I recently had the opportunity to take my two teenage sons to see the new Top Gun: Maverick movie. More accurately: They took me. The boys had both already seen the movie (and really liked it) and they knew I would enjoy it too. FWIW, it was GREAT! (Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers here, so you can keep reading even if you haven’t seen it yet.)
Like most big budget blockbuster movies, the story has ups and downs, ins and outs, moments of laughter and moments of sentiment, great characters and stunning special effects. Maverick has heart-racing action and heart-warming emotion, heroes and villains, themes of friendship and love and competition, thrilling highs and devastating lows, moments of fear and moments to cheer. The film takes viewers on a veritable roller-coaster ride of thoughts and feelings and, in the end, leaves them… well, I’m not going to tell you! (NO spoilers!)
Ok. Why are we talking so much about a movie in an article about ministry? Because movies provide some marvelous metaphors for ministry and the Christian life. Here are a couple considerations to contemplate:
- The end is what matters most. I remember learning as a film student that the primary difference between a comedy and a tragedy, or whether a film is perceived as ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ is at what point in the story the editor decides to fade to black and roll the credits. Think about this: you can make almost any ‘feel-good’ movie a heartbreaker if you stop the story too soon. What if Rudy never got into the game? What if Marty never made it back to the future? What if Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan never met on top of the Empire State Building? What if Truman never sailed into the wall? What if Dorothy hadn’t pulled back the curtain? What if the Grinch never gave back the presents? All these stories (and almost every other film you’ve ever seen) would be tragic instead of triumphant if they ended too early. They are only feel-good stories because the protagonists persevered through their problems and pains and came out on the other side, victorious.
The same is true in biblical history and in our lives. Thank the Lord that the story of Moses didn’t end when he fled after killing the Egyptian. The story of Job didn’t end with his illness. The story of Isaac didn’t end at the altar. The story of Peter didn’t end with his denial. The story of Paul didn’t end with his blindness. And (praise be to God!) the story Jesus didn’t end at the tomb.
Friend, no matter how hard things are right now, hang on, because your story isn’t over.
- The journey isn’t as scary when you know how the story ends. Although my boys and I watched Maverick together, their experience having already seen it was very different than mine as a first-time viewer. They still enjoyed the action and the effects, but they weren’t thrown by the twists and turns of the plot like I was. In fact, they were able to notice details that I missed. They could enjoy deeper appreciation of the cinematography, artistry, and beauty of the shots because they weren’t worried about the outcome.
You may be facing difficulty right now. Statistically, if you aren’t in a difficult season today you have either just come through one, or you may be heading into one soon. Struggles, hurts and heartaches are very real. I don’t want to in any way minimize the reality of the pain or strain that we feel. As we live and serve and minister through difficulty, it’s important for us to read and re-read our bibles. The harder things get, the more short-sighted we can become. When things are hardest, we need to read all the way to the end of the book, where the glorified and exalted Jesus returns as the champion to make all things new and establish His kingdom. Where death and tears and sickness and fears will become ancient memories. We need to keep going back to the narrative. The journey isn’t as scary when you know how the story ends.In those dark, ‘down’ moments we need to be reminded that God is still writing our stories. He turns tests into testimonies. Trials into triumphs. Click To Tweet
There are times when we all feel like quitting, stopping, throwing in the towel, and walking away. In those dark, ‘down’ moments we need to be reminded that God is still writing our stories. He turns tests into testimonies. Trials into triumphs. 2 Corinthians 4:7 reminds us that, “our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” Galatians 6:9 encourages those who may feel like quitting to, “not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” God gives strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29), and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8). Difficulties will come. We will experience trials (James 1). But we mustn’t ever give up. The one who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13). In the end, He is faithful, and He is mighty to save.
Whatever stresses you are dealing with today, don’t forget to remember that in the end God wins, Jesus reigns, and those who put their faith in Him will live with Him in paradise. Forever. Life is hard, yes, but it is inconceivably short compared to the immensity of eternity. What a difference it makes knowing how the story will end! How exciting it is to know that we don’t just have tickets for admission, we are sons and daughters of the Author! Let’s use whatever time we have in life to urgently introduce others to Jesus so they can be there too. In the end, the end is what matters most.
Chuck Peters is Director of Lifeway Kids. Before his role at Lifeway, Chuck had a prolific career in television and video production. He is a 3-time Emmy Award Winning producer, director, writer and on-screen talent. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck, and his wife, Cris, have served in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years.