This is a quote from the first chapter of Don Miller’s captivating book called, Searching for God Knows What. Miller is a post-modern writer who sets down his thesis pretty well right at the start — that knowing God can’t be reduced to simple formulas that tend to be characteristic of a bunch of self-help books and a whole variety of Christian writings too. The “fine wine” idea suggests that the richness of the Christian faith is only discovered through the experiences of faith based on the truth God has revealed in the Bible.
It is true that we are often simplistic in the way we view life and faith, seeking to reduce it to formulas that will guarantee success. Miller’s main point is that success in its finest definition does not come by following a certain set of rules, but from a relationship with God in which He communicates with us by His Spirit in line with His Word and in which we communicate with Him by prayer and worship.
This week has certainly had its highs and lows for me. I felt good about the things that I had accomplished, the people I had seen, and the way much of my life was ordered of the Lord. (With God’s help, I was able to write what I considered to be a fairly decent article for the Clergy Comment section of the local newspaper on why the Government should vote to retain the traditional definition of marriage.) But there were also times that were anything but wonderful in the sense that they turned out just like I had hoped or imagined. Take this morning, for example. I was all ready to do my last presentation of a three-part series in a class at church on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. I had spent considerable time preparing the PowerPoint with all the biblical texts and comments. I considered that the presentation would be a great wrap-up for the four or half-dozen people that I imagined might be there, having expressed such interest in the subject earlier.
But last night it snowed buckets! I shoveled the drive-way in a sweat, fought my way to church and got all set up for the presentation only to conclude that no one would be coming to the class today. Blaaaah! How could it be that after such diligent labour on such a God-honouring subject, this worthy presentation could be reduced to a no-show? I spent my time doing other things like folding and stuffing the hand-out for the morning, talking to children, and meeting with others for pre-service prayer. All the while I determined to praise the Lord in the midst of this sense of loss.
There was nothing terribly dramatic about life today. Carolyn and I picked up a flower and card to deliver to someone who had undergone surgery recently, only to discover that no one was home! We came home; I shoveled the drive-way some more, slept, visited my mother-in-law (including a bit of hymn-sing), did some reading, sent some e-mails, watched the evening news, and did some of this.
So where was God in the midst of these efforts to please Him? Don Miller’s answer (and mine) probably would be that He was there all the time. Serving God is not about seeing fabulous miracles (though you’d be surprised how they appear if you look for them); worshipping Him is about believing He is there even when it appears He is not, simply because He said He would be (i.e. Hebrews 13:5). It’s loving Him even when things don’t go like you think they will or should. It’s knowing that He keeps a record of every expression of faith that will be rewarded in His own good time and way, perhaps only in eternity.
Don Miller says, “…the facts of reality stink.” His friend answers, “Reality is like a fine wine. It will not appeal to children.” It’s a way of saying that Christian maturity only comes by way of deeper experiences of faith in which one continues to believe even when things don’t always turn out as one plans or prays. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).