Saturday, December 20, 2014

Joy in the Journey

The popular How it Should Have Ended website parodies popular movies by suggesting alternate “improved” endings to the films. As seen below, the alternate ending for The Lord of the Rings trilogy shows Frodo riding one of the eagles into Mordor and quickly depositing the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom. In the closing dialog, the characters comment on the foolishness if they had walked the entire way.

 While we laugh at the parody, consider what was gained by traveling on foot in this epic story:
  • A strong friendship formed between an elf and dwarf, who began the story despising each other’s kind.
  • Skills and wisdom gained by the previously dismissed hobbit halflings, tested in battle and diplomatic situations.
  • New relationships created along the way with the opportunity and allow them to participate in the process (e.g. Treebeard recognizing that the Ents had a role to play).
  • Aragorn recognizing his true position and calling as king of Gondor.
  • Various evils exposed (e.g. Grima Wormtongue, Saruman)

None of these would have been accomplished if Frodo had ridden the eagles into Mordor. There was growth and gains in the lengthy and costly process.

There are great parallels as followers of Jesus Christ when we consider our sanctification process. Sanctification is the progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives (Grudem). While it begins at salvation (regeneration), it continues throughout our lives until we are with The Lord after we die, as illustrated in the following diagram.

photo credit: Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology (1994). Zondervan, p. 750.    

 How often do we desire “instant sanctification”, rather than the progressive nature of slow forward movement with occasional set backs and plateaus? Yet, like Frodo’s journey, consider how much would be missed in our Christian experience without the life-long sanctification journey accomplished through:
  • Bible reading and meditation (Psalm 1:2, Matthew 4:4, John 17:17)
  • Prayer (Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6)
  • Worship (Ephesians 5:18-20)
  • Witnessing (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • Self-discipline and self-control (Galatians 5:23, Titus 1:8)

While we all probably wish at times for our sanctification to occur more quickly and/or without the ongoing struggle in our sinful flesh, take time to reflect on how God is at work and blessing in the process of being conformed into His image and for the glory of His Name. There is joy in the journey!

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13

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