Rocks, Rapids, and Waterfalls

Who likes crisis? I have met a few through the years. But not many. I suspect most would choose a lazy river to a raging current. Blue sky and 75 degrees, feet dangling from an innertube, floating down a peaceful river sounds good. Being on a river with rocks, rapids, and an occasional water fall, however, not so much. But of the two, who ends up with a better story to tell?

Most great stories gravitate toward some crisis that cries out for resolution. The shot at the buzzer to win it by one, the homerun in the bottom of the 9th that sends the crowd home buzzing, the hero showing up at the very last moment to save the day, and so on. Great stories need a crisis. No crisis then resolution and redemption are not needed. Down the lazy river we go. No story to tell here.

Consider all the storylines found in the Old Testament. Adam and Eve, deceived, disobedient, and kicked out of the Garden. Noah, surrounded by wickedness—isolated, mocked, and alone. Abraham and Sarah, old, barren, and childless; trying to hold onto the promise. And when Isaac miraculously arrives, Abraham, obedient to God’s instruction, stood poised over him, prepared to plunge a knife. Jacob deceives Esau and flees. Then Jacob is deceived by Laban and is decades in returning home. Moses is born when all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed and in desperation is floated in a basket down the dangerous Nile. Job, his life turned completely upside down, trying to make sense of it all. Young David, only sling and rocks in hand, faces off against a giant warrior in a battle to the death. Who expected him to win that confrontation? Elijah, Elisha, and most of the prophets, mocked and abused. The point being, not a lot of floating down a lazy river for our Old Testament heroes of the faith.

Then there’s our New Testament brethren. John the Baptist lived in the desert, ate bugs, and spent the last days of his life in prison before losing his head. Joseph and Mary, having to allude Herod, hurry off to Egypt. All of the disciples shamefully treated and then martyred, save one. Paul is chased out of towns, beaten, stoned, jailed, shipwrecked, and ends with his head separated from his shoulders. No lazy river for any of them.

And what about Jesus? He is the protagonist in God’s greatest story, yet is on the receiving end of more unjust treatment and blows than anyone. Rejected, scorned, and beaten; and then thrust upon the cross, died, and is buried in a borrowed tomb. Rocks, rapids, and waterfalls for him his entire life.

What was that evangelical marketing line we used to hear all the time? “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Uh-huh.

How do we make sense of the story we find ourselves in? By looking to Jesus. An unconventional hero if there ever was one. Remember, he dies. In most stories, that is the tragic end. But not his story. He triumphantly appears three days later and in doing so saves the world.

His is the greatest redemption story for it redeemed millions. Jesus defeats death by dying. He crushes the serpent’s head by rising again. What a script! What a story!

So, whatever the crisis we find ourselves in, the story ends well for the believer. And many times, it is the crises of life that are used to get our spiritual attention. The lazy river sounds good, but it takes us somewhere. Often times, that somewhere is worldly contentedness. And if that becomes our destination, our story has a tragic end, much more horrific than the rocks, rapids, and occasional waterfalls of life.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
October 13, 2022

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