A God-composed journey of faith life-script is partially hidden to outsiders (2 Cor. 4:2-4; Jn. 14:17), is incomprehensible to many people (Jn. 15:19; 1 Pet. 4:4), and falls outside of the worldly goals and aspirations of horizontally conventional thinking (Rom. 12:2). These two conflicting worldviews…a journey of faith willingly following Jesus Christ through free-will choice, and an unbelieving indifference to any knowledge of God whatsoever in our lives…could not be more different.
A large part of the program of worldly acceptable thinking is to keep up the outward appearances of success at all times. But no one is “winning” out there in the world in a guaranteed, indefinitely sustainable, secure sense of the word. Fortunes can disappear overnight, beauty fades away, athletic prowess wains over time, fame and the power it bestows can turn negative in a moment.
The outside world at large is mostly competitive, not supportive. Many people work extremely hard to “keep up with the Joneses” next door, to live in the right zip code, and to be seen moving about in the highest social circles. But the outside world coldly says: “first prove your worth, and then we will pay homage to you.” The struggle and pressure to “keep up appearances” is in actuality a limiting reality located in the top-half of successful human experience that allows little or no room for the sometimes beneficial but worldly humiliating challenge of adversity.
God as our Creator has no such doubtful starting perception of us that requires us to first show Him our worth before He will accept us and commence a personal relationship with us. God knows us inside and out…better than we know ourselves. He sees our hidden talents and our future potential because He placed these things within us. Our journeys of faith following God are courageously unbounded and conceptually unlimited because they begin within the mind of the God who knows who and want He created us to be.
This broad outlook admits the width and breadth of human experience unlimited by horizontally conventional thinking. The narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14 is surprisingly the gateway out into the broadest and most liberating of horizons possible, because God alone knows the optimum end-point destinations for each of our life journeys. This narrow gate is the correct starting point for every imaginable life-plan and career path, and every conceivable Christian ministry.
When our God-composed journey of faith life-script therefore takes us through the hard terrain of difficult times, we know that we are not permanent “failures” and that the negative verdict of the world’s judgment for our temporal plight is based upon a short-sighted and uninformed assessment of our current potential.
Abraham for a time is a wealthy herdsman but disappointingly childless for the highest imaginable reason, setting up the unique scenario whereby he can demonstrably grow into becoming “the father of faith.” Jacob for a time struggles against an unethical and miserly uncle. Joseph’s unique “graduate course” in management takes him through the humbling social positions of being a servant-slave and an unjustly convicted prisoner.
Moses the great deliverer and prophet is assigned for a time to being a sheep herder in the quiet obscurity of the land of Midian. David is being chased for his life by the established and recognized King Saul of Israel. Gideon protests his calling to push back the invading Midianites by saying he is nobody important in Israel or even in his own family.
On paper, Ruth as a foreigner does not stand a chance with the wealthy and influential Boaz. Hannah by all outward appearances will continue to be childless. Esther is only the newly selected queen with little or no influence, and her uncle Mordecai has the deadliest enemy in the capitol city for his adversary. The great prophet Elijah complains to God that seemingly everyone is against him. Jeremiah protests that he is too young to be God’s mouthpiece.
Upon seeing the miraculous catch of fish, Peter in a moment of honest self-appraisal says to Jesus: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Paul candidly tells us in 1 Corinthians 4:9, in terms of his social status as a missionary evangelist to the first- century Greco-Roman world: “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last…” even though Paul and the other apostles go on to write the brilliantly inspired New Testament gospels and letters to the churches that have helped untold multitudes of believers down through the centuries to our present time. Yet in the first century, no one is naming hospitals, universities, or cathedral buildings after Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint John, Saint Luke, or Saint Timothy.
In a carefully crafted journey of faith life-script, there is room for adversity and the appearance of failures when they are designed to produce character growth and positive outcomes. No one is closer to this reality than Jesus Christ the Son of God.
In terms of the outward appearances of worldly conventional thinking, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is one of the most disappointing, colossal failures in human history. The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth falls far outside of the narrowly optimistic, top-half, worldly successful expectations of the coming Son of David messiah for large numbers of Jews in Israel in the first century, and is still one of the main reasons why modern Jews reject Jesus as their messiah.
Yet the crucifixion is one of the greatest things God has ever done…maybe the greatest thing He has ever done. Jesus Christ the divine Son of God selflessly sacrifices His own life on a humble cross forever fixed on Calvary Hill, to redeem His lost and fallen people through the unexpected offering of Himself as the payment-in-full sacrifice for mankind’s sin.
All the angelic host of heaven are watching with amazement and awe as they witness divine love in action in their revered Son of God Jesus pinned to a lowly Roman cross of execution as the just and lawful punishment for mankind’s shortcomings. In that crucial moment of the most awful, humiliating, and degrading of earthly circumstances…the justice, love, mercy, and grace of God are blended together in an unimaginable mixture of divine character. If we can grasp and understand the cross, and the required humility of the life and status of Jesus leading up to it, then in the challenges of our own journeys of faith we can let go of the outward appearances of circumstances and trust God for the future beneficial outcome.
Jesus the Son of God sheds His life’s blood on the cross to rescue us from the penalty of rebellious sin…taking our place for wrongdoing that we rightly deserve. The resurrection of Jesus three days later demonstrates the power of God to turn the outward appearance of humiliating defeat into overcoming triumph for all those who place their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. The new birth in the Spirit sets our feet upon a path free from the condemnation for sin that we could never procure for ourselves.
In terms of the enormous width and breadth of the span of all possible human experience, the crucifixion of the God/man Jesus Christ is both the very worst and the very best at the same time. If Jesus had accepted the counterfeit offer from the devil to receive “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Mt. 4:8), the narrowness of keeping up the outward appearances of worldly success …solely at the positive top-half of human experience…would not have allowed Jesus to reach down so low through the rejection and humility of the cross, to grab ahold of and pull each of us out of the pit of darkness we had fallen into.
This is one explanation for how and why Jesus can rescue the perishing in whatever strata of a lost condition we are found of God, because His understanding and empathy from personal lived-experience stretches from the absolute lowest to the absolute highest throughout the full range of abject worldly failure to heavenly triumph.
The apostle Paul epitomizes the width and the depth of the Christian walk of faith experience when he says: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).