John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
Have you ever felt stuck in a circle? They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Maybe you’re struggling with a personal circle. You keep coming to forks in the road, thresholds that call for a decision but because you keep making the same choices you keep ending up where you started. Maybe you’re in a professional circle. You keep getting the same results at work because you keep doing the same things. Maybe your church is in an organizational circle. It never seems to gain fundamental traction, or experience real growth, because every time it feels the natural discomfort of growing it runs back to what is comfortable. The reality in all of these situations is that we are a people who naturally fear change; therefore we naturally choose the path we’ve chosen before, not the one less traveled. It’s always easier to do something we have done before. But it’s why we keep getting what we have always gotten. We are all on a journey from exile to homecoming. We live a death and resurrection type existence. God allows us the freedom of choice. The problem is we keep choosing what’s comfortable rather than faith in Him. Because of sin, death is more comfortable for us than life. We often choose chaos over peace and prosperity. It is why life can feel like a circle and why the circle keeps bring us to perceived dead ends. However, the good news is that with every dead end, there is resurrection.
When I think of some of the dead ends I have ended up in the past I find one overarching reason I kept returning there. It was because of a paralyzing fear of change, or fear of the unknown. It doesn’t matter if it is professional, ministerial, or personal we often find ourselves going around in circles because we keep migrating toward what’s comfortable.
Fear of change is why we as a church would rather do what has been done in the past, even if it has failed to work, than veer off the beaten path. It is why we don’t get professionally honest, (you know what, maybe I was called to do something different) because we fear what a decision like that will do to our mortgage, and car payment. Fear is the result of a lack of faith. And a lack of faith in God is the cause of virtually every vicious cycle that has ever existed.
The Jewish storytellers who produced the Old Testament saw the going-away-and-coming-back-again as their main motif, (1). Is it any wonder we live a going-away-and-coming-back-again life. It is human nature. The bible narrative is one big story of people going around in circles. God’s children are tested and because they choose comfort over faith they end up back where they started. Think about it.
Before creation there is chaos, than the Spirit moves, and then creation begins, (Gen. 1:2, Gen. 8:1, Ex. 14:21). But because of Adam and Eve’s lack of faith the world ends up where it started, chaos, (flood). Just as Adam fell into sin and shame by eating from the fruit of a tree (Gen. 3:5-10), Noah shamed himself by drinking from the fruit of the vine (Gen. 9:20-23). Genesis says of Adam that when he ate the fruit, his eyes were opened (Gen. -37- 3:5,7). As for Noah, after he became drunk, he awoke and realized what had happened to him (Gen. 9:24) (2). Abraham is called out of Babylon, but because of Israel’s continual disobedience, and poor decisions, they end up as exiles right where they started in Babylon. Jacob cheats his brother and has to flee. The sons of Jacob betray their brother Joseph, (it seems the sins of the father really are passed on to the son). Years later they end up right back where they started, in front of their brother Joseph. The circle isn’t broken until the lesson is learned. We see this throughout the bible. Maybe we keep ending up in the same poor places because we keep making the same poor choices.
The good news of Israel’s going-away-and-coming-back-again story is that even though Israel wants to go it’s own way, (comfortable, chaotic, self-obsessed) direction, God will allow it. He will agree to the divorce. But He won’t let it end there. Instead, God is going to start all over again and court her as if they were just meeting for the first time! He will bring her back to the place where they first fell in love—the wilderness of Sinai. And He will do everything in His power to restore the relationship to an even better condition than before, (3). The Gospel is proof that God has done everything in his power to break the paralyzing cycle of fear. He came and defeated the only thing that could ever really paralyze us…death.
The only possible way we can break the going around in circle mentality is to allow our faith in Jesus to break it. It wasn’t until after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit came that a group of commoners became extraordinarily uncommon. It wasn’t until that, that the church loosed the shackles of status-quo and turned the world upside down. They no longer cared about being comfortable, because they saw how their comfort had muffled the gospel. They no longer cared about being comfortable because they saw how God became incredibly uncomfortable in order to save them. They saw the entire narrative of the bible come true in Jesus. They began to see how the very thing they thought was killing them, (Jesus’ death). Something that made them run in fear, run back to the comfort of closed doors and old ways of doing things. However, just three days later they began to see that what they feared most was actually the catalyst of what would set them free, (resurrection). Once they saw how Jesus took on their greatest burden, and died the death they deserved, the fear dissipated When they saw how he was raised three days later and then ascended to sit at the right hand of God they were able to push through the fear of change, because they saw how Christ changed what they couldn’t. The cycle had been broken. Jesus is the great cycle breaker!
Before creation there was chaos, but than the Spirit moves, and when the Spirit moves creation always begins. And with creation comes real lasting change. This Easter holiday allow the regenerative message of an empty tomb let you see there are no real dead ends. The only dead ends that can paralyze us are the ones we create in the four corners of our brain. Let’s not allow fear to take our church, our profession, our life hostage. Let your faith in Jesus break the vicious cycle and propel you out into the world doing greater, more fulfilling, life-changing things for Him. Then we who are in exile may finally see our homecoming. The bridegroom will finally come to a bride that has made herself ready. Remember that with every dead end, there is a resurrection. Allow that to change you today!
2013 Copyright Richie Halversen
1. N. T. Wright. “Simply Christian.” HarperCollins.
2. Paulien, Jon (2012-01-03). The Deep Things of God (Kindle Locations 650-654). Review & Herald Publishing Association. Kindle Edition.