The Mess in the Middle

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Philippians 1:6)

Have you ever happened upon something that was in middle of being finished?  It can look like a downright mess.  (A hot mess for my friends from the South).  If you’ve ever seen the TV show, Extreme Makeover – Home Edition, part of the appeal of the show is wondering how the construction crew is ever going to tear down an old house and build a new house in the matter of a week.  While the vacated family is off enjoying a vacation, Ty Pennington contacts them to show video footage of the havoc being wreaked at their home site.  The place looks like a mess, with debris everywhere. While the family is obviously excited about getting a new home, they also wondering how a new home will emerge from the chaos.

While the deserving family might wonder how their new home will turn out, Ty and the rest of the Extreme Makeover – Home Edition crew are not.  They tear down an old home and build a new home each week.  The crew has it down to a science.  The designers and architects already know in their minds’eyes what the finished project will look like even before it starts.

God is our divine architect. God the Father is the one who “began a good work” and “will complete it.”  God knows the beginning from the end.  But there are times when I’m in the “mess in the middle” when the debris and refuse of life are strewn about that I wish He would give more details from his blueprint.  I become frustrated with my lack of spiritual progress and the recurring struggles with the same sins.  At times I feel like one of the children of Israel during the 40 year wilderness wandering.  I would offer I am not alone in these feelings.  John Bunyon is his famous allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, describes a deep bog, called the slough of despond, in which the character, Christian, becomes mired under the weight of his own sins and sense of guilt for them.  The Apostle Paul, reflecting on his own struggles with sin writes in Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

It is during these moments that I can look to those “great cloud of witnesses’ found in scripture and take comfort.  The “heroes of the faith” did not start out as heroes at all.  Abraham, the “father of the faith” lied twice about his marital relationship with Sarah to protect his life.  Moses, the emancipator was a murderer.  David, a “man after God’s own heart” was an adulterer, murdered and poor father.  Sampson had so many issues that Dr. Phil could devote an entire week of programming to him to try to get him straigthen out.  Peter, the apostle and catalyst of the early church, denied three times knowing Christ.  Paul, previously known as Saul, hunted down and persecuted Christians before become the church planter, apostle to the Gentiles and writer of over two thirds of the New Testament.  All of the aforementioned were ordinary men, “subject to like passions as we are” yet transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit to accomplish extraordinary things.

Jesus Christ is “the author and finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  I like the term “finisher” conveying completeness.  To save money, some home owners have homes built without having all rooms completed.  A basement gameroom or extra bathroom may be “roughed in” having the framing and mechanicals in place, but no interior walls, finished floors or fixtures. As the master architect, God always finishes his work – to have us conformed to the image of his son.  God doesn’t leave a punch list! He carefully and meticulously goes to work on us while we are here on earth, but does his finishing work when we are transported from earth to glory.  Jesus tells us that he has prepared a place for us.  At that time we will hear him, not Ty Pennington, telling us “welcome home.”

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