At twenty-five years old, Phil Vischer had a simple goal. He wanted to blend the love of his faith with his love of filmmaking. Each profitable VeggieTales video meant he could afford to delight children with a new Bible-inspired story.
Then his goal got bigger. Captivated by the concept of adopting a goal so big, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish it apart from God’s help, Vischer set his sights on building his company into a top-four family media brand in twenty years. Wanting to pour his life into something that would outlive him, he dreamed of developing a Christian version of Disney.
As VeggieTales continued to grow in popularity, God’s hand of blessing seemed evident. However, in his autobiography, Me, Myself, and Bob, Vischer describes how the venture spun out of control and how overwork landed him in the hospital. Just ten years after the first Veggie- Tales video arrived in homes, Vischer’s company declared bankruptcy.
Vischer discovered firsthand that a God-sized goal and a goal shaped by God are two different things.
God has a goal
To grasp God’s overarching goal, we have to recognize that the Bible is, first, one big seamless story in which God is the main character. Everything we read in its pages is contextually rooted in that story and in specific chapters of that story.
The chapters can be demarcated into covenants: the Adamic/Edenic, the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Davidic, and the new. What’s fascinating about these covenants is that they each reach an important milestone on the way to arriving at the end goal. Even more astonishing, we see time and again how God invites humans to partner with Him toward this goal and live in His care.
Partnering with God
All partnerships revolve around a shared goal and terms of how they will realize it. A covenant partnership, however, revolves around a goal and terms that the partners are willing to stake their lives on.
In the first two chapters of Genesis, we find God entering into a covenant partnership with humanity (Hebrew: adam). Of course, we won’t discover until later that it was indeed a life-or-death partnership for both parties. God spelled it out for us through the prophet Hosea, just so we could be certain: “But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust” (Hosea 6:7, NLT).
What was the goal of this covenant partnership? Starting with a small, elevated patch of earth called Eden (the original kingdom of God on earth), God and humanity would work together to extend the manifest rule of God and bless the entirety of earth with the flourishing nature of Eden. This goal was so large that it inevitably would have taken billions of humans thousands of years to carry out our side of the partnership.
And what were its terms? Because God created humanity as image-bearers capable of reflecting His character and ways, we could complete this goal only by receiving and reflecting His loving wisdom, while God served as king and sustainer. As His representatives, we were to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).
Of course, humanity staged a power-grab and ingested a meal of “wisdom fruit.” Thus, our bodies both received sustenance from and became carriers of the knowledge of good and evil. In doing so, we exchanged God’s loving wisdom for a selfish wisdom.
However, remember this was a covenant partnership. God was so committed to His goal, He was willing to die for it.
God then initiated a series of covenant partnerships that prepared humanity, in stages, for the time when He would renew this original covenant through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
By the time Jesus made His appearance, humanity was no stranger to the rule of human sin. However, one pocket of humanity — the children of Israel — had been taught to hope. They were deeply rooted in a story in which forgiveness meant reentrance into the kingdom of God, the realm where God ruled. They understood their land to be a new Garden. They understood themselves to be waiting on God to send them a King who would live forever and usher in God’s presence.
What the children of Israel didn’t understand was how they could carry out all of the laws of the land, yet not reflect God’s character and ways.
It was Jesus who invited humanity into a new covenant with a new meal. It was Jesus who showed us what God wanted in a partnership with humanity: Love God and love people — and love as He loved. It was Jesus who busted the boundaries of the Garden by telling His disciples to go and fill the earth with His flourishing, loving ways. And it was Jesus who sent His Spirit to dwell inside us so we could learn to image His ways from the inside out.
One day, Jesus will return and complete the work He started in and through us. The result? A renewed creation. The manifest rule of God will bless the entirety of earth with the flourishing nature of heaven.
Living out the story
Over fifteen years later, Vischer is still merging his faith and filmmaking. But it now has a different taste to it. He knows what’s going to outlive him: the story of God. New creation. His new stories aim to help viewers understand how we fit as partners within God’s big story. Partners who rest in God’s love and then live out our Spirit-imbued love for Him day by day as God slowly speaks new creation into existence.
Like Vischer, we all need to examine our goals. God has already established a goal bigger than any of us. To partner with Him is to agree that we want what He wants and then follow His lead instead of our own.