In the summer of 2002, a coal mining accident left nine Pennsylvania men trapped 240 feet underground. For three days the men huddled in the darkness of a cramped space that had filled almost to the top with 55 degree water.
On the surface, a nation watched as rescue efforts dragged on longer than expected. Broken drill bits hampered attempts to dig an escape shaft through solid rock. Finally, after three long days and nights, rescuers broke through to the air pocket below. A few minutes of confusion followed. Then three emotion-filled words spread through the crowd of waiting families and neighbors: “They’re all alive.”
The odds were beat that day. Prayers were answered. A feared outcome was dodged. A mining community added to its memories a story that CNN.com remembers as “The Quecreek Miracle.”
It’s natural in a crisis for even secular people to have God on their lips. We don’t have to see angels to know there is more to life than what we can see. Our own experience anticipates what the Bible confirms. Whether seen or not, there is a connection to all human experience. Any goodness is from God. Any happiness is a hint of heaven. Any danger reflects the greatest danger. Any rescue foreshadows the ultimate deliverance predicted in the last words of the Bible.
For some of us, it may be a stretch to connect the dots between the moments of our lives and the “last days” predictions of the Bible. But, if Jesus can be trusted, there is a real link between his offer of “daily bread” now and ultimate rescue later. The same Lord who offers, in the Gospels, to walk with us in our daily needs, ends the book of Revelation with the promise, “‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (22:20-21). These are the last words of the Bible.
If this doesn’t sound like the type of Savior we need to survive the concerns of today and the apocalyptic culminations of the last days, we don’t understand the scope of our need.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells the stories of people who think they can go it on their own, until something brings them to the end of themselves. Only then are they likely to admit, to their own loss, that they have been ignoring the One who is offering them strength for the day and hope for the future.
The “chosen people” we meet in the pages of the Bible are a mirror of our tendency to be our own worst enemy. Throughout their history, the people of Israel have been inclined to focus on the threat of their natural enemies. What their prophets repeatedly told them, however, was that the threat of war, weather, or disease was not nearly as dangerous as their own inclination to turn their backs on God whenever a crisis had passed.
Because we need Him in good times as well as in bad, the Scriptures urge us to focus all of our lives on the One who has promised, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Christ may come today. Or He may come tomorrow or 100 years from now. But that’s His decision, not ours. Our part is to make sure that if He does come today, He will find us doing His business rather than our own.
Doing His work means looking for His return, but not waiting. It means living with an expanded anticipation of possibilities.
Maybe today we will find the grace of Christ to be better than the relief we are seeking. The apostle Paul repeatedly asked the Lord to remove an unnamed “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). But when the problem remained, Paul surrendered to God’s purpose in the pain. He discovered that he would rather experience God’s strength in his weakness than to have no problem and no sense of how desperately he needed the enabling grace of his Lord.
Maybe today we will have an opportunity to bring the rescue of Christ to someone in need. This is the high purpose of God. All who have discovered the love of Christ have been called to care for others as He has given Himself for us. Our call is to work together with Him as His hands and feet to the needy and lonely people in our lives. The challenge is not merely to wait, but to keep on praying, working, and watching, in the spirit and purpose of our Lord.
Maybe today we will see our Lord rescue us through physical death. Because we don’t know if Christ will return in our lifetime, we need to be realistic about our own mortality. While the will to live is a gift of our Creator, we must also come to terms with a willingness to die in Christ, if that is the will of our God. Only by being ready to meet Him in life or in death can we find the courage to live without an obsession with self-protection and fear.
Maybe today Christ will come. This is the hope that re-emerges when we have our eyes refocused on the ultimate rescue of Christ.
Father in heaven, please help us to live with the highest of hopes today. We are not proud of the fact that we are inclined to look only for the satisfactions of the moment. For all of the good pleasures of life, we are thankful. But please help us to look for opportunities to be Your hands and feet to those who need to join us in being ready for the One who said, “Surely I am coming quickly.”