Will I Fall Away?
The first forty years of my relationship with Christ remind me of the felt-boards my childhood Sunday School teachers used to illustrate Bible stories. They would put up a cloth Jesus and a disciple or two, and as the story changed, they would peel off the felt disciples to make room for new characters.
Like a felt disciple, I, too, would sometimes join the Jesus story. When I felt powerless, when I needed something from God, up on the board I would go. But once my need was met I would pull away. I wanted the freedom to live my own story on my own terms. I did this time and again, as did a lot of the other "disciples" I knew.
Now and then I wondered about the disciples who never left the story, who never came down from the board. How could they live like that, always a part of the same story? I liked my freedom.
But my life turned upside down when I was forty, and I realized that what I thought was freedom was not freedom at all. I was a slave to the constant tug and pull of my desires and appetites. Away from my place on God’s story-board I was just a rumpled scrap of felt.
So back to Jesus I went. But this time was different. I didn't just want something from him. I realized for the first time how kind he had always been to me, and I loved him for it. I no longer wanted to go back to my own story. More than anything in my life, I wanted to be with him forever, one of the permanent ones, forever a part of His story.
But after all the times I’d pulled away from him and his people, how could I be certain it wouldn’t happen again. How could I be sure that this time I was for real, and how can I be sure now? Paul gives me the answer in Philippians:
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”(1.6) He adds: “My beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (2.12-13)
The fact that I even want to work for his good pleasure is proof that God has begun a good work in me. Knowing it is God’s doing, and not mine, makes me tremble in fear and awe. (He could have left me a slave to my sin!) It makes me want even more to see His good work through to its completion, a permanent disciple eager for the story’s fulfillment on the day of Jesus Christ.