Have you ever known anyone who became so anxious with reading a story that he or she would skip to the last chapter to see how it ended? Years ago I remember someone telling me this was her strategy for reading books. For many of us this would ruin the story. However for her, knowing how the narrative tensions would be resolved enabled her to relax enough to read through the story.
I’m not convinced this is a great strategy for reading books. Nevertheless, it is a helpful way to live life.
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus or the New Testament writers tell us the end of the story? From Jesus telling his disciples that he is going to the Father to prepare a place for them to the dramatic imagery in Revelation of the victorious slain Lamb, the disciple knows how the story ends. We know how the story will end for God’s people.
In spite of anything we might be going through right now, in spite of how hopeless it might seem to our dim sight, if we have been crucified with Christ in baptism and persist in faith, we will inherit the eternal life God has promised. To allow Paul to say this and so much more:
“If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
Knowing the conclusion makes all of the difference in the world when the story describes us. If we belong to Christ, we know how our story will end.
With these thoughts in mind, Paul’s words make a lot of sense:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
No wonder that while he sat in prison writing this letter to the Philippian church, thoughts of rejoicing and peace gushed from his pen. Paul knew how his story would end. It is the end that matters. We can relax. It will be alright.