In our home are several pieces of furniture that are more special to me than any other. Part of my affection for them is how they came to be ours. One is our dining room table, now over 80 years old, which came from the attic of my parents’ home. Another is a Hoosier Cabinet complete with flour sifter and pullout bread tray from the early 1900’s which came from Lynne’s great grandparent’s kitchen. A small triangular telephone table that served as the resting place for Lynne’s grandmother’s land-line telephone is the third. Last is a little child’s wooden chair that came out of the childcare facility which Lynne’s great-aunt owned and operated and Lynne attended.
Where these pieces of furniture came from and who owned them are big contributors to my affection for them, but not the biggest. The major contributor to my affection for them is all the sweat, toil, time, and expense I expended in refurbishing and refinishing each of them. My goal was to restore them as much as possible to their original condition and appearance by addressing chipped and faded finishes, loose legs, damaged drawer handles, and gouges and scrapes in the wood. After stripping off the old, discolored finish, after carefully sanding and smoothing the imperfections with sandpaper and fine steel wool, after making needed repairs, I then experienced the thrill of applying the new stain and seeing the wood grain come to life. Once I sealed the stain with a clear finish, I was not only pleased, but pleased as punch. I was very proud of how each looked and the work that I had done.
One time as I was refinishing one of them, the thought occurred to me that what I was doing in refinishing that piece was in a very small way what God does with human lives all the time. He restores them. God takes down and outs, up and outs, and all the outs in between who are either broken by the impact of sin, heavy-laden by the circumstances of life, hopeless due to shattered dreams and unfulfilled promises, or awkwardly suspended spiritually between faith and doubt, and He restores them to what He intended them to be when He created them.
Imagine what it must mean to God when He restores a life. Luke 15:10 tells us, “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” If that’s how angels feel, then how much additional joy must God experience when that restoration occurs – whether it be the restoration by means of a person’s initial salvation, or it is someone’s restoration from going astray as a believer. If I was pleased as punch and ready to bust my buttons when I finished restoring those four pieces of furniture, can you imagine how God feels when a broken life as described above is saved and restored by His grace. By His grace, I mean by those indescribable, unearned, and unmerited gifts He gives to repentant individuals. Gifts such as forgiveness of sin, and biblical hope built, not on the frailties and inconsistences of man’s wisdom, but on faith and understanding of God’s sovereignty, power, wisdom, holiness, mercy, lovingkindness, and truth as revealed in His word and powered by His Spirit. For example:
- Imagine what it meant to God when King David was restored after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had orchestrated what amounted to the murder of her husband Uriah. (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51)
- Imagine what a thrilling moment it must have been for God when Jesus took a woman He met at Jacob’s well and restored her from her empty, man-filled search for meaning and contentment in life. How? By leading her to believe that He was the Living Water for which she was truly thirsting. (John 4)
- Imagine God’s joy when a woman was caught in adultery and then brought to Jesus by the legalistic Pharisees in their attempt to trap Jesus. Instead of being condemned, she was restored and set free by Jesus to “go and sin no more.” (John 7:53 -8:11)
- Imagine God’s rejoicing when Simon Peter, filled with shame for denying Christ three times just hours after he had bragged that he would die for Christ, was restored to meaningful ministry by Christ along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. (John 21)
- Imagine the joy in God’s heart when a man named Saul was made new by Jesus on the road to Damascus, which he was traveling with intentions of persecuting, and even killing, every Christian he could find. That restoration included his commission by God to speak the name of Christ all over Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome. (Acts 9 ff)
Now relish this thought. If you have been restored by God through salvation by means of your repentance and reception of God’s initial gift of grace through faith, or if you as an unfaithful follower of Christ have been restored by God from your wanderings through your repentance and reception of His ongoing gift of grace, then if the angels in heaven are thrilled over you, just imagine how much more God is. After all, He’s the one who put in the toil, time, and expense to make our restorations possible.
Jerry Long, Minister of Pastoral Care