In the 1980 George Lucas epic adventure, The Empire Strikes Back, there is a puzzling scene that contains a profoundly biblical message for us.
If you’re not familiar with the plot, the movie begins with Luke Skywalker’s near-death experience of being attacked by a giant carnivore called a “Wampa,” on the ice planet of Hoth. He escapes, but only to nearly freeze to death before being rescued by Han Solo.
While alone among the desolate snow drifts, the spirit of his old mentor, Obi Won Kenobi, appears to him and tells to seek out the Jedi master Yoda to complete his training as a Jedi knight.
Following Obi Won’s advice, Luke travels to the planet Dagobah and links up with Yoda, who very reluctantly accepts the task of training him. But Luke proves to be a very impatient pupil. The training does not proceed at the pace he desires. Failures make him want to quit. Visions of his friends Han and Princess Leia trouble him and make him eager to curtail the training. Yoda is concerned Luke’s impatience will be his undoing. Luke, of course, disagrees.
After one particular failure, Luke hears a threatening sound in the distance and investigates. Suddenly, there before him is none other than his arch nemesis – Darth Vader! Vader draws his light saber. Luke draws his as well and attacks Vader. But the fight is a short one as Luke succeeds in striking down his enemy and cutting off his head. Flush with victory, Luke approaches the decapitated head of Vader, still encased in its helmet. Suddenly the helmet’s face shield blows off, exposing Vader’s identity. To Luke’s utter bewilderment, he sees that Vader’s face is his own!
The message to Luke becomes clear. In his impatience he is rushing to catastrophic failure. To hurry his training is to risk being ill-prepared against the temptations of the “dark side” of the Force. Luke will be in danger of becoming the very evil he seeks to destroy. He’ll be vulnerable to becoming another Darth Vader. Luke finds this unbelievable at first. But in time, he will learn that the very same horrifying tragedy befell his own father. He will even find out that his own father is Darth Vader!
Many times God’s children and servants can lose patience with the spiritual training God imposes on them. God has marvelous plans for us. He desires to make us into someone far greater than ourselves, someone mightier than angels. He ultimately plans to transform us into His own Son’s glorious image. But the process takes a lifetime – and God’s immeasurable love, wisdom, and power. The process also requires our continued faith and patience – lest we also run the risk of becoming the very evil we seek to overcome.
When it comes to the Lord’s preparation and training in our lives, I cannot help but think of the contrast between the lives of King Saul and King David (1 Samuel 8-31). Both were anointed King of Israel by Samuel the prophet and both were immediately empowered by the Spirit of God to do the job of leading Israel (1 Samuel 10:1-13; 16:11-12).
But something was missing in Saul’s preparation. His rise to the throne was meteoric. And the outcome of coming to power so quickly proved disastrous. Despite the presence of God’s Spirit in his life, the temptations that came with instant power, fame, and success were too much for him to handle. He quickly crumbled as a man of God. His pride and self-absorption caused him to forget about God and descend into depravity. He became a worse enemy to Israel than the ones he was chosen to fight.
In contrast, after David was anointed as King of Israel, fifteen or more years of adversity and trials passed before God allowed him to reign. But by the time David rose to power, he was ready, for God had prepared him. As a result of David’s perseverance under fire, he remained faithful to God throughout his reign and became Israel’s greatest king.
I once read a story about James Garfield when he was president of Hiram College, before he became President of the United States. One of the students’ fathers visited Mr. Garfield and pressured him to shorten his son’s course of training – so the son could more quickly return to the family business. Garfield responded to the father with these words. “Yes, I can abbreviate your son’s education. But that decision depends on what you want to make of your son. When God wants to make an oak tree He requires 100 years. But when He wants to make a squash, He only needs three months.”
What do you want God to make of your life? Are you so eager for God to expedite the preparation process that you’d risk rushing to failure? Put your life in the skilled and loving hands of the Master. Trust in His love, wisdom, and power to finish the good work He began in you. Your future success in this life and your inexpressible joy in heaven will make you eternally grateful you did.
Almighty and merciful Father, into Your supremely skilled and loving hands I commit my life, goals, and future. I trust Your love to always have my best interests in mind. I trust Your wisdom to always know what’s best for me. Even when I don’t understand my circumstances. I trust Your power to protect me from all evil and to finish the good work You began in me. Amen.