Every Cross Has a Story!

" We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose," - Romans 8:28

Does anyone else have a hard time sleeping after the time change? Well I couldn't sleep last night and part of it has to do with an experience talking about Romans 8:28 that I'd like to share with you.

I was recently given the opportunity to put together a chapel message for our school of K4 through 8th graders and was given the challenging assignment - help younger students understand the heart of God through the promise of Romans 8:28. That passage, for many of us, sits as a foundation of peace, comfort and hope as we consider what it means to live in a world that is broken by sin and the daily battle between our sinful nature and the new man made alive by faith in Jesus.

The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis served as the way to help the kids step into 3 big ideas. God's good plans, Mankind's sin filled response and God's redemptive work. God's Plan | Our Sin | God's Redemption

As I was putting the chapel together in my mind a way to illustrate it started to come into mind and the end result is the picture that you see at the top.

GOD'S PLAN: It starts with a blank canvas. God fills it with beautiful color that, to our eye doesn't look all that organized and ordered. And yet it is vibrant, colorful, inviting, imaginative, perhaps a bit random and it is a sight that sets our heart ablaze with expectation that something beautiful is taking shape. When it comes to the plans of God we can expect something beautiful and we can expect to need patience. It's as if God builds our anticipation, slowly, sometimes over years and decades, only to crescendo at just the right moment. In the beauty of his artistry we feel one of the reasons we're alive is to see the picture we anticipate finally realized, coming into completion and deep joy.

Certainly Joseph got a glimpse of something fascinating, wondrous, adventurous - so much so that he believed the dreams God gave him and shared those dreams with his family. Can you remember a time when you were younger and hopeful, filled with anticipation of something good that is coming?

OUR SIN: In the world we live in, the human heart is "deceitful above all things and beyond cure". Even for the Christian, the battle rages between building my comfort and my kingdom. I reach for God's paintbrush and his paint. In the aspirations of the sinful heart all of that vibrant color mixes together to a thick black sludge. Sin smears the richly colored tapestry, covering it with a thick darkness that makes it almost impossible to see what was once there. And if it's not my heart and kingdom building, I suffer from the effects of your heart and kingdom building and the influence of the sinful nature. Even sickness and natural disasters are a result of a broken world, and worse yet, we have an eternal enemy that stalks us. Let's just say God's good plans for my good and his kingdom are impossible for me to see without faith.

Joseph feels the effect from the sin of his father's favoritism, perhaps the sin of his own pride. The sin of his brother's jealousy and hatred. The sin of lust and the deception of Potiphar's wife. The sin of Potiphar's injustice. The failure of the cup bearer to honor his word. That beautiful plan has fallen into darkness... who can understand it? Can you remember times in your life when the dark impacts of sin clouded or blackened the hope we have?

GOD'S REDEMPTION: And yet God uses the seasons of darkness to shape and chisel us. After I covered my painting in black paint I took a putty knife and started scraping away the black mixture of color and darkness into the shape of a cross. What lay beneath was a surprise to me actually. There, beneath the black, was the glimpse of the color that was before, though not as vibrant.

God uses the sufferings in the life of a Christian to remind us of true kingdom that we are living for. The kingdom that starts with "For God so loved... the world... that he gave... his one and only son... that whoever believes in him would not perish... but have eternal life." Since it's so easy for me to forget this, he allows suffering to expose my heart, draw out my honest thoughts, my loves and hatreds and then to chisel, shape, fashion and reform. The suffering, whether it's the consequence of my own foolishness, the consequence of someone else's sin, or the reality of living in a broken world that is yearning for the maker to restore it - THAT suffering is the refiners fire. It is actually a love that prepares my heart and mind to live, and if necessary, die for the glory of his name - that more people would know of God's Grace through Jesus. Using my life so that more people would be saved.

As Joseph went through the trials, God blessed him with success as he learned to serve in Potiphar's house and in the prison where he was entrusted with the care of prisoners. In the quiet waiting, in the dark nights, God was his constant companion, giving glimpses of the color that was to come. God was painting, adding back more color until a light shone into his prison space when the time came to interpret Pharaoh's dream. It was a moment that started to restore God's plan, and Joseph's dream, in a vibrant and beautiful way. God used him to save the lives of millions of people and God gave Joseph a reunion and restoration with his family, as forgiveness and mercy and a kingdom mindset won the day. As Joseph himself said “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. It is a beautiful picture of Romans 8 in action.



A CLOSING THOUGHT: When suffering comes to us and the people we love, we wonder what God is doing. We want specifics, we want to know that it will turn out in the end (especially my way). And God speaks - "To the one who loves me, everything IS OK - Shalom, be at peace." Our emotions, our circumstances, our realities often SCREAM the opposite and yet in those moments we want to know what we can do. To which God says to us... "Be Still"... "Do not be afraid"... I am working all things for the good of those who love me...

And how can we trust it? Well, listen to the angel speak to the frightened women in the easter garden - Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” - Matthew 28

Jesus has gone on ahead of us. He died for our sins. He made us alive. He has gone on to prepare a place for you, for me. He is the one who will stand before his father in heaven at the end of time and speak on our behalf, just as he lived on our behalf. God paints, sin darkens, God redeems, his children trust, God saves!

Your cross, your humblings, your sufferings, your sacrifices, your triumphs - they will all be unique to you and to me, but every single one becomes the story of God's faithfulness. A story that will end with the God of creation saying to his beloved ones - "Well done good and faithful servant" all because of the Grace of God through Jesus Christ.

For my good. For his glory. To save the lives of many

Leave a comment