It is often hard for us to see the impact our lives make. Sure, it’s far easier for us to see the impact that others have on the world around, particularly if those people are famous as a result of that impact. Take great world-renowned leaders such as Churchill, Luther-King or Gandhi; Inventors like Bell, Edison or Fleming; Scientists such as Newton, Galileo or Einstein; Writers like Hardy, Bronte or Shakespeare; Or leaders of great religious movements like Whitfield, Edwards or the Wesley Brothers. But what about the rest of us, those who live ‘ordinary’ lives?
Maybe a movie can help us to see how our ‘ordinary’ lives have an extraordinary impact on the world. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a 1946 film directed and produced by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. The story unfolds around events in the life of George Bailey, played by Stewart. It beings one snowy Christmas eve with a clearly distressed Bailey contemplating ending his life. As the reasons for his distress become clear we become ever more aware that, due to his selflessness, George Bailey’s life has not turned out as he wished. For example, when he was young George saved his brother’s life by rescuing him from a frozen pond. Sadly, as a result George lost hearing in one ear. George’s dream is to travel and see the world, however his selflessness holds him back at every juncture. It takes a visit from his ‘Guardian Angel’ Clarence Odbody for George to see the true value of his life. Having wished he had ‘never been born’ Clarence takes George on a journey to see what life would have been like without his selfless interventions. Without George the town is a distinctly darker place and he begins to see how his life has impacted those around him. For example, George did not save his brother from the frozen pond, which in-turn meant his brother did not enlist as fighter pilot in the war and failed to win the Medal of Honor for his saving of many lives.
In fact, the bible shows an important key in helping interpret these events. Writing to the Christians in Rome, church leader and planter Paul writes “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”
Contained here are three noteworthy statements:
1. First we learn that this principle applies to those that “love God.” Christians are called to have a different view of the events of their lives, as these events are God ordained. Peter puts it this way, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
2. We also learn of “His Purpose.” God’s over-riding desire is to get the whole of creation back on track from its fallen state. This is a work of Redemption. According to DeVern Fromke, quoting Habakkuk, in his excellent book “Ultimate Intention” God’s desire is “for the earth [to] be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.“
3. Finally, the phrase “all things” which covers the entire range of events we are exposed to in our lives. A famous bumper-sticker in the US uses the cruder “[stuff] happens!” The writer of the book of Hebrews put’s it in the context of a father disciplining his children: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
These three principles can clearly be seen at work in the life of Joseph:
– rejected and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.
– thrown in jail for a crime he did not commit and repeatedly forgotten.
– released to serve the king and become prime minister, all in one day!
– and in doing so saving his entire family, including the bothers that rejected him.
After these ordeals, the older and wiser Joseph turns to his brothers and says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”