There are seasons in our lives that involve times of famine and times of restoration. Solomon tells us that God has made everything beautiful in its time, and that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven (see Ecclesiastes chapter 3). Our looking for “redemption” here on earth as our vindication and justification in overcoming a difficult childhood or coming back from a tragedy make great stories. Many of them have been told on these pages. We are encouraged in reading and watching these stories on TV that someday perhaps we might win the lottery or show that mean boss what it is all about as we quit and take a better opportunity. Yet for us to ask for some of these same things as evidence that God is working out His redemptive plan in our lives is to misunderstand His perspective, and the complete opposite from the way that God views redemption. The scripture does say that “for it is God who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.” (Phil. 2: 13 AMP). But what does the work of redemption in our lives look like?
First of all, God’s redemption is not about us. It’s all about Him and what He has done for us through the death and sanctifying work of Christ. Remember how Rick Warren starts off his mega-bestselling book, “The Purpose Driven Life?” Simple – “It’s not about you.” That is Warren’s message and the message of redemption. 1 Corinthians 1: 30 says this: “But it is from Him that you have your life in Christ Jesus, Whom God made our Wisdom from God, [revealed to us a knowledge of the divine plan of salvation previously hidden, manifesting itself as] our Righteousness [thus making us upright and putting us in right standing with God], and our Consecration [making us pure and holy], and our Redemption [providing our ransom from eternal penalty for sin]” (Amplified Bible). So without God and His intervention through Christ we have none of this – no salvation, no redemption, no new life to give over to Him – no opportunity to start over.
Secondly, God’s redemption is not about now. It is not about whether we come back from 30 points down in the fourth quarter (pick your sport) and win the game after sitting on the bench all last year. It is about eternity. God has placed eternity in the hearts of men (Eccl. 3:11) and this is where the longing in our hearts for some vindication originates. See Romans 8:22-23, where even creation is groaning as it awaits as we do the final redemption of these corrupted bodies and our adoption as sons in full standing. But we confuse our longing for an eternal release from this corruption with our own vindication in overcoming circumstances here. For us here, it is about fairness, but for God it is about His kindness in not judging us so harshly now: or as Paul the apostle asks, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?“ (Romans 2:4, NIV). It is not about our vindication now, but it is about our justification to be able to live and reign with Christ for all of eternity. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever (NLT).”
Finally, God’s redemption is about His goodness, but His goodness and evidence of His glory so that others might see it and believe. And in order for us to reach His goodness, we must live with and through tribulation, strife, loss and pain. “In the world your will have tribulation,” Jesus told His disciples. “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Here in Romans 8:28, we read: “And we know that God causes everything to work togetherfor the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”(NLT). This doesn’t mean that everything will work out fine and dandy for me. What it means is that should God be honored to use my life in a “second chance” sort of way, that He will use it to gain glory for Himself, and in His being glorified I will also gain some eternal benefit, as God’s ultimate purpose (see the next verse 29), is to conform us into the image of His resurrected and glorified Son. So if this transformation should gain for me (as for Job) some restoration of material blessings or some recognition, I would like to point my fingers skyward as some athletes do to honor the One who has made all this possible in the first place.
When the man born blind came before Jesus for healing (John chapter 9) the disciples wondered as was the understanding at that time whose sin caused the blindness. Oh, how sin has blinded us to God’s goodness and ultimate plan in eternity for our redemption and restoration. Paul writes about our present lives and says, looking forward, that “our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). In Jesus’s reply to His disciples about the man born blind we see a bigger picture than hitting the winning home run or overcoming a lousy childhood. In the Message the response goes like this: “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” (John 9:3 MSG).