[He who began a good work in you]
Consider for a moment Luke Skywalker, an eager Padawan who’s gung-ho to begin his training to become a Jedi warrior.
If you aren’t a “Star Wars” fan, a Padawan is basically a student or apprentice undergoing basic training. We too, as followers of Jesus, are in training. This means that we must undergo the discipline and trials it takes to become what God wants us to become.
“My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need.” –1 Peter 4:12
When Luke first meets Yoda (in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) Luke is quite irritated to be on this swampy planet in the Dagobah system. When He encounters Yoda he is both eager and agitated as Yoda takes his time assessing him. Master Yoda tests Luke by hiding the fact that he is the “great warrior,” that Luke seeks.
Luke prejudges Yoda, and the reality that this peculiar creature could be the “great warrior” that he endeavours to find, never crosses his mind. Yoda remarks at Luke’s preconceived notions of this “great warrior” with, “Ooh warrior, war not make one great.”
Yoda then leads Luke to his home in the swamp where he continues to assess him to the point that Luke, in his frustration, blurts out, “Oh, what am I even doing here!? We’re wasting our time!”
We, too, can have preconceived notions about God, most often underestimating Him; His love for us; His willingness to work on our behalf; His patience; and just what it is that He’s capable of doing in our lives.
After Luke’s impatient outburst, Yoda then speaks to the Spirit of Master Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, “I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.” Obi-Wan responds to Yoda with, “He will learn patience.” as an eager Luke exasperatedly refutes Yoda’s claim.
Jesus also tells us that we can be unteachable; If we don’t carry our cross, this renders us unteachable. Why? Because to carry one’s cross means to be willing to die to one’s self.
Dieing to ourself means giving up our life (our will) for God’s will. We deny ourselves to accept our new life in Christ. If we don’t, we can’t be His disciple (His student) because we haven’t accepted Him as our Teacher.
“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke:14:27)
Like Obi-Wan, God is also patient with us, and slow to anger as we train under his wise instruction (Psalm 103:8) Here’s the thing though, we have to be willing to listen, and then prepared to act.
Yoda continues to voice that there is much anger in Luke, as well as the fact that he’s reckless (among the many other complaints that Yoda has against this Jedi-Knight wannabe). Obi-Wan responds with, “I was once like him as well, if you remember.”
We all can be, and have been, like Luke. We become impatient when things aren’t moving along as fast as we’d like them to, or simply aren’t going our way, but God takes His time with us as Yoda did, testing us even.
Trials and testing are for our own benefit, and even when we make our mistakes, there’s an opportunity to learn and grow there as well. Your mistakes, and the mistakes of others who’ve thrown you off course, are not the end of the story; all of it is part of the training we all must undergo to reap the rewards.
Yoda wasn’t convinced that Luke was a suitable candidate for training, telling Obi-wan that Luke wasn’t focused enough for the task. He expressed that he’d had his eye on Luke for some time and that Luke always had his eyes on the horizon, never on the task at hand. Doubtfully, Yoda disapprovingly observed, “Never his mind on where he was; what he was doing.”
Jesus too states things plainly, and He doesn’t pull any punches. Jesus puts it this way, “those who begin to plow but keep looking back aren’t any use to the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
Here’s the thing, we can’t move forward if we’re chained to our past. We can’t live a new life if we aren’t willing to give up the old one. It just won’t work.
When faced with the challenging task of raising the X-wing from the swamp, Luke says to Yoda, “I can’t.” When corrected, Luke replies that he’ll “try,” but Yoda refuses this answer by stating: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
Funny to me now, Andrew said a similar thing to me when I wasn’t sure about becoming a Christian. He said, “There is no I don’t know, it’s either yes or no.”
God also spoke something similar when I was putting off my baptism: “If you don’t just do it, you’ll never do it.” I believed it. The pattern needed to be broken, and I did get baptized (not without some fear, but I did it anyways).
Over the years I’ve come to understand that God’s training is more of an unlearning rather than a learning. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Star Wars, but somehow I missed that Yoda says the very same thing to Luke: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
After Luke tries to raise the X-wing from the swamp and fails, Yoda raises it himself, and Luke breathlessly says, “I don’t believe it.” Then Yoda blatantly replies, “This is why you fail.”
Jesus too tells us that all things are possible for those who believe. A man whose son had an evil Spirit brought his son to Jesus followers for help. Soon an argument ensues between the teachers of the law and the disciples. Why? The disciples aren’t able cast out the evil Spirit. Jesus rebukes His disciples for not believing, and begins speaking to the man who’s son is in need of help.
The father says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, please have pity on us and help us.” Jesus responds with, “You said, if you can! All things are possible for those who believe.”
Without hesitation the father cries out, “I do believe, Help me to believe more!” Jesus then speaks to the evil Spirit commanding it to come out of the boy and to never enter him again. The Spirit screams, convulses the boys body and then comes out (Mark 9:14-26).
After this the followers ask Jesus why they couldn’t force the evil Spirit out, so Jesus tells them that this kind of Spirit can only be forced out by prayer. (Mark 9:28-29)
I don’t know if the disciples caught this, but the father’s “I do believe, Help me to believe more!” was the prayer that prompted Jesus to act.
Jesus had rebuked His disciples for not believing. Therefore, when we say “I can’t” as Luke did, what we’re really saying is we don’t believe that Jesus is able. (Ouch, more prayer needed.) We all do it, and we all need to pray, “Help me to believe more!”
Because a good father leads by example, Jesus was sent to be our Teacher and our example. Not only was Jesus our “Jedi Master,” for the sake of this comparison, He also demonstrated how we’re to behave as God’s sons and daughters. If we don’t know how to be a child to God we’re to look to Jesus for our example and emulate Him. (That means more study is needed, as well).
God allows us the time it will take to train us in His ways, allowing for our mistakes, as well, so the pressure we feel to get everything right in our own strength is a mistake in our understanding.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. –Psalm 103:8
We simply must be trained and tested because testing reveals our weaknesses; where we’re going wrong; and what the next course of action should be. Where we fail is where we need more study and prayer.
God’s plan, then, has always been to prosper you, to give you hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). So, set your sights on the bright future that awaits you, trusting that He has every intention of finishing what He’s started.
“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”