“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16
By Charles E. Reece, PhD
What shapes your expectations in life? The same old same old? More of the same, good or bad, that has been your recent experience? They say the weather forecast most often correct is simply: more of the same. Does that describe how you look at life? Do you expect next year to be pretty much the same as this year? Is that your vision of the future?
If so, you don’t get that from Jesus. Neither do you get that from his Father, or his Spirit welling up with life inside of you. “More of the same” is just not God’s way. Never has been, never will be.
“In him we were also chosen,having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” NIV Ephesians 1:11-14
The prophet Isaiah writing to the Israelites chided them to quit looking over their shoulder to the “good old days.” I can still recall where I was sitting when the pastor of my church during my college years at Baylor University preached a sermon on Isaiah 43:10-21. In a wonderful Scottish brogue … “Cease to dwell on days gone by and to brood over past history. Here and now I will do a new thing; this moment it will break from the bud. Can you not perceive it?” NEB These words caught me, they started shaping me, they affected my vision, my expectations of life. Many times in the 35 years since that reading, this passage has pressed me to be attentive to changing needs and understanding of God’s activity in the world and in me.
God calls his people out, out of their merely creaturely biological ways, out of their own self-interest, out into on-going relationship with God himself. (Pretty staggering if you think about it.) Since relationships are necessarily built on past experience, they are constantly changing as time and experience go by. Relationships with people don’t stand still. Relationships with God don’t stand still. Picture with me if you will a bud – what type of plant bud have you seen most recently? A rose bud, buds on trees last spring, buds on flowers in your garden?
Allow your vision to see signs that God is at work, creating new things in your life and the lives around you, just as buds on plants are signs of new things just about to develop, just about to emerge. Are you fearful of change, or are you fearful that things might not change? I invite you to look for signs of new, emerging life, even from the Spirit’s working in your own life, even from the habit-bound suburban Christians around you, if there happen to be some.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he seeks to nurture the people he loves very much. His language can be complex, but you can hear his heart-felt struggle to guide them into sharing his vision of the vastness and wonderfulness of God. His vision of God is staggering. It seems to make even Paul stagger. When was the last time that you staggered before God? So impressed with his love for you, so generous in his provisions, so overwhelmed with a vision of his greatness, that you just naturally – staggered? It’s a perfectly normal thing, you know. I trust that you’ve had that experience, the experience of suddenly realizing something that you didn’t know before, something that forces you to have to reset your sense of equilibrium, even your very expectations of life perhaps.
What is the fruit of that ? – You stagger a bit, then look up with a fresh, more truth-full vision. While some such new insights may seem devastating, even knocking us off our feet for a bit, the vision that Paul calls us to is overwhelmingly positive.
This is what Paul calls us to in these verses in the first chapter of Ephesians.
“I pray that your inward eyes may be illumined, so that you may know what is the hope to which he calls you, what the wealth and glory of the share he offers you among his people in their heritage, and how vast the resources of his poweropen to us who trust in him.” Ephesians 1:18,19 NEB
Are your eyes illumined in this way? Do you know the hope, wealth, glory, and vast resources open to you? If not, why not? Is God hiding from you, or do you have a vision problem? Might you be afraid of staggering when you encounter God doing something new, so you keep your eyes shut so that you can avoid the encounter?
I invite you to be open to God’s giving you new vision, be willing to stagger, but get your bearings by looking up, up to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Hear Paul’s prayer for his friends, as his prayer for you, and even as your prayer for your friends.
“With this in mind, then, I kneel in prayer to the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, that out of the treasures of his glory he may grant you strength and power though his Spirit in your inward being, that through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts in love. With deep roots and firm foundations, may you be strong to grasp, with all God’s people, what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know it, though it is beyond knowledge. So may you attain to fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.” Eph. 3:14-19 NEB
More of the same, not Breaking from the bud Stagger, then look up
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or conceive, by the power which is at work among us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus from generation to generation evermore!” Eph. 3:20-21 NEB
Charles E. Reece lives in Yorktown, VA and serves as an Accelerator Scientist at Jefferson Lab, a US Dept. of Energy, Office of Science facility