Tag Archives: Grace
Today I got an unexpected phone call from an old friend. We talked a lot about faith and in the course of that conversation, I verbalized some things that I’ve been beginning to realize new and fresh in recent days. In a recent post (“When I Lost My Faith”) I talked about the journey I’ve been on the last year or so, the events that led to a crisis of belief for me and my intellectual and willful journey back. Though I made many realizations and began to accept some hard truths, I still wasn’t “there”. Don’t get me wrong, we never fully “arrive” when it comes to our faith, but what I’ve known and experienced in the past has been an ongoing inward desire even though I wasn’t always perfect in the way I lived that out. I wanted that again, but knew I didn’t have it. I read a lot about it. I know that true faith is a gift from God, but if it’s a gift, what do you do to get it?
You Can’t Get It
A lot of our experience in life can be a simple numbers game. That’s true in sales. If you hustle and make enough contacts and follow the right processes long enough, eventually you can make things happen. Ask enough girls on a date and eventually one will say “yes” (“So you’re saying there’s a chance!”–thank you Jim Carey). Anyone can do that. That’s the American dream, right? But what if the thing you want can’t be “hustled” for? That can be a frustrating place to be, can’t it? That’s where I was. Here’s what I realized–Most of the time I didn’t have it, I didn’t really want it. I was done. I was angry. I was hurt, wounded and frustrated. My story wasn’t being written the way I thought it should be, so I took the pen back. Yeah, that worked like a champ.
The more empty I became, the more I realized what I used to take for granted. I knew there was more. I had experienced it many times before, but I tend to have a really short memory. Most of us do, if we’re honest. What I had experienced before was also in the context of a fairly untested “bubble”. I had it good but I was very out of touch, yet we get very angry if anyone tries to mess with that “bubble” (look at how many people of faith act in the political arena when their views are threatened as an example…or just try to change the music in your church even slightly and watch how “Christ-like” people respond). I say that in jest, to a certain extent, but unfortunately it’s all too true. None of us like change, really–unless it’s our kind of change, whatever that is. So, bottom line–my bubble burst and I didn’t like it.
But, You Can Have It
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8).
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him…” (Colossians 2:6)
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11).
Somewhere along my journey back, I prayed a very raw, but honest prayer that sounded something like this:
“God, I know you’re there because I’ve known You before, but it’s not because I feel You now. If the truth be known, I haven’t felt You in months, but if You’re there, I guess You already know that. I want to believe You but just don’t feel like I can anymore. BUT, if what the Bible says is true, then faith doesn’t really come from me, it comes from You. I sure don’t deserve it, but I guess that’s what grace is all about. So here’s the deal…if you could find a way to give me faith once again, as best as I can tell, I believe I would gladly receive it.“
The conclusion of that prayer wasn’t fireworks and flashes of light and it certainly didn’t come immediately, but I had a quiet assurance in my heart that if I really wanted it, He would give it to me again….and He did. One day I woke up and sensed His presence once again, perhaps like never before. Many inward concerns and worries, seemed to fade in the light of that Presence. I’ve already blown it, but that faith is still there–so is His grace.
So, you can blame God for the injustices you see in the world and the seeming injustices of your own life and you know what? He’ll even let you for a while. I’ve spoken to God with more raw disrespect than I’ve ever spoken to anyone in my life. I don’t say that as the magic formula for a thriving prayer life, but in His grace God knew that allowing me to get that out, was enough to let Him in. After all, I wasn’t screaming at the wall, my car, myself, or some other deity–I was screaming at God, which proved one thing–I knew He was still there. Eventually, by experience, I came to know the truth of this: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
So if you find yourself without faith today, ask yourself this question: “How much do I really want it?”
You may be surprised by the answer.
As I look back on the past couple of weeks, I am reminded of the great God that we serve! Pastor Tom’s series on the Prodigal Son has made a huge impact on my life. Every possible response that I can imagine seems to fall so short of the radical grace that God pours into my life every day.
Romans 11 gives such a great picture of God’s grace (on a large scale…especially for us Gentiles!) and Romans 12:1 begins with what our response should be to this radical grace–offering ALL of ourselves in worship (latreia) to Him. There is no other response that is fitting compared to the radical grace of the Father. Even this falls so short, but there’s nothing more that we can offer, and this is all He asks–nothing more, nothing less.
Worship is the constant outpouring of all that we are in response to all that God is and does. As in the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father doesn’t need anything we have (including our worship), yet He desires a relationship with each one of us. That relationship is only found when, much like the prodigal, we come broken and empty handed before Him, with nothing to offer but ourselves, and desiring nothing besides Him. It is at this point that we can sing with reckless abandon, “O Praise the One Who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!”.
As we approach this coming Lord’s day, exhort and encourage one another to good works and let’s join together as one unified, hell-conquering body to lavish extravagant praise on the God who has lavished such extravagant grace on us.
View the message here:
“The Extravagant Grace of the Father” – Tom Messer