“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” – Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis)
So often (sadly) we fail to see the big picture. Why? The simple answer is because we rely and look to our human instincts and ergo, we’re limited. Think of it this way: Ninety percent of a glacier is underwater. That’s a TON of ice you can’t see. Is it there even though you can’t see the full glacier? Absolutely.
Even in reading through Scripture we can view Bible stories and characters as individual happenings. We fail to see the overarching theme that weaves them all together and how God is continually pointing to His glory and the gospel (the cross of Christ and the coming of His eternal kingdom). We can never be guilty of giving God too much glory, but the old man in us is fighting to make God small and to fit him in a box where we can bring him down to our level of understanding.
Because we fail to acutely feel the weight of how we grieve Christ and the eternal implications of our actions, we aim for instant gratification, much like Esau who sold his birthright to Jacob to fill his belly or like the prodigal son who didn’t want to wait for his inheritance. We look at them, but do we see them in our own hearts in how we act or think? Sure, what they did seems big to our minds if we compare them to us and we might even be tempted to think, “Ha, how stupid was Esau. Seriously? I’d never do something that foolish.” In reality, your “little” failings are no less sinful than what Esau did.
That’s why I love the analogy Paul gives of the athlete. Who’s excited about the Olympics? It is right around the corner and it only happens every four years. These men and women have trained rigorously and sacrificed so much. They have a goal. “I press on toward the goal for the upward prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Phil. 3: 14-15). There’s a lot of discipline involved. If you workout, bike, run, etc. — you have to eat a certain way to get certain results, you have to push your body and there are times where you want to quit or just rest or do anything but.
So, how do we see the big picture, have the eyes of our hearts opened and grow so that Christ becomes bigger and we become smaller? The direct answer: Faith. Faith IS seeing. How do we get more faith? I’d encourage you and myself to continue to pray for more of the Holy Spirit, diligently reading His Word, hiding it in our hearts, disciplining (“beating our bodies black and blue,” as Paul the apostle says) our hearts and minds. Old habits die hard and new habits are even harder to form. Prayer, a spiritual mentor/friend and diving into the Bible are so vital in making our hearts more aware of our secret sins.
I love what Matt Chandler, head pastor at the Village Church says in his recent book on the gospel:
The gospel of Jesus is epic. When Jesus says he saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky, he is saying that the gospel is about the overthrow of evil itself, not just about our sinful behavior. When Jesus casts out demons, he is saying that the gospel is about his authority and God’s sovereignty. When Jesus heals the sick and the lame, he is saying that the gospel is about the eradication of physical brokenness. When Jesus feeds the five thousand, he is saying that the gospel is about God’s abundant provision through Christ to a world of hunger. When Jesus walks on water or calms the storm, he is saying that the gospel is about his lordship over the chaos of fallen creation. When Jesus confounds the religious leaders, overturns table, tells rich people it will be hard for them, renders unto Caesar, enters the city on a jackass, predicts the temple’s destruction, and stands silent before the political rulers, he is saying the gospel has profound effects on our systems. When Jesus forgives sin and raises the dead, he is saying the gospel is about individuals being born again, but he’s also saying that the gospel is about his conquest of sin and death.
– Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel
Do we see the bigger overarching theme? As Chandler pointed out, there’s a deeper more poignant theme running through what often we treat as individual stories or messages. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re powerful and God-glorifying in themselves, but how much more so when we realize what they all point to and are about: the cross and his kingdom. In both the chaos and tragedy, the victories and laughter, he is in and glorified through it all. As John Piper says, God is not an ambulance. Nothing takes him by surprise. The shooting in Aurora, Colorado didn’t. Was he grieved? Absolutely. Was he glorified? Absolutely. You might have this question at the back of your head: Why does God allow bad things to happen? (click the hyperlink to go to my blog on this topic). Tim Keller also has a fabulous sermon on that very question: Suffering: If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world?
Let me end with these closing questions. Which perspective do you look at your circumstances and base your decisions? Temporal or eternal? Which do you find infinitely more gratifying and full of hope and peace?
Rachel B. Duke