The Best of All KnacksMarch 22, 2017
Book covers are supposed to raise questions. Sometimes, it’s the cover’s artwork; sometimes it’s the book’s title; sometimes it’s both. And if the book also has a sub-title (added perhaps to help the reader understand what the title means), all three of them might intentionally raise questions. In the case of GLORY IN THE FACE (that book that this blog goes on and on about), the cover, the title and the sub-title all raise one question---each one related to the others.
The artwork is a photograph of a very straight road heading east, towards the rising sun. The photo raises the question of what happens if someone travels that road.
As for the title, I knew in 2011, when it was the title of a sermon series, that people would simply question what the four words mean. “Glory in the Face?”, I knew they would say. “What in the world does that mean?”
And the question raised by the sub-title? What does “the face of Christ” have to do with “the strength to face anything”?
An author can’t expect that every potential reader will give time and energy to answering the questions that the book and its cover raises. But no one ever chooses to read a book with the hope that the questions it raises will never get answered.
With all of that in mind, I included in my little book “a practical question.” Then I answered it three times: in the 2nd, 4th and 6th chapters. Those three answers explain how we can (#1) know about Christ through our study of the Bible, how we can (#2) know Christ relationally because he “manifests” himself to us, and how to (#3) know Christ through God’s own spiritual revelation to our hearts. These are the three means by which we really can get to know Christ. The point is that growing in the knowledge of Christ IS the source of the strength we require (and always will require) to face anything—anything at all. Terminal cancer. A growing list of medical inconveniences. The permanent loss of things loved for many years. Those sorts of things.
There is a lot more to be said (or to be written) about this simple concept of the face of Christ, and facing difficulties, having to do with each other (which is why I wrote a book instead of a brochure or a booklet or a blog post.) But a blog post will do for passing on one simple principle: the more we really know Christ, the more he strengthens us to conquer—and even to become, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 8:37-39 ESV].
Sometimes, there is a knack to learning how to do some tricky thing. Riding a unicycle. “Solving” a Rubik’s Cube. Juggling tennis balls. Those sorts of things. How much the knack means to a person depends on how much that person would like to do that trick. If a person was convinced that the best of all possible knacks is the knack of becoming strong enough to face anything, that person might be more focussed on, and might give more effort and time to, knowing Christ.
No parent-like coach, or coach-like parent, has ever encouraged his "players" not to be so focussed. It is Jesus himself who identifies knowing “the only true God,” and knowing “Jesus Christ whom God has sent” as the whole point of the gift of eternal life (John 17:3 ESV). So that should be our focus.