“We habitually stand in our
now and look back by faith to see the past filled with God.
We look forward and see Him inhabiting our
now is uninhabited
except for ourselves.
Thus we are guilty of a kind of temporary atheism
which leaves us alone in the universe while,
for the time,
God is not.”
– A.W Tozer
Here I like how Tozer draws attention to how we might be affected by living in our present world (and all of the difficulty that entails) as though the God-story were only active up until (and during) the time Jesus roamed the earth in his physical body (before he was crucified), and will eventually be again when Jesus returns (at the point which what some of us might have come to understand as the “end of the world”).
Never mind what we might know in our heads of God being at work in the world, if we actually live our present as though the God-story is in some waiting room laying dormant right now, we just might be depriving ourselves of a warranted sort of sense of Hope that we are actually able to lean into, in the present, as well.
Jesus said to his disciples ahead of his crucifixion:
“None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather you are filled with grief because I have said these things.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
And a little later on he says:
“I have told you these things, so that in me
you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In these passages is a Christian rationale (of sorts) for not being overcome by grief due to (what was a to be expected) troubled world – in these passages Jesus offers a Spirit-oriented rationale for being able to take heart – even now.
Jesus said to his disciples that his (traumatic) exit would bring about the arrival of the Advocate, or the Spirit. If we live as though, right now, we are merely waiting for the glorious day that Jesus returns without an awareness of the role of the Spirit, or that Jesus has sent to us his Spirit, we will lack also an awareness of the part of God that is still actively bringing the God-story into our present, and thus, a sense that our trust and our faith is not a waste: that when we choose to “trust God” with something, we really, really aren’t depositing our faith into thin air, rather, we are partnering with something that is very, very real.
In a sense, it is the Spirit that “warrants” Christian Hope which is a Hope that Jesus seemed to think would be very helpful, perhaps necessary, to possess in our trouble-imbued present. The Spirit is what brings the God-story into real-time. It is what gives our faith a place to stand, some available ground that we are actually able to build our acts of faith upon – presently.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes (actually, often) I struggle to trust God with various aspects of my life. Or I don’t love when it’s hard…. or I don’t forgive when I should… even though ‘the Bible’ tells me it’s a good idea. Sometimes I think it’s because I need more of a sense of why my faith matters now, too. It seems like the more I linger on the idea that the Spirit is here-now, I become aware that my trust isn’t a waste, and so my capacity to trust God with more of my life, and my failures, anxieties and grievances (and so on and so forth) increases. My sense of the Spirit seems to motivate me to trust God with more, rather than less – because it’s the part of God that is, right now, committed to seeing and carrying the God-story through to it’s gloriously good end. It’s the part of God at work – that is available for me to partner with – now, and that I have some sort of role in contributing to, too.
Although it is true that God is already ensuring this story-continuation happens regardless of whether we are aware of it or not, our awareness of the role of Spirit (in the present), I think, has the capacity to charge the tone of our personal experiences, whatever they may be, and to motivate us to live our experiences (both good and bad) more from a position of trusting faith – because we are aware that when we act in faith, we are partnering with the Spirit, that promises to do something good with what we take to God; while it may not be the particular something good we had in mind or as soon – we can trust.
I think, maybe, without an understanding of the Spirit that Jesus sent, our sense of how and why the God-story could be relevant now – as to why it IS hopeful now, as to why it actually IS worth investing ourselves into and putting our lives on the line for, becomes eclipsed. The Spirit in one sense, is our rationale as to why we actually can take heart already, as to why our persistence in faith now isn’t wasted endeavour, and perhaps, even important. The Spirit is the “what” that we partner with, and without a sense of the “what,” I think, to an extent, we will lack the assurance we need in order to have faith in the existence of the “what” that we may not always physically be able to see.
“But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”