“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”
How do we measure up when we experience accidents, opposition, and bad breaks? I think when turning points become obstacles our attention focuses on finding the quickest alternative route back to easy street. This is certainly a hard knock life and storms come and go but what happens when God tells us to shelter in place in times of eminent danger? 2 Cor 12:7-10 of The Message paraphrase pinned the nail on the donkey and it says, “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” The exact nature of Paul’s thorn is uncertain. However, some say it was pride and others say he was being persecuted because of his ministry. There is probably a good reason that we don’t know. God likely wanted Paul’s difficulty to be described in general enough terms to apply to any difficulty we may face now. Whether the “thorn” we struggle with today is physical, emotional, or spiritual, we can know that God has a purpose and that His grace is all-sufficient. Look at this way, Jesus measured up and he was given a crown of thorns (John 19:2) that later became our emblem of victory!
I am not a Christian who thinks that I am better than anyone one. I’m the Christian who is unequivocally thankful Jesus died for a sinner like me! Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrated His love for us in this: While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” This verse should acutely remind us of how sinful and frail we were before Christ paid for our sins. Sometimes as Christians, we are tempted to look at our lives and be proud of what we see. The truth is, we would be nothing without Jesus’ payment for our sins. As I reflect on this passage in my heart and mind, it does two things. First, it encourages me. When we stop and think about someone in this world giving their life for another, we are very impressed. Whether it be a soldier, teacher, mom or dad that gives their life, we applaud that individual, and rightfully so! This passage tells me that it is not very common for people to give their life for others, even if they are a good person. With that in mind, think about Jesus for a minute. He wasn’t just any ordinary man dying for another; it was the Son of God dying for sinners! What an encouragement to every Christian! Not only does its encourages me, but secondly motivates me. It behooves us to live our a lives striving to serve the one who died and saved us to serve in advancing His kingdom agenda! So no, I do not for a second think I am better than anyone not to mention, a better Christian. Truth is nobody is better than anybody. Therefore, our focus should be to independently do better today than we did yesterday! A humble start to a victorious end!
Out of all the trees in the Garden of Eden, why was one isolated from all the others (Gen 3:3)? Well, if you think about it the answer is relatively obvious. God loves us and He created us to have fellowship with Him and choose to follow His commands. There is no true love in a relationship unless we are free to reject that love. God gave us free will to decide if we love Him enough to trust Him, and trust Him enough to obey Him. To love God is to obey Him (John 14:15). Some folks foster the wrong mentality when they hear the word obey. They believe obedience represents legalism and rules. Quite the contrary; obedience is the definition of strength and its power comes with a powerful promise (Exodus 22:23). Simply put, when we are walking in God’s will through obedience, He fights for us! Look at it this way, God’s love is so amazing that even though we all choose to disobey Him more often than we’d like to admit, He still gives us a way to be forgiven, changed, and empowered to love Him through Jesus Christ. God doesn’t want puppets or robots, He ardors for His people to pick up their blood stained cross and walk in faithful obedience!
We regularly listen and hear about how much God love us and how He demonstrated His love through Jesus Christ. But, how do we respond to God’s incomprehensible love? Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” As recipients, one way to reciprocate His love is to incessantly feed our faith with God’s love through studying and meditating on what God’s Word teaches about His love. Take whatever He says personally. Study God’s Word, make sure it’s for yourself with the intention of applying the Word to your life. A second way to respond to God’s love is to live within His love. To “live” in this context means “remain, stay, dwell, continue”, amongst others. In the words of Jesus He told His then disciples, as well as His present day disciples (us), to “… continue in my love” [John 15:9]. We must resiliently commit ourselves to cultivating an attitude that will keep us consistently conscious of God’s love because our wicked world wants us to be consciously in ‘lust’ with it!
Needless to say, there are numerous ways to respond to God’s love so choose one or two that reflects your personally relationship and remember God’s love is the only place where you’re untouchable, unstoppable, incorruptible, and indestructible. It’s the safest place to be on earth. It’s a place where your struggles to make things happen come to an end. It’s a place where it doesn’t matter how people treat you or what they say about you; but you just keep getting blessed in everything you do, and say, and everywhere you go! It’s really a no ‘brainer’—we should effortlessly respond to God’s love because we’re deeply loved, highly favored, and greatly blessed!
Grace by biblical understanding is when God’s dispenses favor in our lives in lieu of wrath and judgement. In describing the power of grace Christian Gospel Artist Larnelle Harris penned these powerful words, “Were it not for grace I can tell you where I’d be. Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere, with my salvation up to me. I know how that would go and the battles I would face. Forever running but losing the race, were it not for grace.” What a beautiful and thought provoking song! Grace is the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world. You might be saying, “What’s so amazing about grace?” Well, for starters the word amazing means… Excellent, Incredible, Tremendous, Wonderful. Let me put it this way, if you’ve experienced a time when you know you deserved to take the “L” but God chose to give you victory, then you my friend are a recipient of God’s amazing grace. Paul defined God’s grace in Ephesians 1:7, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” We should all remember that day when God poured out His favor on us. He reminded us on that day, He loved us and that we are extremely special to Him. He expressed to us through His actions His goodness, kindness, and love. We did not earn nor deserve that gift. But He freely gave because of His love for us in Christ Jesus (John 3:16, Rom 8:38).
Bitter people will always have something negative to say. Over the years, I’ve learned that haters operate from a root of bitterness and unless they surrender it to God negativity will always contaminate their perspective and encumber their judgment. As Christians, we are called to live in ways the world simply don’t understand. Jesus warned us that we would be hated. But he tells us to stand firm and do nothing in terms of getting even. Luke 21:19 even goes as far as saying that we will win life. Some of y’all reading this message is saying, “That’s not wining” and “I can’t do this!” I will say, standing firm is not for the faint at heart! Steko is the Greek word for ‘standing firm’ and it means to persevere and persist. Notice Jesus didn’t instruct us to retaliate, He instructed us to pray and bless our haters ( 1 Peter 3:9). Again, some may be thinking that’s easier said than done!! I understand fostering this disposition can be unpopular and extremely challenging because it’s instantly gratifying to fight back, clap back, or say the perfect comeback when someone viscously and arbitrarily attacks you. Simply put, nothing good comes from getting even or paybacks; “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches us that we are to love even our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” So the real question is,”Do you want to be sons and daughters of God?” At the end of the day, it’s not our job to change people but it’s our duty to love people in spite of their unwarranted, unnecessary, and unruly behavior. Hate will always produce more hate but when hate engages with love—love always win!!