Encounter: Read slowly through Ruth 1:16-18, Ephesians 2:12-13, 19-22 & Acts 17:26-27 three times. Underline any words or phrases that are making an impression or shimmering as you read through the first time. Pray and begin to ask God what you need to see and understand in these passages.
Many years ago, I met a woman named Francisca down in the Baja when I was doing mission work with the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Francisca had lost her husband and her son and so she and her two daughters lived in a 5 X 8 shack made out of scrap metal and wood and they slept on the dirt floor and cooked their dinner on a hot plate. She was taken advantage of by the Latino farm-owners so for $30 a week She would work over 12 hours a day; 6 days a week in fields sprayed with toxic chemicals and pesticides so she and her daughters would not become beggars or starve to death.
When she wasn’t working, She and her daughters would walk over 2 miles over rough terrain without adequate shoes to go and worship the God who had revealed Himself to her in a vision a few years before. In the vision Jesus told her that there would be some people come to her house and invite her to a church and she was to go. And so now she was a Christ follower, a part of the family of God and though I think she only stood roughly 4.5 foot talI, I felt small in the presence of her faith.
As she sat and told me about all of her losses, she would stop and pray every few minutes as if Jesus was right there with us. Which of course He was; but it was very clear that in contrast to my westernized Christianity that insinuates that we follow God as long as He blesses us with prosperity and no suffering, and as long as we have a "positive confession," Francisca worshiped God in the midst of no prosperity, difficult days and hardship.
In the EPIC tales we read or watch, often our hero is in need of a second chance. Whether the path becomes too hard, their strength fails or they decide the hero's life is not for them, at some point they can’t quiet the voice of the Hero inside of them calling them to the journey of “long obedience in the same direction.” Julie reminds us in EPIC, “There’s redemption for all of us, Saints and Sinners alike. And I’m betting we all fall on different spots on that spectrum depending on the day. But I also know that God will give us a second chance if we’re willing to pay attention to his call.”
Francisca’s heart of faith reminded me of the story of Naomi and Ruth with the words of Ruth ringing in my ears, Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Like Ruth, Francisca worshiped God because He is God, she had experienced His presence and knew that in the midst of her difficult life circumstances, which may never change, He alone is her rock; he alone was her hope.
These were words spoken in the middle of a mess when “no hope” would have been the only road sign along the pathway she had to walk. Instead of becoming self absorbed in fear of the future, our hero faithfully serves, at times sacrificially, those around her while she listens for the guidance from her redeemer. She had no idea how her faithfulness would place her in the genealogy of our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Carolyn Custis James tells us in her book, The Gospel of Ruth, that Naomi’s story is a gift to the church, for it gives us another opportunity to talk honestly about our own misgivings about God and to witness how a woman’s life is transformed by the discovery that God’s love for her is rock solid, even though her circumstances indicate otherwise.” But this story is not just for women, Ruth shows us what love, loyalty, faithfulness and redemption look like when you commit your way to Yahweh. Ruth points to the living God and says to us, “Our God is the God of second chances.”
Walking this EPIC Journey with You,
Reflect: Think of a time when you or someone you love questioned God’s goodness in the middle of difficulties. Did you or they feel free or afraid to ask and wrestle with your question? Where do you see God offering you a second chance and if you haven’t asked for one yet, is it time. God is waiting for you to ask.
Encourage: The subject of God inevitably comes up when we are going through difficult circumstances or experiencing great losses. The bible speaks honestly and openly about God’s people when they suffer and are going through deep spiritual crises, and instead of concealing these negative stories invites us in to listen to an honest hero. How does this encourage your faith and doubt? Is there an opportunity for you to sit and listen to someone wrestle with finding hope in the midst of life’s challenges? Take time to reach out to them to be a safe place of encouragement. Are you being called to be a Ruth to a Naomi?
Gather: Discuss in your small group how our questions can draw us to God, instead of driving us away. What do you see in Ruth's life that makes her a hero in God's EPIC story?