich Hamlin
October 14, 2021