This morning at the beach, as we anticipate the oil spill’s approach any hour now, we were discussing a report my father-in-law saw on the news last night. Anderson Cooper was holding up something that looked like toilet paper and explaining its ability to grab the oil without absorbing water. We laughed a bit at the seeming futility of that solution, thinking we’d need everyone in the U.S. to come out with two handfuls of the stuff to even begin to clean up all the oil. The futility of the effort makes it almost seem pointless. This is very much how I feel about all sorts of broken situations in my life and the world that surrounds me. Angry people, a tanking housing market, the growing orphan crisis compounded by governments (yes, even our own) whose pride often interferes with the greater good, and so on.
Earlier in the morning, I was listening to a Tim Keller sermon from quite a while back and he used a wonderful analogy (that I think I may have written about before and will do again today): Two people are set in two separate but identical rooms with identical jobs. Their job is to screw part A into part B all day, every day for a year. At the end of the year, one guy will be paid $10,000 for his efforts. The second guy will be paid $1 billion. The first guy keeps commenting on how tedious the job is, how grueling and demeaning. The second guy thinks its the easiest job he’s ever had.
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thes. 1:3
Futility flavors our days and the tasks before us when, like the oil spill clean up, our efforts seem pointless and leading to no great end. But because of the person and work of Jesus, His current reign over all creation, and the certainty the He will accomplish the making new of all things soon and very soon, we have a new flavor to enjoy as we chew the tasks of the day set before us. Our endurance is fueled by hope, which is not simply a wishful thinking but a certainty.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
My committment to engage in clean up efforts, of the Gulf or of my neighborhood, in the environment or in my own family, is prompted by love that is not merely “do goodism” but produced by faith in the same One who has restored my soul from the pit of emptiness and is committed to doing the very same in all of creation.
There are relationships that are just as easy to walk away from, in resignation that nothing will ever change, as the Gulf and its overwheliming, ever flowing oil. But He has not and will not walk away in resignation from my hard heart which gives me the only possible ability not to walk away from others or consider any individual relationship a futile effort.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Eph. 1:18-23
If Jesus is far above every rule and authority, power and dominion, not just in the age to come but now as well, why should I live as one defeated? If He has promised to complete the good work that He has begun (Phil. 1:6), He has promised to make all things new(Rev. 21:5), He has promised to never leave nor forsake me (Matt. 28:20, Heb. 13:5), I can screw part A into part B and find it the easiest job not because it isn’t tedious or grueling, but because what is to come is so much better than the hardship now. On the way to the beach, the ride gets long and the scenery through the middle of nowhere, routes that even cell towers won’t go, feels endless to small children and adults alike. But we don’t quit or head back home because we know the beach makes it all worth it. Those light and momentary troubles are nothing compared to the riches that are to come…and that is just a beach trip!
So even today, when I am met by a child’s bad attitude, a friend’s cynicism, and my own critical, disdainful heart that refuses to love others as I have been loved, may I not throw my arms in the air and wave the white flag of defeat. Oh would I begin to believe that He who is in me is so much greater than my heart, so much more powerful than any earthly power or inclination. Would I stop looking to the seen for my hope, stop searching my own resources for the solution and believe His promises to be more certain than the chair on which I am sitting.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23