30 April 2021
One of my favourite films when I was younger was the Clint Eastwood western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I suppose it’s one of those things that shows my age. The film tells the story of three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried gold.
The Christian life is not the story of three competing gunslingers (at least not normally). But it is the story of three competing aspects in our lives, what we might call the good, the bad and the hard. There is much of ‘the good’ in our lives because we are saints in whom God is at work. There is still some of ‘the bad’ because we continue to sin. And there will be ‘the hard’ of suffering while we remain in this world. Until that day when the bad will be swept away, the hard will be gone and only the good will remain.
Mike Emlet has written a book designed to help us in one-another ministry. It’s called Saints, Sufferers and Sinners because the Christians we are and meet are simultaneously all three of these things: saints, sufferers and sinners. I haven’t read it yet, but I look forward to doing so. He says that, “God sees and loves his people primarily as saints, while bringing comfort to the sufferer, and faithfully speaking truth to the sinner.”
The thing is, it is easy for one of these aspects to take over in our minds and so eclipse the others. Especially when it comes to suffering and things that are hard. All we can see is the suffering and how hard things are. We can forget that we are saints, that God has begun a great work in us and will bring it to completion, that we are his dearly loved children, for whom his Son gave his life and in whom his Spirit gladly dwells, that he will not let us go, and that one day we will share his glory.
And we can forget that we still sin. In our suffering we may be cruelly sinned against, and yet we still sin against others and especially against our Lord. We may even have sinned in response to our suffering, perhaps with self-pity, anger, bitterness, envy or resentment. Our sin may be understandable because we are suffering, but it is not excusable.
I find this model really helpful. It helps me to think about my own life as a Christian, and the lives of other believers. And it helps me pray. There is ‘the good’ in my life, for which I should say, “Thank you, Lord.” There is ‘the hard’, for which I can ask, “Help me, Lord.” There is ‘the bad’, for which I need to pray, “Forgive me, Lord.”
Lord, for the good you are working in us, we thank you; for the hard things in our lives, we ask for your help; for the bad that remains, please forgive us. Amen.
Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister