Last night, I was at the Nebraska State Fair. Third Day, a southern rock band from Atlanta, played a concert in our open-air auditorium. It was hot and humid, as you would expect for an August night in Nebraska. The concert started at 7:30. My friend, Dusty, and I arrived around 6:30, hoping to find a seat. Well, Third Day is a Christian band, so all the Lincolnite Christians were out with their Jesus t-shirts saving seats. (By the way, I never see anyone wear Christian t-shirts except at Christian concerts or music festivals. Perhaps that’s another blog.)
Saving seats frustrates me. I saw people using whatever they could to mark their territory. Juice boxes, Orbit gum packaging (are you serious?). I even saw a guy who had a meter stick with him. Whatever happened to using jackets or having your five year-old son lie down across the bench? Saving seats communicates, “I will have friends show up early and do the hard work, then I will show up five minutes before the show, call them on my cell phone, look around the crowd like I’m lost and confused, then find them and then sit down in my comfy seat.” Meanwhile, there I was, standing hopelessly against a cement block on an I-beam, content to watch the show from an angle that I don’t remember using in high school geometry. A security lady kept pacing our area telling us to move back, as if she didn’t want us to actually watch the show.
After standing and moving back for about 10 minutes, a lady walked up to Dusty and said, “Would you like one of these wristbands to go stand up in front of the stage during the show?” He looked and said, “Uh, yeah.” I looked at the kind, angelic lady and said in my ignorance, “What do I have to do to get one of those?” She replied, “All you have to do is say yes.” I looked at her as if she were giving me water in a desert and held out my wrist, “Oh yes,” I said.
She put the band on my wrist and I asked, “Do you have more?” Of course she did, so I asked if she could spare four of them for other friends who just arrived. “There are 150 of these,” she said, “so if you have other friends let me know.” Mind you, there were 3,000+ people at this concert. I looked at Dusty and laughed. “Want to go up front?” he asked. I felt like we were crossing over the Jordan to go to the Promise Land. For the entire 2 hour show, we eight feet from the band, singing, laughing, and praisin’ Jesus. It was incredible.
Good story huh? Lucky break, right? As soon as it all transpired I couldn’t help but compare it to God’s grace. This lady had looked at us, chosen us out of a large crowd, set her wristband affection on us and came to us, out of her own initiative and said, “Do you want this?” Then I, in my ignorance, still asked, “What do I have to do to get one of those?” as if I could have given her money or a corn dog. “All you have to do is say yes.” There was no part of me that could have said no. It was an irresistable calling. I had to say yes. I had to accept this free gift. So I did. But it didn’t stop there. I was so filled with joy that I looked at her and said, “Can you spare more for my friends.” I looked at my friends and said, “Do you want a wristband to go to the Promise Land known as front and center stage?” Then, in their joy, they gave up their standing-room only spot and exchanged it for concert bliss.
And so it is with God and us. His gospel is irresistable. He chose us, set his saving affection on us, and came to us out of his own initiative. He arrived on the scene when we were far off and at an extreme angle from the concert and said, “Do you want this? Do you want to experience the show in all its fullness? Do you want to want to taste and see the concert, instead of just hear it from afar?” When God effectually called me, I couldn’t say no. And everyone whom God effecutally calls will answer with joy and delight, “Yes, Lord, I want to go to the Promise Land.”