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by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
One Sunday morning earlier this year, I was filling in for our pastor, Kim. Shortly before the service started, I realized there were no acolytes. Just as I was about to panic, the two Watkins cousins, Brooke and Paige, came in together. “Hey, can you guys acolyte?” I asked. “Sure!” they said in unison. They then dashed off toward the church office to get their candle lighters. The two of them are as close to being “old hands” at acolyting as anyone that young can be at doing anything, and I knew the job was in good hands and that the day—or at least the church service—had been saved. Afterward, I turned to Mike and said, “We should change the name of this church to ‘The Church Of The Last Minute.’” Mike joined me in a brief chuckle.
In movies and television shows, it’s a cliché that the “big save” happens at the last minute. We’ve all seen the bomb that stops counting down only when the timer reaches “00:01,” or the cop who shows up just as the bad guy is about to pull the trigger, or the rescuer who reaches out just as the victim can no longer hold on to his or her precarious perch. The same thing happens throughout the Bible. The truth is that we’re not only “The Church Of The Last Minute” but “The People Of The Last Minute.” And we have a God of the last minute as well.
We’re all familiar with the story of the time God asked Abraham to sacrifice the younger of his two sons, Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19). We’re told that Abraham had waited until he was one hundred years old to have a son by his equally aged wife, Sarah (21:5). And then God asked him to give up his son (21:1-2). Abraham cut wood for the burnt offering (vs. 3b), built an altar, laid the wood on the altar he had built, and tied up Isaac and laid him on on top of the wood (vs. 9). At the last minute, an angel called out to Abraham, “‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’” (vs. 12 ESV). Then Abraham looked and there was a ram stuck by its horns in a thicket (vs. 13) and Abraham sacrificed the ram instead of his son.
But this pales into insignificance when compared with the coming of Christ. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom, 5:6 ESV). Jesus came “in the nick of time.” Paul also wrote to the Christians in Galatia, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5 ESV).
We don’t always understand God’s timing though. After Lazarus died (John 11:1-44), his sister, Martha, said to Jesus, “‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:21a ESV). She had understandable questions about Jesus’ timing. But he said to her, “‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’” (vs. 25b-26a ESV). And of course then he raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead. Peter wrote in faith, “. . . with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, . . .” (2 Pet. 3:8b-9a ESV).
It’s odd to think of someone as young as Brooke or Paige saving the day but Jesus came to “save the day” as a baby. Having no acolytes that morning wouldn’t have been a calamity in the great scheme of things, either for our little church or for me personally, but having no savior surely would have been for all humanity. We not only have a God of the last minute but a savior for all time (Heb. 10:12-14). “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (vs. 14 ESV). This is the message we must proclaim: Jesus is Lord and Savior for all who receive him, just in time and for all time.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph. 1:7-10 ESV.)
Copyright © 2012 by David Phelps