The film The Grey tells the story of a group of oil drillers. One day they are on the way to Alaska when the their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. Eight people survive only to discover that they have just walked into in a territory full of wolves who hunt down human beings for food. The wolves begin to pick them out one by one until towards the end of the movie, the only person left is our main hero played by Liam Neeson.
Just when we think our hero has finally survived the wild wolves, he stumbles right into their den! So in that final dramatic scene, as our hero looks up to the heavens, he starts shouting arrogant obscenities at God and at the same time he is asking God for help. He tells God to prove he is not phony by saving his life! There is no response from heaven! Just silence. So our hero, says to himself, after an expletive, "I'll just do it myself".
And you guessed it, in typical Hollywood style, our hero makes a last stand against the leading Alpha Wolf and kills it with a broken bottle! The message of the film it is that life is a struggle surrounded the wolves of despair. Sadly, you cannot trust God to help you. God has left you in a Darwinian struggle on your own with the wolves! That message found in many films (e.g. Bourne films) stands in sharp contrast to what the Bible teaches us:
“and in Him all things hold together”
That is exactly the image Paul has in mind. Jesus is the lamin of the entire universe. He holds it all together! Who is this Jesus? Paul describes Jesus prior to that statement. He says, “...in him all things were created...all things have been created through him and for him” [Colossians 1:16]. Jesus is the Creator God, supreme over time and space. This Jesus did not just create the world and walk away, he continues to actively sustain all creation.
Notice Paul says Jesus holds it “together”. There is sense of orderly fashion to it. Jesus is not sustaining chaos, he sustains the university in a way that allows life to flourish! Jesus is the sustainer of all life. Indeed, by holding all things together, it means that He is intimately involved in every part of creation because if He is not in touch with all of them the whole thing will collapse. So it means that he understands and is concerned about everything.
There are parts of the created order that looks "wasted" from our the scientific vantage point. No human being or intelligent life thrives there. Many will never be visited by man. This verse tells us those parts matter to God because he holds them together. Philosophers wonder whether a "tree falling in the forest makes a sound" when no one is there to listen. This verse says it does make a noise because God is always there to hear the sound! He is the one who holds the tree and the forest together!
It is not just the natural world Jesus holds together. Jesus holds the economic, social and political system in the world and all human beings together. This means we can be sure that the world is not falling apart. In the end the doom merchants who tell us the world is out of control are wrong because Jesus holds all things together. The environmentalists who tell us that "mother nature" will wipe out wipe out all life are also wrong. Jesus holds all things together and He will never stop!
This should bring comfort to each and everyone of us. Your life is not falling apart. No matter what you are going through, it is not disintegrating into meaningless and oblivion because at the fundamental level it is held together by Jesus. Our lives look like they are falling apart only when we fail to look to Jesus the sustainer of all life. The moment we repent and turn to Jesus everything in life brought into its proper perspective.
Jesus holding the world together is what ultimately gives meaning and harmony in our lives. Where else will you find meaning? Human being tend to seek purpose for their existence by looking deep inside, we look for cohersion by getting hold of ourselves by our bootstraps. Mariah Carey’s famous hit song of the 1990s, captures this yearning when she sings:
“There's a hero if you look inside your heart/ You don't have to be afraid of what you are / There’s an answer if you reach into your soul/ And the sorrow that you know will melt away…”
The truth is that all of us have tried to look deep inside and we don’t like what we find there, and of course it never brings the ultimate meaning we long for. You cannot find meaning and harmony by looking deep inside, it is found outside of ourselves. Jesus is ultimately the one who holds all things together so it is to him we must look for meaning and cohesion.
This truth of Jesus as the sustainer of life ultimately challenges how we think about ourselves. We tend to veer between extremes. Sometimes we think we are the centre of the cosmos. We live for ourselves as if we hold the world together and can make things happen! We see this idea of man as everything particularly in eastern religions and western secular thought, which puts economic man first and everything second. Everything is about maximising our utility or satisfaction.
We encounter the other extreme when life goes wrong. We start thinking we are living a meaningless existence. The atheist and nihilist worldviews that inspired the movie Grey echo such futility. The truth is that one doesn't need to an atheist to feel like that. We have all felt meaninglessness when circumstances of life humble us and leave us empty.
In contrast to both extremes, the Bible gives us ultimate meaning by attaching our hope for meaning and cohesion to someone eternal. Some who holds us together - a mind and a purpose. This man who is God, Jesus Christ. As we reflect deeper on this Jesus as the sustainer, we see He also challenges the personal narratives we craft for ourselves : "I am valueless", “just a cog in the machine of life", "what I think does not matter"! In fact the you do matter to God because Jesus holds your life together. You matter because Jesus has made you matter!
So in the end the question we need to ask ourselves is this - are we looking to this Jesus who holds life together. Why did Paul insert these words in the middle of a letter to this young church at Colossae? Has he gone off track? No, he is saying to them and us that your life may be challenging and messy but Jesus holds it together! He is saying the key to enduring life's big challenges is to look to Jesus who holds life together! If you are a follower of Jesus, you have not been delivered by a weak God, you have come to a big God who holds every cell in your body together! Life may seem like Liam Neeson's pack of wolves but God created the wolves and he hold you and them together. He wants us to see life from this vantage point.
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Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2017
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