The Fourth Act

by Jul 26, 2019Article

The Fourth Act

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

From our earliest years, we are taught the power of story. From The Cat in the Hat to Lord of the Rings, we learn to appreciate tales of the triumph of good over evil, of courage over fear and the power of the happy ending.

Most of the stories we read feature three acts. Act I, the scene is set and an inciting incident occurs. Act II, confrontation and rising action. Act III, climax and, ultimately, resolution. This pattern is so familiar that we look for it in any good story. We meet our hero, who is given a quest. Hero faces obstacle along the way. Hero overcomes obstacle, finishes quest and lives happily ever after.

It’s tempting to view the gospel through this same lens. Act I – the creation of a perfect, sinless world. Act II, sin enters the world and all of creation falls under its curse. Act III, Christ’s perfect death and resurrection breaks the power of sin and death and makes our redemption possible. But anyone who’s lived the Christian life for more than a moment knows that once we believe in Christ for our salvation, even though the power of sin is broken in our life, it doesn’t mean we live happily ever after here on earth. We still get sick. We still struggle with addiction and mental illness. We still wrestle with sinful thoughts and behaviors. We still see the pain of war, poverty, disease, greed, evil ambition and more in our broken world.

God, I thank You so much for the story that You are writing. Help us to trust You as the author of our story, to know that no experience is wasted and that you can redeem every sin and brokenness in our lives. Give us patience and hope as we long for the fourth Act and the ultimate resolution.

We need to remember that God’s script includes four acts, not three. After breaking the power of the curse in Act III, He decided to let us live in the in between for a while. In the reality of the already, but not yet. We are already redeemed, but not yet perfected. Act IV will begin with Christ’s triumphant return and conclude with the ushering in of eternity and us forever living in His glorious light. But for now, we live in this tension between Acts.

This helps us understand why our own stories don’t match with the ones we read in fiction. We see miraculous healing of a marriage or an illness, but wonder why the happily ever after is missing. We experience God’s breakthrough answers to prayer in our finances or in our addiction, but wonder why we still struggle. Why does life continue to be hard after I have this amazing story to tell?

We must remember that we are living in between Acts III and IV. It’s still important to tell our stories, to share what God has done and is doing in our lives and to spread the hope of the gospel. But none of our stories are over yet.

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