Recently I have often found myself thinking of my grandmother, who has already been gone for more than twenty years. I am so grateful to know I will see her again in Heaven! I love to think about the many childhood vacations my sister and I spent with her here in Texas. Maybe it is the extra-hot weather we have been having that reminds me of those summer trips from coastal Connecticut to sweltering Fort Worth. I loved being with her, and have such a treasury of memories to cherish. One of my favorite things was that she absolutely loved game shows. Back in the day when there were just three channels to choose from, she loved watching those game shows every day, and she particularly loved the hosts. Bob and Pat and Vanna were like good family friends.
I always thought the best kinds of games were the ones where the contestant could trade their winnings in on a mystery prize with the hopes of getting something even better. Oftentimes, the risk would result in a terrible downgrade, like going from $500 cash to a sad, plastic model car. But every now and then, the trade would far exceed the original prize.
There is just one Master of Ceremonies who offers only excellent trades, and that is God Himself.
Many years before Jesus came to Earth, the prophet Isaiah foretold what He would be like and what He would do: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Too good to be true? No - this is the way God is, and perfectly demonstrates what true love actually is. John 3:16 further promises, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God gave His Son so that we could have eternal life. Instead of our sin-tainted life which only leads to death, God offers us forgiveness and life with Him forever. His trades are never for selfish gain; they are always for the highest good of the whole Kingdom.
Ezekiel 36:26 also sites the kind of trade that God is in the business of offering. He says to Israel, and to all of us, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” What a beautiful offer!
The problem is that most of us spend a lifetime thinking like the people on the gameshows - we are unsure whether God’s trades are safe. We doubt His character, and think He might treat us in the same cold, uncaring manner that the rest of the world does. Instead of believing that He is true and that His motives are always pure, we hesitate at His offers, or fail to respond altogether, and settle for less when we could have had abundant life all the while. We worry about losing out on something, instead of trusting that He knows exactly what we need (and don't need!) to become the person He created us to be.
We can trust God for life and provision and direction. We can trust God to take our mundane, self-centered existence and trade it for something supernatural and far-reaching. We can know without doubt that when God offers a trade of any kind, we absolutely will be better off than before. Of course, the circumstances might not look exactly like we expected, but the outcome is sure. He does not take away without doing a deep work and replacing with something even more real. Even if things do not make sense to us at the time, we can trust Him to see and understand all that we cannot - He has an infinite perspective and is always working towards the highest good for everyone.
This is especially true of internal things we spend so much time wrestling with. God put in every one of us the capacity and creativity to make beautiful things with our lives. Sadly, our own sinful natures tend to take those passions and desires that God put in each of us and corrupt them into horrible caricatures of what they were intended to be. This is where most of our struggles come from. We do not want to lay these things down for fear we will be somehow less without them. As a result, we can stall out in spiritual growth and spend years struggling over the same thing with no personal change and very little positive impact on the people around us.
CS Lewis explains this brilliantly in The Great Divorce, which I hope you will find the time to read. One character is plagued by a struggle with lust, represented by a small red lizard on his shoulder - lust which is a twisted, selfish use of God-given desire. An angel comes and offers to deliver him of the lizard, and the conversation between the three is fascinating. Getting rid of the lizard will be painful and the character fears that killing the lizard will kill himself as well. After much debate, the angel is finally granted permission to kill the thing, which dies in agony only to be promptly reborn into a majestic horse. The ugly corruption had to die in order to become the beautiful thing it was intended to be. The horse then sings to his owner,
“The Master says to our master, Come up. Share my rest and splendour till all natures that were your enemies become slaves to dance before you and backs for you to ride, and firmness for your feet to rest on.
From beyond all place and time, out of the very Place, authority will be given you: the strengths that once opposed your will shall be obedient fire in your blood and heavenly thunder in your voice.
Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.
Master, your Master has appointed you for ever:
to be our King of Justice and our high Priest.”
What is it that you are holding on to? It may be anything - a stuggle, a sense of security, a dream, a habit - anything. God is inviting each of us to come higher up and further in. He invites us to taste and see that He is good, and to trust Him with our life and hopes. God's trades are wonderful and powerful, and they can change not only your life, but also the lives of many around you. He wants to help each of us to be the person He created us to be, which is a person of far greater character and Kingdom influence than most of us realize. Let the Master of Trades work in you - life for death, beauty for ashes, joy for mourning. peace and praise for despair.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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