The Deliverance

March 10, 2016 at 3:47 pm

resurect

Last night I gathered around a large dinner table to share a meal with missionaries. We gathered to celebrate and we gathered to share stories. Some had been lifetime servants who ministered on the field for decades, others of us were relative rookies, serving now for just a few years. But all of us were bound by a common commitment to the Great Commission and the God who has called us to bring light into the darkness.

Early into the meal our host urged us to share tales of God’s deliverance. As so much of the work our organization engages in centers on ministering in the Muslim world, stories flowed freely. There was a story about a family being separated during their emergency evacuation at the start of the Egyptian Revolution. There were tales of narrow escapes in darkened alleyways, corruption, bribes, rejected visas, missing passports, angelic appearances at security checkpoints, lengthy interrogations at government offices and the hard lessons learned about being duped by local cab drivers. And there was much laughter as well over adventures in foreign airports, translation debacles, and exploding stoves.

Above it all, God took center stage as testimony after testimony highlighted the providential care of his children who have been willing to sacrifice everything to follow his lead. I was surrounded by heroes of the faith whose names will never be known to the majority of the world. People who are so great precisely because they care so little for their own fame. Faithful men and women who have thrown their lot in with Jesus and found life because they are willing to lose it all for Him.

But there was a particularly sobering moment when the host of our gathering helped us to pause for a moment and remember those moments when “deliverance” in any sort of temporal way, never seemed to come. We thought about brothers and sisters who had fallen- through sickness, through tragedy, through persecution. There was silence until one of the missionaries reminded us that our temporal notions of God’s deliverance pale in comparison to the ultimate deliverance of a new life.

“God’s true deliverance is the resurrection,” he mused.

In many other contexts his reflection would have come across as particularly trite. Mere sentiment akin to the notion that no matter the tragedy “God works it all out for our good.” True, but often insincere.

Instead, surrounding by this great cloud of witnesses, uttered by a man who has sacrificed much to minister the gospel in foreign lands for his entire life, the words had a weight I had not felt for quite some time. A truth so real that it seemed as if it hung above the table for us to touch, taste and gaze upon. Especially in this season of Lent, during our collective pilgrimage towards the cross, his statement pushed the reality of the resurrection one inch closer on its journey from my head to my heart. God is indeed a promise keeper, unstoppable in his ability to bring to fruition his glorious commitment to make all things new.

Jesus taught us to pray “deliver us from evil” and pray in earnest we will. But we pray as a people deeply aware that whether that deliverance comes today, tomorrow, this week or this year, God promises that deliverance always comes, and has come already.

“But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die – but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes – it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, The Message)