A number of months ago this question first presented itself to me. It came softly and subtly at first then settled in and decided to make my heart its home. It held long conversations with me and asked me many questions in return. It challenged me, caused me to examine my understanding of the Gospel, and forced me to look straight into the eyes of Jesus.
The understanding I came away with from that lengthy dialogue was this: we are all redeemed. Every single one of us who have trusted Christ for salvation have had our past sins and failings wiped away. We have all been given a new life, a new heart, and a new mind. Though still human and flawed, we are no longer our own and instead are owned by Christ. He has taken us from the slavery of sin and set us in His kingdom, willing servants to do His will. He has taken our lives from the pit and is now using them for His glory.
The critical realization that we are all redeemed is something I have come to own with all my heart. That every single one of us, from the most morally upright person to the person who, like the prodigal son, was mired in muck and sin, are redeemed sons or daughters of Christ. Often times we forget this crucial aspect of who we are. We forget that we are not "good" before Christ. We are not even "okay." Apart from the blood of Christ we are completely unworthy, destined for hell and an eternity of bitterness without Him. Even with the cross, we are still wretched sinners, guilty of sin and worthy of hell - but we have been made new and delivered from both. That is the definition of redemption.
Before the cross, we are all on even ground. There is none better, there are none worse; there are only sons and daughters of Christ. There are none on higher ground than others. Some may be a little farther on in their walk, but just as the first are last and the last first, we are all the same before our Savior. All His children. All His beloved. And all redeemed.
I am watching a time-elapsed video. Storm clouds are enveloping the sky. Shutting out light. Enclosing the land in darkness. Rain like teardrops pour down upon parched and thirsty lands. Far from a refreshing rain, it is a mournful rain which flows like a torrent, sweeping away all and everything in its path of destruction. Higher the water rises, faster the wind blows, more ominous the clouds appear. Hope is gone. Despair and anguish replace hope and joy. And then I realize I am not watching a documentary about the weather. I am watching our nation. I am watching our world. I am watching as overwhelming sadness, grief, loss, and despair envelops everything in its path.
The light in my eyes dim. My heart is gripped by so much sadness. I join the many who ask 'why?' and 'how long must this continue?' Far from the once carefree days of childhood when one desires to go on living forever in this present world, my heart aches to see this world set right, to see the earth and sky redeemed, to see what all of this should have been like in the first place. My heart longs for restored relationships and people made whole. For the clouds to part, scatter, and fade away. For the sun to burst through shining, illuminating all things joyous and good. My heart longs to run through fields of wildflowers and exult in every blade of grass. I long to run free with wild abandon and rapturous delight in a place where pain no longer exists, where hurt is a thing of by-gone eras, where the only clouds which line my sky are huge and white and fluffy and blaze white in the glorious light of morning.
This is my paradigm shift. Far from wanting the imaginary and rather ambiguous perfect life here and now which this world often bills as the only thing for which we have to live, I long for the day when it really will be perfect. When this world will no longer be as we have come to know it but will, in fact, be a place of harmony, love, and peace in the purest form possible. When a daisy will not only cause my heart to thrill but will bring joy to all who encounter it. When sadness will not only be wiped away but entirely erased so there is no memory of its effect. When a brilliant blue sky will smile down upon all who dwell below it and birds will sing with joy for earth's inhabitants. It is this glorious day I eagerly await. And while storm clouds obscure my view of the sky, I will continue to live by this one truth - this world, lost and dying, must be given the hope and love of Jesus. For nothing else will give peace in the midst of so much despair.
"Jesus is all you have when everything is taken away from you." - A Friend of Mine
I was talking with a friend of mine awhile back about how they inspire me to live for Jesus. When asked how, I mentioned it was because they live for the Lord so wholeheartedly. The response that came back was in the form of the quote above - Jesus is all you have when everything is taken away from you.
This friend of mine has gone through more difficulties than I can shake a stick at. Some I have witnessed. Others I have been told about - trials that I would not want to touch with a ten foot pole. But through it all, the one thing he has clung to is the overarching principle that God is in control. Even during those pre-salvation trials which were caused by pre-salvation foolishness he somehow held onto the belief that God was going to work through those circumstances. After salvation, there have been times when that truth was all He had to hold onto. Through it all, he has become a living testimony to the fact "that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" Romans 8:28. All things work together - it may not be easy, "happy," or simple, but the end result is that our good is achieved and God is glorified.
In our culture of stress, worry, anxiety, and care, it is almost taken for granted that we will NOT trust the Lord. It's so easy to let that mindset slip in. To let the little whispers of fear creep in then justify them by saying we're all human. To fret or hold onto a problem ourselves instead of dying to self and giving such things over into God's hands. I have been so challenged by this friend's unwavering faith and trust in the One who holds the world together. I have been challenged a number of times to cease my worry and simply rest in His peace. It's so very opposite and counter intuitive to what we are taught and assaulted by every day. We are told that if we do not worry there must be something wrong with us. But in the case of worry, there is nothing wrong other than a lack of trust!
Is this friend of mine perfect? No. Does he ever worry? From time to time. But he knows far more than most that, no matter how circumstances look, there is no reason to worry. Because he knows that when Jesus is all he has, Jesus is enough.