Monday, May 05, 2008

A Tap on the Shoulder

I've been feeling much more buoyant over the past couple of days.

Part of it has just been down to being in the presence of good friends (some of whom I consider family), during a training session for the Scripture Union holiday I help out at... but something far more significant happened there... something that had the odd effect of making me beam from ear to ear (much to the bemusement of those sat around me at the time).

A couple of years ago, there was a passage of scripture from the Old Testament that was laid on my heart and it kept reoccurring in the bizarrest of circumstances - almost like the numbers on LOST keep cropping up.

On Saturday morning, there was a brief talk given by Sheila, on a passage from scripture. She didn't read out the reference... but as far as I was concerned, she didn't need to. I was very familiar with those words... which are like old friends in themselves to me. The passage actually comes from Isaiah:

"For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.

I will lay waste the mountains and hills
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into islands
and dry up the pools.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them. "
Isaiah 42:14-16

Sheila only read from verse 16 (the portion that I have emboldened), but it served as a tap on the shoulder and brought back so much for me. The passage speaks of God releasing his people from the things that bind them and changing them so that they can follow him in a new and exciting way, and inflicting hardship on those who try and keep God's people from the freedom he desires to give them. In Isaiah's day, that meant deliverance from the impending Babylonian captivity... this is not something that you may feel we have an obvious connection with today. However, God sent his Son Jesus to release us from the slavery of our sin, mistakes and brokenness. Furthermore... we all have a destiny to be claimed through Christ. He wants us to grow into the people the Father called us to be.... to take on his character and nature through the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit. Naturally God's enemies in the spiritual realm aren't too happy about people choosing to stand up in the power of God... and will do everything they can to keep us from claiming that prize, our inheritance. So there is a link between Isaiah's original readers and ourselves. Reading this passage always reassures me that God will always come for his people - to save an empower them to do his will. It always picks me up off the floor and inspires me to keep running.

Recently I had to submit a sermon outline for the preaching course I am on. I was asked to use an illustration to back up what I was saying. The passage was different... but the sentiment is the same and so I'll offer it to you as an example here:

You know something? Watching the end of that video, you'd think it ends on a bum note.

The athletes all talk about how sad it is because of how much the race mattered. No offence or disrespect to them, but in their professionalism I think they miss the main point as to why this clip resonates so strongly with people who saw it back in 1992. It's not the sadness of having lost the race that moves people... it's the love of a father for his son... and the son's determination to come home no matter his injuries and pain.

That image and the thoughts attached to it are worth a thousand gold medals to me, they are that inspirational. I will never forget.

As much as Derek Redmond's dad loved his son... how much more does God the Father love us? Not only will he come to pick us up off the track when we stumble... he'll restore us so we can finish the race he has given us to run.

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