When I was a child, one of the regular programmes on the BBC at Saturday tea-time, along with The Generation Game and Basil Brush, was The Rolf Harris Show.  The Australian performer, who at the time was better known as a comedian and singer (anyone remember Two Little Boys?), told jokes, sang songs, and did sketches on his show.  But the bit I always looked forward to was the finale.

Rolf’s tour de force was to close the show with an apparently extemporised painting on a massive scale.  Using a decorator’s paintbrush and a giant board, he would make huge, apparently random strokes using just a few colours.  Pausing regularly to turn to the audience and say with a grin, ‘Can you tell what it is yet?, in as little as five minutes he would produce a painting which only in the final seconds resolved itself into a recognisable picture.  The audience would gasp, clap and cheer on realising that all along he’d been working to a plan which resulted in a masterpiece, but which none of us had been able to identify in advance, despite the fact that we all knew exactly what he was up to.

I wonder if you sometimes feel that what God is doing in your life looks more like a few random brush strokes than an unfinished masterpiece.  It is so easy to fail to discern God’s plan, and to wonder why we’re in this ministry, if what we’re giving our lives for isn’t some cataclysmic mistake.  Particularly in the hard times, when something has gone monumentally, tragically wrong, and our belief systems are shaken to their very foundations.  Our faith in God’s benevolence can be sorely tested.  That’s the time when we need to trust that God, like Rolf, is working to a plan which will amaze us once we finally see the beauty that he’s created in us.

For there is ample evidence that God does work to a plan, despite our own periodic uncertainties about this.  The lives of many Old Testament saints – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Job – show that they go through trials and tribulation as well as blessing, but somehow it works out alright in the end.  God tells Jeremiah he has a plan (29:11), and Paul reminds the
Philipians (1:6) that God is still working on it but won’t leave it unfinished.  For some, that plan didn’t appear to work out that well (Acts 7:57-60, 12:2, Hebrews 11:35-38, but we do have the comfort that after our death God can still put the finishing touches to it (Revelation 21:3-4).

In the years since I was watching The Rolf Harris Show, Rolf has been forgiven for his didgeridoo, the Stylophone and Two Little Boys – cultural faux pas which helped make the 1970s The Decade That Style Forgot – and has been accepted as a serious artist, who has even portraited the Queen.  While he hasn’t done so well that anyone seriously thinks Rolf Harris is God, he may have something to teach us about the master plan of the Creator.

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