Summary: God must be loved greatly for us to live the life (and die the death) he calls us to.
Near the end of the Chronicles of Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy, C. S. Lewis describes Shasta feeling sorry for himself because life is hard. While he cries, the Lion draws near, and Shasta is frightened when he realizes this is a very large creature. He cannot see Aslan through the mist, but when he can bear it no longer he whispers, “Who are you?”
“One who has waited long for you to speak.”
“Are you—are you a giant?”
“You might call me a giant,” said the Large Voice. “But I am not like the creatures you call giants.”
Shasta, terrified, says, “Oh please—please do go away…. I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!”
But the Lion breathes on him and says, “Tell me your sorrows.”
Shasta does so, including the misery of being chased by so many Lions! But the Large Voice responds: “I do not call you unfortunate.”
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?”
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I.”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own” (pp. 164-165).
I believe Lewis is reflecting on John 21. First, Aslan reveals himself to Shasta as the sovereign Lord of every event, just as Jesus explains that he controls and designs Peter’s future. Then Shasta realizes that if this is true, Aslan rules the pains as well as the pleasures; Jesus tells Peter the same. Finally, Shasta asks about his friend, Aravis. But there Aslan stops, for what business is that of Shasta’s? Likewise, Peter is not told John’s future: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
This gospel ends with an unexpected word from the Lord, but it is one which launches us into our future with the foundation of our love for God. Let’s find what God says to us about our story and his role in it, beginning with John 21.18….
[Read John 21.18-25. Pray.]
One wonderful testimony of faith from church history is that of Hudson Taylor, the first missionary to the interior of China (in the mid-1800s). He was a great evangelist because he learn “to move man, through God, by prayer alone.”
To prepare for the loneliness and dangers of a possible missionary career, Taylor worked for a doctor in a poverty-stricken area of England known as Drainside (after the foul waste-ditch that ran through the community). One night after work (about ten o’clock), a poor man asked Taylor to pray over his wife who was dying:
“Up a miserable flight of stairs into a wretched room he led me, and oh, what a sight there presented itself! Four or five children stood about, their sunken cheeks and temples telling unmistakably the story of slow starvation, and lying on a wretched pallet was a poor, exhausted mother, with a tiny infant moaning at her side. ‘Ah!’ thought I, ‘if I had two shillings and a sixpence, instead of half-a-crown [in other words, change for the half crown, like a $5 and five $1s, rather than a $10 bill], how gladly should they have one-and-sixpence of it.’ But still a wretched unbelief prevented me from obeying the impulse to relieve their distress at the cost of all I possessed.
“It will scarcely seem strange that I was unable to say much to comfort these poor people. I needed comfort myself. I began to tell them, however, that they must not be cast down; that though their circumstances were very distressing there was a kind and loving Father in heaven. But something within me cried, ‘You hypocrite! Telling these unconverted people about a loving Father, and not prepared yourself to trust him without half-a-crown.’ I nearly choked,… yet strange to say I thought I should pray…and relief would come to them and to myself….
“But no sooner had I opened my lips with, ‘Our Father who art in heaven,’ than conscience said within, ‘Dare you mock God? Dare you kneel down and call him ‘Father’ with that half-crown in your pocket?’ Such a time of conflict came upon me as I had never experienced before…. I arose from my knees in great distress of mind. The poor man turned to me and said, ‘You see what a terrible state we are in, sir. If you can help us, for God’s sake do!’