There was a scene cut from the end of the movie, The Lord of the Rings, after the ring is destroyed at Mount Doom and the eagles fly in to rescue Sam and Frodo. Sam wakes up from his sleep, surprised he is alive and overjoyed to see Gandalf standing at the foot of his bed. “Gandalf,” he says, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead, too! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” When we look at a world full of sickness, disease, war, broken relationships, and terrorism, doesn’t Sam’s question resonate in our hearts? In this story where we find ourselves, is everything sad going to come untrue?
These questions raise another question. What is the story that we’ve fallen into? If you believe the television personalities and secular institutions dictating the narrative, we are in a story “full of fury and signifying nothing.” But when we read the Bible, we find a different framework for this story: the four-chapter Gospel – Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Creation explains the way things were, the fall explains the way things are, redemption shows the way things could be, and restoration shows the way things will be.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we view the world through this biblical, four-chapter Gospel perspective. We have fallen into the middle of an epic story, a cosmic battle for the heart and survival of humankind. During the season of Lent, this story comes into much clearer focus as Jesus, the King of Israel, takes upon himself humanity’s story and lives it out in the flesh.
In his book Epic, John Eldredge writes, “we live in a far more dangerous Story than we have ever imagined. The reason we love The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings is because they are telling us a story about our lives that we never, ever get on the evening news. Or from most pulpits. They are reminding us of the Epic we are created for—the story we have really fallen into!”
So, how would you live differently if you really believed this larger story?
St. Paul believed this larger story and saw himself as an important part of it. In 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4, he faced an unprecedented attack on his ministry, his credentials, and his character. He faced the legacy of a ruined reputation, scorn for his unimpressive physical appearance, and accusations as a “poser” who lacked credentials for true leadership in ministry.
Most people crumble in the face of that kind of adversity, but Paul’s answer was, “Therefore we do not lose heart.”
Essentially, he concludes, “Hang on, the story isn’t over yet!” In one of the most amazing spiritual and emotional comebacks, St. Paul pivots from the struggles he faced to the greater convictions he must hold. Between the bookends of Paul’s appeal not to lose heart, he describes four ways we can live differently if we believe this larger story:
- Live with new eyes
Things are not what they seem! We are at war with an unseen enemy who attempts to devour us while keeping us in a passive state of denial. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV). Since we live in a world with two dimensions—one we can see and one we cannot—we must live as though the unseen world is more weighty, more real, and more dangerous than the reality we can see. That’s exactly how Jesus lived, with eyes acutely aware of the conflict and of the activity of Satan.
2. Live with a new mission in life
In 2 Corinthians St. Paul also writes, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). The story is not about us but about Jesus Christ! It’s about God, His Plan, and His Kingdom. We have a new mission in life: to present Jesus Christ as Lord and to tell the larger story.
3. Live with purpose in suffering
St. Paul goes on to say, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:11). Suffering, adversity, and trouble are not pointless but make us more like Jesus so that God can use us and trust us with his Kingdom! He uses the suffering intended by the enemy for harm for our eternal good.
4. Live with confidence in God’s power
Additionally, St. Paul writes, “With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). Paul says elsewhere that the last enemy to be conquered is death. Jesus’ return from the dead in bodily form after three days in the tomb is that final conquering—the reversal of death itself and the end of evil.
Jesus’ resurrection means that with God, in Christ, nothing is impossible. Period. There is no situation, no suffering, no sickness, nothing broken that he can’t fix. The devil and this world don’t get to dictate the Story. God does.
Can you imagine what it would be like to live with new eyes, a new mission, a purpose in suffering, and confidence in God’s power? It would be a life in which we could always say with St. Paul in all circumstances, “Therefore, we do not lose heart!” May this same spirit capture our hearts this Lent as we follow in the steps of Christ towards both our cross and our resurrection.