Sue and I are wrapping up a wonderful week at the Scott River Lodge. It’s been a great week of relaxation and refueling. Yesterday, along with the seven other couples we’re hanging with this week, we spent the day at the JH Ranch, the lodge’s sister property — a 300+ acre youth camp. Amazing facility. Our reason for going? Odyssey, the ranch’s ropes course.
To be honest, being forty feet off the ground walking on thin wires is not my idea of the ultimate getaway activity. But it was a great opportunity to overcome personal fears . . . to learn to depend on my wife in new way . . . and to learn to work with three other couples in order to “get ‘er done.” For about 90 minutes we worked our way through four different challenges, accomplishing the goal and, more importantly, learning something about ourselves, our relationships, and our God. To be honest again, as we sat around debriefing the experience afterward with all the couples there was a sense of satisfaction and blessing. Knowing how Odyssey ended made it worth the trip.
Something I read this morning in 1Thessalonians reminded me of the same thing. Knowing how this Christian walk ends, makes the journey worth the trip.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1Thessalonians 4:17-18 ESV)
Paul speaks of two groups of people. “Them” are the “dead in Christ” (v.16) . . . those “who are asleep” (v.13) . . . those who have already walked the walk and have crossed the valley of the shadow of death. The other group are us, “we who are alive.” Those who are currently walking the walk . . . those currently on the ropes course and doing Odyssey together . . . facing the challenges . . . learning about ourselves and how to depend on others and upon our God. And what is true of both groups, “them” and “we who are alive,” is that “we will always be with the Lord.”
A day is coming, perhaps today, when “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (v.16). The dead in Christ will rise and then those who remain will be caught up in the air. Regardless of the transport, resurrected body or airborne body, what will be true is that evermore we will be with Jesus. That’s the finish line for this earthbound segment of our lives. That’s how this phase of life ends . . . with the Lord always.
Sometimes I can get so focused on accomplishing the task. Of just making it across the current challenge. Of making sure my feet don’t slip . . . that I don’t let go of my wife . . . that I don’t fail the group . . . and, in so doing, lose sight of the solid ground that awaits us all. So often it’s about focusing on my fears rather than believing that “tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home” . . . and that I am, in fact, on my way home . . . that unimaginable place Jesus is, even now, preparing for me (John 14:2-3).
Running a race with no end in sight is a treadmill. Lot of output with no progress. But when, by God’s grace, He allows something — like a ropes course experienced in the context of His word — to remind you that every step is part of a journey which culminates in forever being with the Lord, then you know it’s worth the trip.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Not home yet. But getting there.
By God’s grace . . . for God’s glory.