Imperfection Points to Perfection
We start this issue with a freeing perspective on suffering–when we see all that comes to us as God’s perfection, we are freed from our normal, negative, soul reactions to see Him and express Him in the situation.
Looking from heaven downwards rather than earth upwards, and realizing that God has always been nothing but the God of perfection, working all things after the counsel of His own will, we can see the whole problem of our chaotic world from a totally different point of view. The fact that God foreknew Satan’s and man’s disobedience and the resulting chaos, and had prepared the perfect remedy for it before it ever happened, gives us our key. Judgment and punishment there had to be, but He only ever predestined One to feel the full weight of His wrath, His only begotten Son. For all mankind He had only one purpose, to restore them in His Son to their original predestined perfection, and with them the whole fallen creation.
All, therefore, that happens to man in his present fallen condition has its own definite purpose–not of judgment, but of restoration. Suffering and sorrow is the will of God in this sense, that disobedience must have its due penalties and consequences, or there could be no ethical or rational basis to God’s government; but the purpose, in grace, is not penal, but redemptive. Imperfection in all forms is God’s finger pointing to perfection. It makes a tremendous difference to our outlook and actions when we realize this, for we learn to recognize that weakness, shortages, failures, disappointments, all that is short of the ideal, which are in God’s order for this age, are for one purpose only: as parables, as figures, as signposts, pointing to the hidden sufficiency: types pointing to prototypes. It is the dialectical relationship: if there are weaknesses, there is strength: if shortages, supply: if failures, success. Thus we read that Adam was "the figure of him that was to come" (Rom. 5:14)–the first Adam, the failure, pointed to the necessity in God’s purpose of perfection, of a last Adam, the fulfilment, and to the certainty that that Perfect One was already there in the invisible, ready to be revealed in due time.
In this same way all the earthly appearances of things are types and shadows; for in God, the Perfect One, the Creator, who could create nothing but perfection, it is obvious that all which falls short of perfection in our world is not in its original state, but has fallen from it, from sufficiency to lack, from health to disease, from order to disorder, and has to be restored. The ceremonial worship of the tabernacle is an example of this shadow-substance relationship; the pattern was already there in the invisible, given to Moses on the Mount, from which he made the earthly copy; the writer to the Hebrews called it the shadow of which the Christ-to-come was the substance. Jesus on earth saw all things in this light. Every earthly object was to Him the figure of its heavenly reality. Bread–the living bread: water
the living water: birth
the new birth: light
the light of the world: life
everlasting life. Human events and activities were all symbols to Him of eternal events and realities, and He used them as parables: the sower, the husbandman, the prodigal, the pearl, the mustard seed, sheep, coins, fish
What practical application has this for our daily lives? An important one. Every human situation of need with which we are faced is a voice from God saying to us: "That points to My fulness: that imperfection to My perfection: that need to My supply: that perplexity to My solution." The whole of life in its fallen state is a great finger-post pointing the way from the imperfect human to the perfect divine. But that would not be of much help if we were left with pointing signposts and an impassable gulf, only to be bridged in a future life. No. Jesus incarnate, crucified, resurrected and ascended has altered that. Grace has already bridged the gulf: from heaven to earth and back from earth to heaven. The result is that God permits needs in our lives that He may now supply them in Christ. That is the point. Needs, shortages, problems are summonses to faith. That is why they are God’s will. They are His necessary way of compelling us flesh-bound humans to recognize our earthly limitations, to be dissatisfied with them, to seek the way to transcend them, and to become agents of redemptive faith. There He stands just the other side of the barrier, beckoning to us and saying, "I am the answer, I am the supply. I have come to you in Christ. Receive Me in this situation." For need is a shadow. And what casts the shadow? The light. No light, no shadow. The light of God’s fulness shines on this world. The oppositions of Satan, to which we add the sin of unbelief, have interposed themselves and cast the shadows of the lacks of this life. Christ has come to destroy that intervening barrier. Then to those who believe Him, it is no longer a barrier but a bluff–a challenge to faith.
That may or may not mean that the actual material situation is changed. Very often it is. But it means that we look at all situations with God’s eyes. We see that in reality they are His situations, into which He has deliberately put us that He might be glorified in them. Therefore before we call, He is already answering, because He Himself has instigated this actual situation with His answer all prepared. Our calling is His stirring of us to feel the need and recognize that here is a situation in which God is going to do something. Our action then is to call on Him, in other words, to take the attitude of faith. Faith means that we turn our attention from the need to the Supplier who is already supplying that need, and who allowed the need because He intends to supply it to His glory. Therefore our calling on Him is our seeing Him and praising Him and confessing Him before men, and awaiting the manifestation of the supply.
Paul’s thorn in the flesh is a perfect illustration of this. Though a "messenger of Satan," God sent it, for it was "given" him for a deliberate purpose–to keep him from the subtle inroads of self-esteem, leading to self-reliance. The trial was deep and prolonged (probably increasing blindness). At first he thought that the One who had done physical miracles in other bodies through him would do the same in him. But no. After three separate appeals, we may suppose with intervals between each, God’s word came clear to him. He was to prove the power of God in his weakness, not from it; not by deliverance from it, but by constant ability to transcend it. The Supplier had met his need–this time as abounding spiritual supply overflowing an ever-present physical need. A seeking faith became a praising faith, and reaching out over all the unending trials and sufferings of his pioneer life, he gathered them up in one embrace of praise and thanks for all of them (2 Cor. 12: 10), and especially for the blessedness of that basic lesson for all time: "when I am weak, then am I strong."
And, far more important, when his own lesson had been well-learned, his testimony has transmitted the secret, even more clearly than Job himself, to millions of succeeding generations. Our trials are God’s trials, given us for a purpose, exactly suited to us. Our lacks are God’s lacks, our perplexities are God’s perplexities. Before the trials, God has already prepared the deliverance and sends us the trials that He may manifest Himself through them. The trial is to stimulate faith, and faith is seeing Him who is invisible. As we do this, in praise and expectation, He gives the answer. It may or may not be the kind of deliverance we anticipate. But it will be what we can recognize and receive with joy as His answer, and to which we can testify. The need will have been wholly met by His supply in His way, and, as a pebble thrown into a pond, the widening circles of the testimony will do their redemptive work far beyond our knowledge.
—The Deep Things of God
For many years after his retirement as General Secretary of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, Norman Grubb traveled extensively sharing the truth of our union with Christ. He was the author of many books and pamphlets, a number of which are available through the Zerubbabel Book Ministry. Norman P. Grubb entered the Kingdom at 98 years of age.