by David Sisler

“One more surprise,” the man said, “and I won’t make it.”

Once a contractor with multimillion dollar accounts, now he often refigures bids to the point of eliminating all but the basic costs, just to get a job. On his last two bids, he totally eliminated all profit for his company. He bid enough to pay for the materials and pay his men. Nothing more.

His leading sub-contractor filed for bankruptcy. Having worked with the man for over ten years, the contractor trusted the sub. Over half of the job was paid for, but only one-fourth of the work had been completed. When he received notice of bankruptcy, the contractor had to use his personal finances to hire another sub-contractor to complete the work. There was no money in the bid to cover the extra cost.

Compaction tests revealed the soil needed more work than was originally thought.

The architect found a flaw in the design of the building which required a substantial delay in the project.

Then his foreman suddenly quit and went to work with a rival firm.

Can you understand why the contractor said, “One more surprise, and I’ll be down for the count?”

You may never have had a glass of wine in your life, but if someone asked who produces the best wines, South Africa or France, you might say, “I didn’t know South Africa produced wine.” Then you’d probably correctly guess, “France.”

In South Africa the grapes have an ideal climate. There are no extremes – it is never too hot or too cold. In France the grapes are subjected to violent climate conditions. If the grapes survive, they have a quality no other grapes in the world can match – because of the hardships.

Those are two elements of the Christian life – surprises and hardships. There is one more element.

The Apostle Paul was addressing an unusual group of believers, the Christian community in Corinth. Corinth was a center of drunkenness, prostitution and paganism. Those believers faced every temptation, every hardship, every surprise you could imagine, and Paul wrote to them about love.

“If you could speak every human language and the language of angels, but you did not have love, your speaking would amount to nothing. If you had the gift of prophecy so you could understand every spiritual event which happened, but you did not have love, your gift would amount to nothing. If you gave away everything you owned to benefit the poor, and if you actually sacrificed your own body, and did not have love, your sacrifice would amount to nothing.”

When man defines love, he does it in a very different fashion from the way God defines love. The prodigal son gave a good definition of love, from man’s point of view.

“I’ll settle for a job with wages, just enough to feed my belly,” he said. “I’ll take a room outside of the main house, just enough to stay out of the weather. I’ll accept the status of a hired servant. I do not expect to receive forgiveness or restoration. After all I’ve done to my Father, to receive that much love would be more than I would deserve.”

Man would settle for that and call it love. God would not. The father of the prodigal son represented God. He said, “You will live in my house. You have always been my son. You will continue to be nothing less than my son. I give you the power of my ring and the honor of my robe and sandals. I give you unlimited forgiveness. You have nothing to prove to anyone.”

You can understand the builder who said, ”One more surprise, and I’ll be down for the count.”

You understand hardship, so much more than the grapes of France.

Do you also understand, like the believers in Corinth, and the prodigal son, the total, unlimited, unrestrained love of God? What a surprise!


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