I’ve never been surprised by God’s judgment—but I’m still stunned by his grace! David the psalmist becomes David the voyeur, but by God’s grace becomes David the psalmist again. Peter denied Christ before he preached Christ. Zaccaeus, the crook… the cleanest part of his life was the money he’d laundered, but Jesus still had time for him. The thief on the cross…hell bent and hung-out-to die one minute, but heaven-bound and smiling the next.
Story after story. Surprise after surprise. It seems that God is looking more for ways to get us home than for ways to keep us out. I challenge you to find one soul who came to God seeking grace and did not find it. Search the pages. Read the stories. Find one person who came seeking a second chance and left with a stern lecture. I dare you! You won’t find it!
How do you handle your Monday’s, tough times, and more? When you are tired of trying, tired of forgiving, tired of hard weeks or hard-headed people—how do you manage your dark days? With a bottle of pills? Alcohol? A day at the spa? Many opt for such treatments. So many, in fact, we assume they reenergize the sad life. But do they? They may numb the pain, but do they remove it? We like sheep follow each other off the ledge, falling headlong into bars, binges and beds.
Is there a better solution? Indeed there is. Be quick to pray. Talk to Christ who invites. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to Me! Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus says, “I will show you how to take a real rest.”
God who is never downcast, never tires of your down days! Just go to Him!
If you have sin in your past and you are worrying and condemning yourself for those wrongs, don’t. It doesn’t accomplish anything. Constantly focusing on your past mistakes will crowd out any positive feelings you can have about yourself. Some of the things that happen to us in our past are outside of our control but, I think you’d agree, can still have an impact on who we are today.
At my age I’ve come to realize I haven’t really accomplished anything noteworthy because of my worrying and condemning myself. I just didn’t have the confidence. As a matter of fact, I’ve made myself pretty miserable at times. But, you know what, I’ve also managed to do some good things in my life that I can reflect on and be happy about.
What’s my point here? Almighty God made you and God doesn’t make junk. Even if you think you are. God looks upon you with so much love that we don’t have the ability or capacity to take it all in. The most appropriate story I can think of that addresses the issue of our sinful past and being forgiven today is the one about the prodigal son. If you’re not familiar with the story it basically says the prodigal son got his inheritance ahead of time and then went out and spent it on a sinful lifestyle. When the son realized how messed up he was and had hit rock bottom, he decided to return home to his father hoping that he would at least hire him as a slave.
The father in this story receives the prodigal son with open and joyous arms and even throws a feast in his honor. The father in this story is our God, who loves us without abandon. He doesn’t look at our past. He looks at us now and forgives us of our sins if we ask him. God does not want us worrying about our past but instead focusing on Him and His love for us.
When we accept God’s love and stop worrying about what people think or worrying about our past, we can have the confidence to move forward and live in peace. Remember, God made a great sacrifice to insure that we are forgiven so we can live in peace and in His love.
The next time you find yourself worrying about something, stop and take a moment to focus on Jesus hanging on the cross. Why? Because He said, “It is finished.” What’s finished? All of your past.
Your past is done and you can’t do anything about it but Jesus did. So, start living today.
Faith in God’s grace expels from the heart the sinful powers that hinder love.
If we feel guilty, we tend to wallow in self-centered depression and self-pity, unable to see, let alone care, about anyone else‘s need. Or we play the hypocrite to cover our guilt, and so destroy all sincerity in relationships. Or we talk about other people’s faults to minimize the guilt of our own.
It’s the same with fear. If we feel fearful, we tend not to approach a stranger at church who might need a word of welcome and encouragement. Or we may reject frontier missions for our lives, because it sounds too dangerous. Or we may waste money on excessive insurance, or get swallowed up in all manner of little phobias that make us preoccupied with ourselves and blind us to the needs of others.
If we are greedy, we may spend money on luxuries — money that ought to go to the spread of the gospel. We don’t undertake anything risky, lest our precious possessions and our financial future be jeopardized. We focus on things instead of people, or see people as resources for our material advantage.
Faith in future grace produces love by pushing guilt and fear and greed out of the heart. It pushes out guilt because it holds fast to the hope that the death of Christ is sufficient to secure acquittal and righteousness now and forever (Hebrews 10:14).
It pushes out fear because it banks on the promise, “Fear not, for I am with you. . . . I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
And it pushes out greed because it is confident that Christ is greater wealth than all the world can offer (Matthew 13:44).
In every case the glory of Christ is magnified when we are more satisfied with his future grace than we are with the promises of sin.
Is there someone or some thing in your life that you cannot and will not forgive? Why is that? Why can’t you forgive? Are you holding on to a grudge against someone because it makes you feel good? All of that is erroneous thinking. It’s important to look at your situation through the eyes of Jesus and what God’s word says about it.
Colossians 3:13 says, “As Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Really, God? Begin the process of healing. How? Well, keep no list of wrongs. Pray for your enemies rather than plot against them. Hate the wrong without hating the wrongdoers. Turn your attention away from what they did to you to what Christ did for you. Outrageous as it may seem, Jesus died for them, too. If He thinks they are worth forgiving, they are.
Does that make forgiveness easy? No. Quick? Seldom. Painless? Forgiveness vacillates. It has fits and starts, good days and bad. Anger intermingled with love. Irregular mercy. We make progress only to make a wrong turn. Step forward and fall back. But it’s okay. As long as you’re trying to forgive, you are forgiving. It is when you no longer try that bitterness sets in. Keep trying. Keep forgiving.
Remember this. By forgiving your enemy you are releasing control of the situation into God’s hands and trusting Him for the outcome. Release of control is an important step in forgiveness for yourself and others. Without release there is no peace.
God moves us forward by healing our past! Can he really? Can God heal this ancient hurt in my heart? Of course He can. In fact, God cares more about justice than we do. He reminds us in Romans 12:17-19, “Never pay back evil for evil…never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for He has said that He will repay those who deserve it.”
We fear the evildoer will slip into the night, unknown and unpunished. Escape to Fiji and sip mai tais on the beach. Not to worry. Scripture says, “God will repay,” not “God might repay.” God will execute justice on behalf of truth and fairness. Unlike us, God never gives up on a person. Never. Long after we’ve moved on, God is still there, probing the conscience, stirring conviction, always orchestrating redemption. Fix your enemies? That’s God’s job.
God does not bless us begrudgingly. There is a kind of eagerness about the beneficence of God. He does not wait for us to come to him. He seeks us out, because it is his pleasure to do us good. God is not waiting for us, he is pursuing us. That, in fact, is the literal translation of Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.”
God loves to show mercy. Let me say it again. God loves to show mercy. He is not hesitant or indecisive or tentative in his desires to do good to his people. His anger must be released by a stiff safety lock, but his mercy has a hair trigger. That’s what he meant when he came down on Mount Sinai and said to Moses, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6).
God is never irritable or edgy. His anger never has a short fuse. Instead he is infinitely energetic with absolutely unbounded and unending enthusiasm for the fulfillment of his delights.
This is hard for us to comprehend, because we have to sleep every day just to cope, not to mention thrive. We go up and down in our enjoyments. We get bored and discouraged one day and feel hopeful and excited another.
We are like little geysers that gurgle and sputter and pop erratically. But God is like a great Niagara — you look at it and think: surely this can’t keep going at this force for year after year after year.
That’s the way God is about doing us good. He never grows weary of it. It never gets boring to him.