Dec 19, 2011

Encouragement For The Downcast & Gifts of Grace

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." Hebrews 6:10



Do you ever feel like Job? I do.

What I mean is, I strive to follow and obey Jesus and to do as much good as I can to others. My greatest desire is that others would come to know God (which is eternal life according to John 17:3) and to taste, as I have, the love of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. Moreover, I want them to know that God is good (all of the time) and that he is with us and for us. He is all-powerful and is always working on our behalf in this life. He loves and cares for the world and all of creation in particular ways. God is at work all about us, we just need eyes to see him and ears to hear him.

I strive for him with all the energy that is within me--energy I know comes from him. Of course, there are times when I am tired and fail miserably. There are times when my good intentions remain intentions and do not manifest themselves in actions. But still, I can say with a clear conscience that I follow hard after Christ.

Even so, there are times when I get tired. Times when I feel like I want someone's well-being more than they do. Times when I think, "Lord do you not see how I've loved you? Why then the continued affliction, why haven't I seen you move for me?" Being human I wonder, probably just like you, why the wicked prosper (Psalm 73) and seemingly nominal Christians flourish in ways that I want to flourish. Like Job I feel trial upon trial comes upon me with no relief. The trials aren't always my own. They could be the trials of family members or others close by. But in some ways they become my own because I groan in prayer on their behalf.

Then there are times (this happened recently), when I had an idea and others took it and ran with it and received the credit without acknowledging the role I played. It happens all the time in this life. But it's still painful. And that is where humility comes in. The right attitude is: God used it for his glory and he knows my role. But like I said, it can be painful even if my reward is in heaven.

Speaking of rewards in heaven, I do have to believe what Hebrews 6:10 says, "God is not unjust, he will not forget your work or the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."  "God, I help your people," I cry out. "I help them all the time. O God, I need some help myself." God hears these cries of mine. That is why he brought Hebrews 6:10 before me. He is telling me and you that he will not forget our faithfulness. He of all people is faithful and gracious. Our love and faithfulness cannot match the love and faithfulness of God. He wins every time.

But rewards do not just come in heaven. We will be rewarded here, too. God will not forget us here in this life. He will not forget the love and the hard work we've done because of our love for him and others.

When we get to this point of feeling like Job and it happens to all of us at intervals throughout our lives, we have to remember that God showed amazing grace to Job. There are times God's grace breaks into our lives with great surprise. Something good and unexpected happens and we've had nothing to do with it. We didn't strive for it, worry or lose sleep over it.

Can you remember a time in the past when you were surprised by his grace? There has to be one. Think hard.

I can remember times. And the thing is that these moments are not one time events. Gifts of grace occur throughout our lives. So now you and I have something to look forward to. My friend Glandion Carney, an author, spiritual director, and Anglican priest encouraged me with these words last year at a Renovare Retreat. He said, "Marlena, expect great things from God."

His admonition is not limited to me. Each of us should expect great things from God. After all, we are God's children and he loves us. Remember he asks, "Will I give you a stone when you ask for bread or a snake when you ask for a fish ?" (Matt. 7:7-12) The thing we cannot do is dictate how God's love and grace is going to break through in our lives. This is Advent, Jesus is coming. He broke through into our reality as a baby in a manger. His actions are of such seismic proportions that we still cannot comprehend the eternal implications of his overtures. But no one expected for him to come as he did.

So I say to you and to myself: let's expect great things of God, gifts of grace...especially those of us who are tired and feel like Job. They will come.

All we must do is go to him as we are weary and heavy-laden and we will find rest in the goodness of God. Rest in him and expect his goodness. It will manifest itself in the land of the living. It will. Take hope and comfort in this truth dear child of God.

2 comments:

Shaun Campbell said...

Amen, Marlena! Without troubles we would not know our dependence on His grace.

Lyndsey said...

Thank you for sharing your struggles so we can be encouraged.