“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
It’s sometimes hard to get perspective when I read through the Bible quickly. In a matter of minutes I can read through hundreds and hundreds of years in the life of kings who ruled Israel or a story of a miraculous healing that Jesus did that fundamentally changed someone’s identity for the rest of their life.
An evil king like Manasseh (2 Kings 21) that ruled Israel for 55 years, spent his entire reign in idolatry and following practices of pagan nations. How was it for someone being alive during that time? Many people lived and died under that reign, not knowing anything different as a way of life. They may have heard stories of old of the goodness of God saving them from Egypt and doing great miracles, there may have been a remnant of people who continued to worship Yahweh and remained faithful to His teachings. There’s no doubt it would be hard, if not impossible, to have any perspective on God’s plan during this time.
Jesus healed a woman with an issue of blood in Luke 8:43-48. I quickly read this story sometimes and think it is an awesome story of the healing power of God. However, we are told this woman dealt with this problem for twelve years. Twelve years is a long time to be dealing with a medical problem that no one can fix. She was probably rejected by her community due to the laws about uncleanness. She probably went to multiple doctors at the time and tried numerous therapies and herbal remedies, none of which worked. She no doubt lost hope, maybe in year 3, maybe in year 6 she accepted the fact that this was incurable, maybe in year 10 she got so desperate that she gave up trying. Until Jesus came, in year 12, and she got up enough courage to touch the hem of His garment and her whole world changed.
Even more so was the lame man in John 5 who was paralyzed for 38 years whom Jesus healed! Imagine his timeline for a second…
Finally think about Joseph and his time of being sold as a slave and being thrown into prison, through no fault of his own. He spent years in prison, but God never left him. Joseph couldn’t see the big picture at the time; he couldn’t see the redemption of his family which would be coming years later. But through it all, he never lost his trust in God, even though his perspective was limited.
My wife and I watched the TV series The Chosen which is about Jesus’ ministry. We loved it (only the first season is out right now). Not only is it well produced and well acted but it brings a different perspective to some of the stories that you read in the Bible with limited context of what was going on at that time in history. Yes, a lot of the show is extrapolation and speculation, however in light of the fact that the disciples and others surrounding Jesus were REAL people with real lives, who had real hopes for a promised Messiah, real fears of Roman rule, etc. it’s helped me at least think of what it was like for them during this time and what the impact of Jesus’ ministry meant to them on a personal level.
When Jesus called each of the disciples out of their jobs, their livelihood, and their careers, we read the verse like “at once they dropped their nets”, and it’s easy to miss the act of faith this really was. How much of a sacrifice did this truly cost them to follow the Master, not knowing anything that was going to happen?
One of the stories in the show that really stuck with me was John the Baptist in prison where he questioned whether Jesus was “the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else (Matt 11:3)?” This is someone who preached the coming of the Messiah, made a way for Him, and saw the Spirit of God descend on Him like a dove saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased (Matt 3:17).” How could he question the validity of everything He saw and believed?
Before we are too hard on John, we have to think of the fact that we don’t know when he was imprisoned; it could have been right after Jesus’ baptism. We are told John heard about some of the things happening with Jesus but did not see them. He is confined to a prison, waiting his beheading that he didn’t know what was coming and I know I would be filled with doubts if I was in his position. I imagine it’s hard to have perspective in a cell. Not knowing how God is moving or what He is doing in the world. John didn’t reject Jesus in his question; he just wanted a glimpse into the ministry of Jesus and to strengthen his kingdom perspective while he was in prison.
Jesus doesn’t condemn John for doubting though, Jesus simply tells John’s disciples to tell him, “what you see and hear: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (Matt 11:4-6).
After saying this, Jesus tells the crowd how great John is, in fact, no one greater than John the Baptist has ever been born of woman, He said. Yet, He said, “Whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt 11:11). What it means to be least in the kingdom is a deep subject for another article, but what I take away from this exchange is that we are considered blessed when we have faith in Jesus even when we don’t understand the greater plan.
If you consider the time we are living in now, in the midst of uncertainty and pestilence, it can be hard to see the big picture, however I believe we are blessed to be living during this time when we can hold fast to Jesus in the middle of trials and when our faith compels us to strengthen our position in Jesus instead of waver.
When our joy is contagious, our love is unequalled and our faith in God is immovable, we are able to give the light of Jesus in a dark and dying world. We live in a time where we are called to save others by “snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear” (Jude 1:23). This is referring to fear of upcoming judgment.
It’s not wrong to doubt or to have anxiety mixed with fear and uncertainty. It’s not uncommon to see the small perspective of our four walls and small community and miss the ways God is moving, most of which are unknown to us. We need a Kingdom perspective. Instead of letting the opinions of news outlets and social media influence your faith, open the Bible and try to catch a glimpse of the immutable, omnipotent, loving God we serve and strengthen your faith in the fact that nothing is surprising to Him and He is ultimately in control of everything.
Discerning Reflection: How have I been controlled by fear during this time? Have I spent enough time in the Bible and strengthening my relationship with Jesus? Do I truly trust Jesus no matter what happens? Give God your fears today, tell Him specifically what they are and ask Him to replace them with His peace.
Prayer: Lord, help me trust you no matter what; show me what it means to be the least in your Kingdom. Give me faith that passes understanding and can be a light of love to those who are perishing and need to hear from you. Amen
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