by: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.
- Woe is me.
- What have I done to deserve this mess?
- Oh, my God! There doesn’t seem to be any way out.
- Has God completely deserted us?
These and other wailings have plagued humanity almost since the beginning of time. People will always find themselves in circumstances where it seems like there’s no way out. There hasn’t been one person ever to breathe the breath of life who hasn’t thought, at one time or another, “woe is me,” or hasn’t come to the wrong conclusion that there is “no way out” of a bad situation.
Beloved, verily, verily I say unto you, the conclusion that there doesn’t seem to be a “way out” of the mess much of Christianity finds itself is absolutely and without question void of one ounce of truth. The God that I know is completely able to turn any mess into a miracle. There has never been one circumstance where the grace and power of God could not change a “no way out” situation into a miracle. Now that I have said this, there is a reality of awakening that must be advanced if a miracle of sorts can be visualized and then taken advantage of; the faithful Christian must get used to seeing divine possibilities where logic would lead to another conclusion. Seeing the world and its challenges through a fresh pair of spiritual eyes is a requirement if a bright future can be actualized.
My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.
Have you ever noticed that when you think you have life all figured out something happens to drastically correct your opinion. There’s not a person alive that hasn’t, at one time or another, believed that they had a part of their lives well in-hand and then all of a sudden “real life” comes along and provides an awakening of humility…a broadening of perspectives…even a symbolic splash of cold water thrown in their face. Children are good examples of this phenomenon. They continually have to reassess their level of physical, social, and emotional competency. Think about that for just a moment. Try and remember what it was like for you when you were growing up.
Let’s say you’re a child celebrating your first birthday. You’ve got this “self-awareness thing” down and all of a sudden you now have to get good at something called “walking.” Ok, let’s move forward a little. You are now three years of age and taking on the challenge of walking is rather easy for you and then your parents throw this thing about “eating neatly” in your direction…and don’t even mention the silliness of six months ago when they made you start to learn about some ridiculous contraption called a “potty.”
Three years later you are now six years old and you’ve got this “kid stuff” down pretty well and your mother throws another unpleasant life altering experience at you when she informs you about having to neatly reassemble the bed linen each and every morning. What’s that about anyway? Of course that is just the beginning of your life of surprises and adjustments.
Next arrives your eighth birthday when you discover that homework actually starts getting in the way with important play-time. After a few years of maturing in your young life you think to yourself, “Finally, I have life all figured out.” As you are blowing out the twelve candles on your birthday cake and seemingly without notice your life is turned upside down yet again. Your worldview takes on a strange new light. You begin to awaken to the realization that those “opposite sex people” aren’t all that bad, they are just different. Shortly thereafter the question arises, “Where did all this puberty junk come from?” Sixteen years old doesn’t get any easier. Driving, dating, kissing, acne….and who is this dude named “F.I.C.A.” who keeps taking money out of my paycheck? And life goes on…and on…and on.
The process of learning and changing is an essential part of life’s gifts. If a positive outlook regarding change and learning are kept in the front of our minds we will look forward to the experience. At the very least we won’t be surprised by the changing events or the process of discovery that is all around us. A famous man named Henry Ford once said; “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
To effectively address the immense reinvestment of spiritual and practical honesty needed in the Christian church we have got to reestablish our belief in a God that can not only prompt needed change but also who has the grace to allow us to see the great possibilities waiting us when we believe that God is still in the miracle making business. At the beginning of this chapter we started with phrases like, “Woe is me” and “How am I going to get out of this mess?” One of the ways to address this sense of dread is to embrace the process of change. For the Christian to transform some concern starts and ends with the belief that God can and will interact in a way that is life altering. However, you have got to believe change is not just possible but likely BECAUSE OF YOUR FAITH in a God….a Three Day God…who can respond.
I wonder how some of us are doing with that test of our faith thing? I wonder whether we are embracing the newness of life’s possibilities or hiding from them? Our Creator knows that us humans would rather hide from even the possibility of change rather than embrace the process of it. God knows that we foolishly try to lie to ourselves everyday about the reality of who we are and how we have ended up in the situation we find ourselves within. The innate challenge in human transformation lies not in God’s knowledge of us, but rather us human-folk never seeming to honestly reflect openly and sincerely about the nature of who we are, what we are called to be, and why we are here in the first place. Even with all the tangible evidence of how God has actively participated in positively effecting a profound transformation for the better….we still find it so hard to belief that the God of the universe is still in the miracle working business.
During the early fifth century the great theologian Augustine told us that humanity, by its very nature, has the scales of good and bad stacked against them. His point was, even though we have plenty of goodness in us, there is even a greater amount of bad in us. This concept of the human condition could be one possible explanation concerning the psychological component that contributes to why all of us, generation after generation, culture after culture, keep making the same errors over and over again.
Beloved, all of us are getting ready for an historic time within the life of the Christian church and we ought not be afraid of it. Let us not be afraid of breaking the mold of what seems to be normal. God clearly calls his creation to continually look into the future with eyes set upon the greatness of Divine possibilities…not the fear of human limitations. We have got to come to the deep and abiding belief that nothing is impossible for God, even transforming our human minds, hearts and souls.
All believers must learn to embrace and enthusiastically expect transformation. We are called to urgently and intentionally grow beyond what we may know and accept as the normal parts of daily existence. We are called to jump into the “deep end of the spiritual pool” when we affirm everyday of our Christian lives that we now “faithfully rest” in the hands of the Divine where the fear of change is met with gentle security.
If there was anything I could offer relating to the God that created all that is known and unknown revolves around the phrase “the third day.” This phrase is so incredibly important to grasp in our Christian walk of faith. It is used often in the Bible. This “third day” reference generally has little to do with an actual count of calendar days, i.e., Monday through Wednesday. It most often refers symbolically to the futile nature of human effort to solve something and the corresponding assurance of God’s divine intervention. The term “third day” (or after three days, or on the third day) frequently testifies to the writer’s extraordinary belief that God’s power and grace were the only way out of whatever predicament humans had found themselves.
Here are a couple of examples of this plainly obvious understanding that refer to God showing up after we humans had nothing left to offer the situation and provided an obvious divine intervention or interaction.
Matthew 15:22-24 reads,
“Jesus called his disciples together and told them, ‘I feel sorry for these people. They have been with me for three days, and they don’t have anything to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry. They might faint on their way home.’ His disciples said, ‘This place is like a desert. Where can we find enough food to feed such a crowd?’ Jesus asked them how much food they had. They replied, ‘Seven small loaves of bread and a few little fish.’ After Jesus had told the people to sit down.”
Later in Matthew 20:18-19 the writer of this Gospel wants the reader to know what Jesus was going to have to endure and the promise of ultimate victory. It reads,
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
Beloved, there is not one “mess” that has ever been made that God cannot turn into a miracle. Not one! Not in the past, present or in the future. After an arduous journey when all seemed lost, and the burden of caring for God’s people seem to be overwhelming, Moses found an answer in the midst of a horrible “mess.” Read this next section of scripture and you will be able to see the “mess” clearly and you should be able to see that God supplied an unexpected “miracle” or “a way out of no way.”
In Exodus 15:22-25 it reads,
“After the Israelites left the Red Sea, Moses led them through the Shur Desert for three days, before finding water. They did find water at Marah, but it was bitter, which is how that place got its name. The people complained and said, ‘Moses, what are we going to drink?’ Moses asked the LORD for help, and the LORD told him to throw a piece of wood into the water. Moses did so, and the water became fit to drink.”
Later Moses finds himself in another situation of profound difficulty that, seemingly, had nothing but “mess” written all over it. In Numbers 11:13-18 it recounts Moses’ torturous feelings of failure and burden. It reads,
“Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now — if I have found favor in your eyes — and do not let me face my own ruin. “The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone. “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat.”
These previous scriptural sequences are but a few of the examples where God eliminates any shadow of doubt relating to the Creator’s ability to turn a messed up situation into a miraculous conclusion that God has intervened. One doesn’t have to just believe the Bible. One can literally spend hours listening to folks of all racial, economic, social, and educational backgrounds sharing the same personal testimony.
Verily, verily I say unto you, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances of your life, then I would encourage you to be assured that God can make a miracle out of your “mess.” If you’re having uncontrollable urges that seemingly have destroyed your life, I know a God who can make a way out of no way. If you believe that a particular part of our community is completely lost to the forces of evil, trust me when I say that God can make a miracle out of our “mess.” If your marriage is draining your daily life instead of feeding it, then beloved, I would testify to you that God can, does and will make a miracle out of your “shared mess.”
If your church relationship is practically non-existent and you can barely stand the thought of attending the local church that formerly you held in high esteem, remember that God can make a way out of no way. The truth that we people-of-faith stand on with such blessed assurance is that if God could, after three days in the grave, get Jesus up with all power in His hands, then that same God can just as easily get you up from whatever you have found yourself in. If God can reach down into a closed grave and revive a life that the rest of the world thought was a complete failure, then that same God can revive your life. The God that I and millions of others are acutely aware of is the same God that can change darkness into light and certainly can make a miracle out of any mess.
- Beloved, I am begging you….I am pleading with every ounce of my being….
- Won’t you trust something you can’t see?
- Won’t you give the Creator of all that is known and unknown the opportunity to move a few mountains in your life?
I am imploring you today to trust the God that picked Christ up out of a worldly grave. Trust that God is more than capable to alter the circumstance of your life and the life of the Christian church itself. If you will trust this rock solid aspect of the God that we claim, then I know a God that cannot fail.
Whether we are referring to an individual or the whole of the Christian church, I know a God who lifts up the fallen and left out. I know a God who is full of mercy. I know a God that is full of grace. Won’t you please start to believe again? By doing so there begins a revitalization of who you are and who God calls you to become. If we truly believe that God reached down into Jesus’ grave then that same God can and will reach down into your personal grave…into your personal mess…into your personal feeling of “there’s no way out.” If we can start to believe again about our personal connections to the God we claim then the collective Christian movement will be effected in huge ways.
Every Easter we Christians gather to proclaim a resurrected Christ. Do we believe that….OR NOT? Again, if God could do it for Jesus then God can do it for the Christian movement. If the Creator has reached “three days” into other’s lives then God can and will do it for you. If God has demonstrated a “three day” miracle for you, don’t be shy! Go tell somebody about it this week. Testify to how great our “three day” God really is. Encourage someone who desperately needs to hear that God indeed can and will make a miracle out of a mess.
Believe this….Today is the day to completely….and without hesitation….believe and trust in our THREE DAY GOD! When any of us trust in a God that can and will change circumstances we settle into a remarkable place of Divine assurance. When that happens seeing with a fresh pair of spiritual eyes grows into a foundational aspect of our daily lives. When the believer learns how to trust and see a future that isn’t limited to trouble or woe or frustration of seemingly overwhelming mess….then walking into a positive future becomes not only possible but likely.