This is a picture of God and how I fit in to the big picture of God (see previous post for further explanation).
For me, prayer is like taking time on the sun lounger. Worship is similar. Church is realising that there are other people also on sun loungers (but being the imperfect people we are, a group of people together in the sunshine is not always the picnic it should be).
In CS Lewis’ well known book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the children visiting Narnia hear about the rightful king of Narnia, first of all from Mrs Beaver. Turns out he’s a lion called Aslan (and if you read the story as an allegory Aslan is Jesus).
‘Is he safe?’ says one of the children.
‘Goodness me, no’ says Mrs Beaver. ‘Aslan isn’t safe but he is good’.
God isn’t safe but he is good. So maybe my sunshine analogy isn’t quite so flawed. A ‘safe’ God would be feeble and powerless against evil. A God like that is frankly inadequate. But I can’t expect God to be powerful against the evil in the world and not want to do something with the flaws (evil even) found in me?
The danger of my metaphor is that someone will take it too far and assume that God will burn us up if we don’t shape up. For what it’s worth I don’t believe the medieval image of hell or in everlasting torment. But I do believe that faith can be refined like gold in fire (1 Peter 1:7) and that God isn’t necessarily ‘safe’ but He is good. We should expect to be challenged and changed.
At the moment I am encouraging my congregation to read the whole of the 2nd Letter of Timothy. It’s a letter written by Paul to Timothy, from an older Christian to a younger one.
I think it helps to keep this image of the Trinity in mind as you read the letter.
Here it is explicitly from Chapter 1 of 2nd Timothy (with my commentary in italics):
v 2 ‘May God our Father and the Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace mercy and peace (spot the first and second person of the Trinity)
v 7 ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline (Spot the third person of the Trinity)
v 9 ‘it is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life (on the sunlounger!) He did this not because we deserved it (that a relief because we don’t), but because that was his plan long before the world began to show love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all this plain (visible, in the way light makes things plain) to us by the coming of Christ Jesus, our Saviour, who broke the power of death and show us the way to everlasting life through the Good News’.
V 13, 14, ‘hold on the pattern of right teaching you learned from me (don’t lose sight of the big picture). And remember to live in the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus (stay on the sun lounger!). With the help of the Holy Spirit who lives within us (you are not alone), carefully guard what has been entrusted to you (the truth that you are loved)’