I love how movies often end with all the wrongs righted, the relationships sorted out, and a happy ending. Since life isn’t usually like that – its nice at least in the movies. Then comes the sequel. Toy Story had such a great ending with Woody and Buzz making peace so when the sequel came out they had to create some new drama. We find a new problem to be solved and new relational issues to reconcile with a little red haired gal named Jessie. Occasionally the sequel is pretty good though and Toy Story 2 is no exception.
As I’ve been reading through Joshua and Judges, I see God’s people living through some sequels. God has given them victory as they obeyed Him and marched around the walls of Jericho. They took the Promised Land when Joshua led them saying, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Like the end of great movie, we see them finally winning their battles after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Sometimes in my life, I’ll see God do a great work. He’ll give me victory over a bad habit, help me forgive someone fully, or deliver me from apathy or anxiety. Then comes “the sequel.”
Little thoughts start creeping up about a situation I thought I was fully delivered from. I stumble in an old sin pattern. Or worst of all, I lose my passion for God and get comfortable in predictable religious routines. I’d never thought that God may be leaving some battles in my life to test me and keep me sharp in battle… until God spelled it out through the pages of Scripture last week.
“The Lord left certain nations in the land to test those Israelites who had not participated in the wars of Canaan. He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle.” (Judges 3:1-2)
Although it can be a little discouraging to realize that this side of heaven there will always be another sequel – another relationship to work through, another problem to overcome, another battle to be fought, we know that God has purpose in it. He wants to keep us close, help us grow, and use every new difficulty as an opportunity for a new win. Even though Woody and his new friend Jessie got off to a bad start, they ultimately bonded in their fight for freedom. Sequels can sometimes be even better than the original.
As I read through Judges chapter 3, I find these insights about sequels that echo very loudly into my own life:
- God tests us to help reveal whether we will obey (He already knows – it helps us see our own hearts)
- Losing first and second round battles often comes through forgetfulness and complacency
- Small compromise leads to greater disobedience (God said not to intermarry and they disobeyed. This led them eventually to worshipping other gods. – Dominoes of disobedience)
- God gets angry when His kids go after worthless counterfeits because He loves us and wants to give us the real thing – Himself
- Even when we fail, He works out a plan to rescue us when we cry out to Him for help.
I’m not sure what sequel you’re in today. Here is mine…. busy-ness! The season where we celebrate Christ coming to earth can get so filled with parties, preparations, and activities – that time spent in His presence gets neglected. “Happy Birthday Jesus – I’m too busy to talk to you today.” This is sequel #40. A few of you reached out to me wondering why I hadn’t posted a blog in so long. Thank you! I needed the reminder to slow down, process what I’m reading, and not neglect things I value. Writing these blogs helps me so much in working through what God is teaching me on any given week. I know I need to spend time with what really matters. Choose to be Mary not Martha. Its tough especially at Christmas.
Whatever the continuing struggle is in your life today – remember that God wants to keep you sharp and longs to rescue you even if this sequel keeps playing out over and over. As He writes our stories, I pray we will allow Him to use even those same old struggles that keep creeping up as opportunities to grow and stay strong in battle.