“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:12-17
The summer after my junior year in college, I worked on Summer Staff with Young Life at Frontier Ranch in Buena Vista, Colorado. Like Greystone, Frontier Ranch is a gorgeous camp, surrounded by mountains and outfitted with excellence. I was selected for what I believe to be best program area of all—the Ropes and Rappelling Crew.
Each week a new group of high school students would arrive at Frontier Ranch, eager to enjoy all that the camp had to offer. As the students made their way up the mountain to the Rapelling station, their response was almost always the same—pure panic and terror. As they looked down the sheer face of the 120 foot cliff they were absolutely certain of one thing—there’s no way they were going down that cliff.
As a staff we were trained in all the technicalities of rappelling. We knew our way around the ropes, knots, harnesses, carabineers, figure 8’s, etc. Honestly, that was the easy part. We were also trained to tackle the most difficult side of the job—calming campers’ fears and equipping them to do the impossible (so they thought).
I would tell every camper practically the same thing: “Do you know how strong this rope is? It’s strong enough to hold 4500 lbs. I’m not only attaching one rope to you but I’m attaching two. I promise, this rope will hold you; it will not let you fall.” The result was always the same—though they were uncertain whether they would make it down alive—though they doubted the strength of the rope, the rope never let them fall. The rope held them tightly and lowered them to safety.
As a minster, I continue to interact with people who struggle with the same problem but under different circumstances. They too are full of fear. They’re not afraid of rappelling down a mountain. It’s a much deeper fear than that.
They are terrified of falling out of God’s gracious grip. They can’t believe that God is strong enough and good enough to hold onto them in spite of all their messiness and mistakes. I imagine that all Christians wonder what the breaking point is for God’s hold on them. We wonder when God will finally have had enough. How much sin and shame will he tolerate before He finally let’s go?
The Devil loves for us to ask that question. He loves for us to be paralyzed by fear and worry. He takes great pleasure in our doubts about the strength of God’s love and grip upon His people. That’s why we need the Bible so badly. All too often we approach the Bible as if it is a story of all the heroes throughout history who have made it to Heaven through their impeccable performance.
My friends if that’s what people are telling you, they’re telling you a lie. Most of the people you encounter in the Bible come closer to being “Zeros” than “Heroes”. There’s actually only one real Hero in the Bible—the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Sally Lloyd Jones says: “[The Bible is] a love story about a brave Prince (Jesus) who leaves his palace, his throne - everything - to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about the Story is - it’s true.”
And do you know what’s even better than that? Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing and I mean nothing. In John 10 Jesus said: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”