Three stories in today’s news are related in a very encouraging way.
First: American swimmer Anita Alvarez was competing in the World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary, when she suddenly lost consciousness and sank to the bottom of the pool. Andrea Fuentes, Alvarez’s coach, immediately dove into the water and pulled Alvarez to the surface.
The swimmer was then taken off on a stretcher for medical treatment. Fuentes issued a statement later saying, “Anita is okay. The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal.” She is okay, that is, thanks to her coach.
Second: John Clements was attending a baseball game with his family at Nationals Park in Washington, DC, when he went into cardiac arrest. Jamie Jill, a captain in the Arlington County Fire Department, happened to be sitting in the stands nearby. So was Lindy Prevatt, an emergency room nurse.
Jill immediately lowered Clements to the ground and began performing CPR. Prevatt timed out two-minute intervals on her Apple Watch so she and Jill could switch off. Using the ballpark’s defibrillator, they shocked Clements three times before emergency responders arrived. Through the efforts of these strangers, Clements’ life was saved.
Third: It was four years ago yesterday when a soccer team exploring a cave in Thailand became trapped by rising floodwaters. Their plight became a global story.
An international group of cave-diving experts eventually rescued all the boys and their coach. However, a volunteer diver and former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, died when he ran out of oxygen underwater while attempting to deliver oxygen tanks to the boys.
In each case, those in distress were rescued by people who would say rescuing people is part of their calling.
Living a life God can bless
This week, we’ve been exploring my assertion that it is always too soon to give up on God. However, a skeptic could understandably ask why we believe God is so powerful and loving when our world is so broken and fallen.
So, we’ll close the week with this fact: if we are not experiencing the fullness of God’s power and love, the fault is not his but ours.
Our Father loves us so deeply that he chose to watch his Son die a tortured death that we might live forever with him. His incarnational love is the heart of Jesus’ mission: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
However, he can bless and use fully only those who seek fully to glorify him. When we serve any other purpose, we miss his best for our lives and our world.
Why God seeks his glory
Paul exhorted the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for man, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24).
He taught the Corinthians, “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20), and added, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). He testified to the Romans, “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36).
Peter agreed: “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11). Both apostles called us to join creation in glorifying our Creator: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
Our Father is adamant: “I am the Lᴏʀᴅ; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8; cf. 48:11). God blesses and uses us when we seek to glorify him in all we do, not because he is a divine egotist, but because he knows that seeking to glorify anything or anyone other than himself is idolatry. In theological terms, this sin draws us away from the only One who can lead us with omniscience, bless us with omnibenevolence, and empower us with omnipotence.
When we are rightly related to God through worship, reverence, and submission, only then can we be rightly related to others and to ourselves. Our Lord’s call to Israel is his call to America: “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18). But he can lead only those who will follow and give only what we will receive.
“Hand over the whole natural self”
This call must encompass every dimension of our lives. Cancer growing in one part of our body will eventually affect the health of the entire body. If we want to experience all of God’s best, we must give him all of ourselves.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis made this point powerfully: “Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out.
“Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’”
Would Jesus say you have given him your “all” today?
If not, why not?
NOTE: For more on God’s compassionate grace and our best response, please see my latest blog, “Why would you buy an $8,700 gardening kit?”