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photo: CCO public domain

This week, I was putting together some information for something I’m working on with another friend when I realized that much of the content could be shared, with a slightly different twist. I love two-fers!

Rags to riches…it is the story of all true Christians.

But it isn’t the same rags to riches story we see in the movies. In the movies, the girl is struggling to work hard and barely make it on her own. Then, in some form or fashion, she meets prince Charming and she leaves her old life behind, living in a castle, in bliss for the rest of her life! (or some form of the above.)

On many levels, it isn’t like real life at all, much less the Christian life. No wonder our expectations of marriage are so askew! No wonder our expectation of the Christian life are off center as well. We, like the disciples and many of Jesus’ early followers, hear what we want to hear about what it means to follow Jesus.

We see the exciting miracles, the promise of heaven, joy, peace and forgiveness. Of course, we want that!

But we are tone deaf to the command to take up our cross daily and follow Him…and all the drudgery that can entail! We don’t want to hear the command to love GOD with all your heart, soul and mind…and your neighbor as yourself. Particularly when the illustration given included the story of the good Samaritan. That is entirely too inconvenient! It doesn’t fit well into our schedule for the day, to say nothing of being very uncomfortable.

But we are tone deaf to the command to take up our cross daily and follow Him...and all the drudgery that can entail! Click To Tweet

The thing about this rags to riches story is that you and I are still raggy Cinderellas naturally. The riches come from Christ. He is the One with all the resources for us. It’s true that once we are “in Christ”, we have amazing resources to draw on. It’s true that He is changing us so that our desires are becoming more like His…but the process is slow. It doesn’t move nearly as fast as we would like.

What are the riches being talked about when it comes to the gospel?

Does it have anything to do with financial wealth as some say? or physical health as others preach? or a comfortable life here on earth? I can’t find it anywhere in Jesus’ teachings or example.

Jesus didn’t give any indication of it when He said in response to someone’s quest to follow Him.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Luke 9:58

So what are our riches? They are spoken of often in Paul’s epistles particularly. One of our riches is found in GOD Himself!

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Romans 11:33

Or how about the riches of His grace that is lavished on us, evidenced by our redemption? It is something we often take for granted, but it is no small thing! To appreciate the wealth of this, we need to understand the depth of our personal sin…even we see ourselves as pretty good. In light of the righteousness of GOD, we are a mess!

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.

Ephesians 1:7-9

And then, we enjoy the richness of GOD’s mercy, love, grace and kindness.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:4-10

And finally, the riches of His inheritance to the saints (that’s us)! It’s all stated here for our encouragement.

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…

Ephesians 1:18-20

I’ll pass on one more, for you to think about. What riches have GOD provided for me to do His will? Am I focused where He wants me to be or am I doing a lot of busy work that isn’t lasting for the kingdom? Diapers, cooking meals, doing laundry, cleaning your house and washing dishes may feel like they fall into that category, but they don’t. Some of our best ministry happens there if we allow it.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21

With that hopeful and encouraging benediction echoing in our ears, let us move out in the riches of the Gospel with hope and power to do His will as He works in us for His glory!

Does this all sound fluffy and abstract? It really isn’t. The working out of the Gospel in your life and mine shows in the way we love each our family, inside the family of GOD (our Church Body), in our community, and into the world. It is rarely convenient. For some of us, more time is spent with other Christians, for others, more time is spent with those who don’t know Christ, for still others, it is a mix. But no matter where GOD places us, our calling is not always easy if we are loving and serving the way He wants. But He lavishes us with grace to give and serve no matter where we are. No matter who we need to serve.

That’s when we know the story has become a rags to riches story. Because He has provided the riches to do what He wants, often enough that we can look and say, “Thanks be to GOD for a rich life!”