Advancing. The word implies movement and direction—things becoming different than they are now. Like a hiker trudging through thick forest for the promise of breathtaking panoramas ahead, we Christians believe we’re on a journey with a destination.
Life is not just a meaningless mess of things, circular repetitions, or a choose-your-own-adventure. We are meant to live in the presence of Greatness forever—to bask, laugh, cavort, worship, know, really know God, and celebrate for eternity.
But we’re still here in our wintery mix of everyday annoyances, meaningful moments, periodic danger, and occasional glimpses of God’s handiwork. And sometimes we have those nagging questions of our own worth and the significance of our accomplishments.
However, Jesus gives us a peek into the future:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5)
Yet pain, suffering, injustice, and sin are still very much a reality. There is a juxtaposition between the beauty of God’s redemption and the pain of sin, death, and oppression.
It is in this tension between what is promised and what is experienced, that we are called to be about our master’s business. (John 15:15) Our journeys fit within His overarching story. [Read “The Story”]
Like any well-written literary character, we each change over the course of our journey. Over time we are developed by God to better resemble our master in our minds, values, and actions.
Imagine asking fitness club patrons on their way to work out whom they expect will benefit from their exercise. Would the answers change if the question was posed to firefighters prior to their daily physical training? Like the latter, the Holy Spirit’s process of forming us to resemble Jesus is not just to firm and tone us spiritually. Our growth is meant to honor God and be for the sake of others. The Church and the world reap the benefits of our increasing Christ-likeness.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
In the nitty-gritty of our journeys we might see ourselves growing spiritually as “God’s handiwork.” It’s not always clear, though, what those “good works” are that we should be doing to benefit the Church and the world. How do we know what those tasks are? How do we make life decisions related to career or family or even what to do in our free time? [Read “God’s Call: My Place in the Story”]
Our literature and movies are full of journey stories. Often they follow the exploits of a single character, and we easily transport the “one heroic protagonist” into how we read scripture (and tend to make that hero into ourselves!). The Ephesians passage above says “For WE are…” but we too easily slip into only reading it as “For I am…” So who is this “we” and what are the good works He’s prepared for “us” to do?
Advancing God’s kingdom is God’s work. He has graciously, extravagantly invited us (individually and corporately) to journey with him in that work—a good work moving in a good direction.[Read “The Story”]
- M. Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 141.
- It’s not wrong to apply this passage to ourselves individually, we just can’t lose the fact that it is equally, if not more so, addressed to us as a group. See: E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2012), 192-210.