Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Pages In-Between

We know Jesus Christ to be the Author and Perfector, or Finisher, of our faith, but what about all that comes in-between?

All too often we ignore or skip over the work that is fully explained in His Word and being performed in us before it is completed to the Lord’s satisfaction.  Many things that reveal the reason for His presence in our lives cause us to delight in the beginning, but then we want to rush through to the conclusion.  This behavior can be likened to reading the first chapter of a thrilling book, then turning to the last chapter to see how it ends.  By doing so, we miss the entire storyline and have little understanding of the characters and events that bring it to its conclusion.  There is just a beginning and an end with nothing in-between.

The One Who began and will complete a good work in us (Phil. 1:6) is also the One Who will carry us through the middle, and it is usually during that part of the process where we discover we need Him the most.  After we are drawn by the Holy Spirit and repent, His enemy will often bring upon us a full-scale assault.  Angered by our rejection of the world and sin, he may attack us from all sides, relentless and determined to make us weaken and fall away.  Our only defense comes from our Shepherd Who protects us and leads us through the turmoil and trials that often occur during our walk with Him.  It is only by His strength that we are able to endure (Phil. 4:13), and it is only in His Word in its entirety that we are able to acquire His strength.

The pages in-between the beginning and the end tell a large part of the story, and it is from them we can learn the most.  For instance, we learn Who God is and why He came to us the way He did.  Our childlike faith is increased.  Our little knowledge of how we got where we are and where we are going grows as more of God’s wisdom is poured out upon us.  We learn that the shell that once encased our hardened hearts is shattered, turning that heart of stone into one of flesh, making it pliable and receptive to the outpouring of God's Grace.  We learn that nothing we do apart from Christ is beneficial or rewarding. (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 2:15-16)  Nor does it honor or glorify Him.  Our own works are just “filthy rags” that offend Him (Isaiah 64:6).  

As we apply all of the storyline on the pages between the beginning and the end, we spiritually mature.  The discernment we are given is reinforced, making us better able to  distinguish right from wrong and to turn away from those who would mislead us.  Our love for the story's Main Character deepens and makes us more fervently desire to serve Him.  And as we learn from the Words written in the middle of the Book, we are better equipped to run the race and finish it well, increasing the anticipation of the prize that awaits us at the end of our journey here, and causing us to yearn for its coming (1Cor. 9:24-25).  There is no end to the understanding we can glean from the pages in-between.

As we slowly read through the divine story God has written for us, we learn He is also our Provider and Sustainer.  If we had ignored the middle of the Book, we would not be as acutely aware of this fact.  His faithfulness to His children is assured as He supplies us with all our needs and often meets many of our desires.  Because of His great love for us, He sustains us in order that His perfect will is accomplished.  Everything God has done and all that He will do is intended to bring us to the final chapter of His Book, and to glorify Himself with its conclusion.

There are many who have made the mistake of only reading the first and last chapters of God’s story of Grace.  The depth of their understanding is robbed of some of the most essential elements that help keep their faith strong and increase their trust in Him.  It may be to their detriment to merely accept so little of its entirety.  There are riches beyond compare to be found between the pages; precious gems of understanding and pearls of wisdom (2Tim. 3:16; Rom. 11:33).  It is a story of mystery and intrigue, of battles and victory, and the revelation told by the Hero of the story of all that is compiled within its pages that will lead us to its glorious end (Eph. 3:8-12).

Not only is our Lord Jesus the Author of the first and last chapters of our new life in Him, but He is also the One Who wrote, teaches and upholds the integrity of the middle of the story before He brings about His finishing work (Heb. 12:1-3).  He tells us in the many pages in-between all that is necessary to sustain us through our life here and what to expect in the next one that awaits us in eternity.

I hope you will not spoil the story by failing to read all of it.  If you have, you know how the story began and how it will end, but you may have missed a very important part of the most divine story ever written.  In-between the beginning and the end is a glorious message of mankind's continued rejection and disobedience and the Lord's  plan to end it. Therein lies all  the hope, the vital instruction and exhortation we need to lead us to a conclusion  of  divine victory, forgiveness, and  eternal exaltation for the God Who wrote it.

It never hurts to start over.  Go back  to the beginning and allow Jesus to fill in the rest of His story in-between the pages.  If you do, I assure you it will make the ending even more satisfying.

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