THE REST IS THE BEST
© 2015 Robert E. Baxter
Started March 24, 2006, continued online April 25, 2015
This is a book in progress. I am creating it on my webpage. I started it at 4:40 a.m. on April 25, 2015. My intention is to let family and friends read the book as it is written. They can make suggestions for improvements as it develops. If you are a friend I have not yet met, welcome! I cherish your input. My email is email@example.com.
At the Wedding where the Lord Jesus Christ performed his first miracle, the host said something wiser than he knew. He said, “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” John 2:10 (KJV) That is characteristic of God’s work. He saves the best for last. After God created the heavens and the earth in six days, He rested. The rest was the best, and He called it the Sabbath. In this book I will quote Scripture from the King James Version because it avoids copyright issues and helps to maintain a classic elegance. I will explain any archaic language when necessary. I was ordained on Mother’s Day, 1957, and I have been explaining the Bible for almost 60 years.
My first book was AIM HIGH! Published in 1977, it was a paraphrase of Richard Baxter’s classic The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, published in 1650. That book is about what God has in store for His people in the future. God’s work keeps getting better and better. It is a good way to live.
I have always thought that my best sermon would be my next sermon. That propels me forward. It gilds my life with hope. I hope this book will live up to its title!
How the Rest Can Become the Best
Think or sink! I want to show you the way to be buoyant in life. Those who have learned how to float in water know the technique to keep them from drowning. I want to show you the outlook that will keep you buoyant.
What is the gnawing problem deep in your brain right now? It might be like a loud alarm grabbing your attention. Pain will do that. It’s hard to ignore, but it has a good purpose. It tells you when something is wrong. Whatever is troubling you right now, may prompt you to read this book and learn how the rest of the story can become the best of the story for you.
Some problems are so perplexing, you don't know what you are going to do. But GOD knows what HE will do. Our Lord knows “the best of the story.” He is the Good Shepherd, and one of the benefits of being His sheep is that all we have to do is follow. Sheep can’t see very far ahead. They have poor eyesight. Come to think of it, we can’t see very far ahead either. We can’t see beyond today. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we follow the One who holds tomorrow.
Some of my readers may not know who God is or if He is. Many have become persuaded by the evidence of quantum physics and genetics that there is divine design in this universe. They do not all know the Creator of it all personally. If you think at all, you know such a Creator must be very much beyond our understanding but also great enough to communicate with us in ways we can understand. Although He is far greater than we are, he must be no less than we are. He must have personality and have a plan. It is the rest of His plan for our lives that is the emphasis of this book. Let’s look beyond where we are to what we can become.
My family doctor told me that cataract surgery is minor surgery if someone else is having it! My doctor is no-nonsense serious about treating his patients, but he knows I enjoy humor. I am passionately serious about everything I write in this book, but I’ll season it for you with some humor.
I dreaded the thought of the surgeon sticking his scalpel into my eye! But I believed that the best of the story would be to see clearly afterwards. I dreaded the trip but longed for the destination.
My vision had been 20/200, which is legally blind. After my eye surgeries and implant of new lenses, I saw colors more vividly and could read street signs that were blurry before. I could enjoy watching TV again, if I could find a good program.
I was relieved that nothing about the surgery hurt, unless it was the insertion of the intravenous needle to give me the anesthetic. That’s why nothing hurt. So I gave thanks to the Lord for the poke too. It was the great blessing of anesthesia. A month later in preparation for the operation on my other eye, I purposely watched as I felt the prick of the needle. I thanked God it. I was simply enjoying the destination in advance. I believed that the BEST OF THE STORY was ahead and was thereby enjoying the trip by faith.
Before the surgeon removed my cataract and inserted a new lens in my eye, he stood at my side and prayed. He asked God to make the surgery successful. The next day in his office after examining my eye, he prayed again to thank God. I heard him tell his nurse, “The incision is sealed.” At the next appointment he used a significantly different word. He said, “The incision is healed.” When he prayed again, I gave a hearty “AMEN.”
We borrow some of the joy of the future by trusting in it now. Enjoying the destination by faith enhances the trip. Our eyes are blind to the future; we see only the present. Our minds, however, can reach out with vision to the best of the story. It is more than a matter of optimism or pessimism. A pessimistic mind won't believe that the story will improve, but an optimistic mind won’t believe that the story could worsen. A realistic mind will act now to make the rest of the story the best of the story.
TODAY is a slender slice of eternity. Yesterday is but a memory. Tomorrow is a hazy hope. The present is where we live! But when the present is not pleasant, we need to know that there is a way to renovate the rest of the story into the best of the story.
A familiar voice has made five words memorable to us all. Paul Harvey is famous for “the rest of the story.” Five generations of my family have enjoyed Paul Harvey’s lively commentary. My grandfather was an enthusiastic fan of his and tried to impersonate his inimitable voice. While I was preaching for sixty years, Paul Harvey was broadcasting for over seventy. In 1976, he started the series of radio programs on the ABC Radio Networks called “The Rest of the Story.” That’s the only thing I have against him, that he beat me to that niche that I would love to have had in preaching. I could have strung the pearls of the Bible on that thread, since the BIBLE is forever telling “the rest of the story.”
The Bible repeatedly shows how the rest of the story becomes the BEST of the story. Think of the woman who had been sick 12 years and spent all her money on doctors, yet none had been able to help her until Jesus came into her life. That was the best of the story for her.
Think of the man by the pool in Bethesda who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. He couldn’t walk until Jesus walked into his life and said, “Take up your bed, and walk!” Think of the nobleman whose son was dying, who came to Jesus and because of that problem that brought him to Jesus, he and his whole household were saved! THE BEST OF THE STORY was a wonderful improvement for them—from the moment at which Jesus stepped into their lives.
Think of that man in John 9, who was blind from birth and wondered WHY. Jesus told him why—to display the glory of God! The blind man SAW the best of the story when the AUTHOR wrote Himself into it. The lights came on when Jesus came in. But we don’t see all of the story WHILE we are still living it.
Think of the heroes of the faith, name them one by one. Jonah was down in the mouth for sure when the fish swallowed him! Daniel in the lion’s den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace—they all needed the rest of the story to understand that God knew what he would do. The rest of the story would be the BEST of the story.
Think of Job, having lost his whole family, wealth, and health; think of Abraham and Sarah, childless; consider Joseph in the prison. Their lives were all defined by THE BEST OF THE STORY. So is yours, whatever your present problems may be.
Think of blind Samson grinding in the prison, the weeping prophet Jeremiah down in the pit, the widow of Nain weeping for her only son who was dead, they all experienced the “Best of the Story” later!
Remember Jacob grieving for Joseph, and saying, “I will go down to the grave mourning for my son.” No, Jacob, you will go down to Egypt rejoicing to see your son again! Wait for the best of the story! Living by faith involves trusting God for the best of the rest. As I read these stories in Scripture, I realize that their lives were moving toward the BEST.
The ultimate example of the best of the story, was what followed the SUFFERING of Christ on the cross. His Crucifixion was surpassed by His Resurrection and Ascension. It wasn’t over on Friday! It’s what followed on Sunday that provided the best of the story. So if it’s Friday in your life right now, remember SUNDAY is coming!
Communists used to demean the Christian hope in heaven by calling it waiting for “pie in the sky by and by.” Clever preachers saw that it was really“steak on your plate while you wait.” The truth is that many believers who trust God have plenty of trouble on their plate right now. But there is a heavenly banquet coming. The Bible calls it “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” For those who hunger and thirst after righteousness now, the best of the story will be a banquet in heaven for the Lord Jesus and His bride—His redeemed people. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7) Jesus is called the Lamb of God because He was the Sacrifice for the sins of His people. Lamb is not the cuisine to be served; but the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is the One we will serve.
My dad had a witty, poetic response to people who asked him the familiar question, “How are you?” He replied like this: “I’m better than I was before I got worse than I am, but I’m worse than I was before I got better than I am.” It was a conundrum I have never quite figured out, and I’m not even sure I remember it accurately. I would like to discover the original quotation. However, I have revised it as an expression of my life’s goal. “I’m better than I was before I got the way I am, but I’ll be better than I am when I finally see the LAMB!” That’s because the BEST of the story is yet to come.
I think most people could agree on wanting their future to be better than their past or present. Maybe we could put it poetically this way:
“I don’t want you to think I’m better than I am,
But I want you to know I’m better than I was.
I don’t want to stay as I was yesterday,
But I do pray that I’ll be better than today.”
Romans 8:28 is the mountain-top Bible verse about the rest of the story. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
But the rest of the story is not good without Christ. It wasn’t good for Pharaoh, or Jezebel, or Judas! The rest of the story matters more in eternity than the first part of it on earth, but the first part colors it forever after.
A husband and wife were watching the Ten O’clock news. A TV crew was filming a rescue attempt at the site of a high bridge. The police were trying to talk a suicidal man out of jumping from that bridge.
The wife said to her husband, “I bet you $5 they don’t talk him out of it.”
The husband said, “You’re on. It’s a bet.”
Sure enough, the fellow leaped right into the river!
The husband said, “OK, you win.”
He reached for his wallet, but his wife said, “No, it wouldn’t be right for me to take your money. I KNEW he would jump, because I already SAW it on the Six O’clock news!”
The husband said, “So did I, but I didn’t think he would jump twice!”
Of course it is easier to know what will happen if you have already seen it. God knows what will happen tomorrow. He has already seen it. He is already THERE! His omniscience (being all wise) and omnipresence (being everywhere present) go hand in hand. He is all wise and everywhere present both in space and in time.
Look at the bewildering problems facing our nation and world. It is comforting to realize that God already knows what HE will do. TV reminds us of the wickedness of our world daily with the awful atrocities of this supposedly civilized 21st century!
When God saw the wickedness in the world and sent an angel down to check it out, the angel reported back.
He said, “95% of the people are misbehaving, and I could only find 5% who are good.”
God was NOT pleased. He decided to send an e-mail to the 5% to encourage them to keep on living right in spite of all the evil around them. Do you know what that e-mail said
You probably are thinking, “No, I don’t know! What did it say?”
Well, I guess you didn’t get that e-mail either! You must not have been one of the 5%! That’s Biblical, that you didn’t get one, for Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The story is pure fiction—it’s certainly NOT Biblical, for the Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one….There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10,12) Not 5%, but NONE. That’s why we need the Savior, and the good news is that God sent His Son to be our Savior and to pay for our sins upon the cross.
When our first child was only 17 months old, he came down with pneumonia. Nothing seemed good about that at the time. But we have thanked God ever since. We had to take him 10 miles to the next town to the hospital. There he was punctured with penicillin. And there the doctor noticed that he might have shallow hip sockets. X-rays were taken and sent to a specialist inSioux City,Iowa. The answer came back, he had a bad case of shallow hip sockets. It was almost too late to correct the problem at 17 months. If they could not correct it, he would not have been able to walk when he grew up. The specialist put him in braces, and after much prayer, our son Mark was completely well.
That pneumonia was one of God’s best blessings. In truth it was a triple blessing, for all three of our children had the same problem so we knew it in time for the two children that followed. We have thanked God ever since! Today Mark is a missionary trainer and travels all over the world, visiting his teams, and has ministered in 113 countries.
God knew what He was going to do, because He knows THE BEST OF THE STORY.