His Need, Our Privilege

CC BY-NC, S.Kakos, Flickr
CC BY-NC, S.Kakos, Flickr

God inherently needs nothing and no one. Yet we would fling him beyond reach should we forget that he has done us a favor obligating himself to us. He “needs” us only because he desires us and requires himself to us.

Moreover, he has created a place for us in his plan.

He commands our worship because it benefits us and not because he lacks adoration. Ultimately, his purpose is accomplished with us and we get the joy.

Could he offer a better deal?

God shall forever be the Great Giver, limitless and generous. And I gladly resign myself to the honor of being needed by him.

In Praise of the One Who Guides

CC BY-NC, bionicteaching, Flickr
CC BY-NC, bionicteaching, Flickr

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Ps. 121:7-8)

Have you ever known you had lost your way or fallen out of the will of God? Let me share that moment in my life and God’s providential yet strangely dramatic way of pulling me back on course.

I returned from work overseas in 2004 and started searching for a job. But the economy was tanking and my hopes shriveled into a horrendously long unemployment. Frustrated and determined to make something happen, I decided to return to retail management with the drugstore where I had worked eight years beginning in high school. But it would be somewhere away from my stagnant hometown region.

So I went hunting. I analyzed cities and matched them with a list of personal criteria. I finally settled on Indianapolis. This would be my life’s first throw-a-dart-at-the-map-and-go moment. I then emailed a district manager in the area about the possibility of a management position, and in one day I received a reply telling me to come and interview.

Well I got the job and things were mostly fine, except one unsettling thing. I would often walk out of my apartment headed to my car thinking, Michael, why are you here? Away from home on my own in the city of my choice, enjoying my independence, yet I sensed that I was out of the will of God.

Time passed until one momentous day—Thursday, June 8th (2006), around 12:30 p.m. Let’s call it the “intervention.”

It was my day off. I still remember it: I was sitting on the couch watching the French Open tennis tournament. Someone knocked at the door, which was unusual; I opened it and greeted a professional plumber not part of the complex staff, even more unusual.  He talked to me about the laundry room just a few feet away; it had been flooded for some time.

He explained that all signs pointed to a blockage most likely directly beneath my kitchen. And the only way to reach it was tear out the floor. Action needed to be taken immediately lest it led to further trouble.

The office offered me two options: place all my things in a provided storage pod and stay in a hotel for a few weeks or move out without penalty and receive my deposit back—oh, I needed to be decided today; the work needed to start tomorrow.   

In previous weeks my sister had talked to me about returning home. My finances were slowing sliding into perdition. Bills were stacking up and the rent was now difficult to pay. My sister gladly offered to let me stay at her place and insisted that I come. But I resisted because I didn’t wish to be there and felt that I could get a handle on the situation.

For any normal person, moving, at all, would have certainly been an inconvenience, but they would have gone on and moved into the hotel. Who could possibly pack up and move without notice? But when the plumber left, I closed the door and thought, Could this be God giving me a way out? I seriously considered returning to Virginia.

I cannot express the stress I endured for the next 12 hours. This decision seemed to throw my world into a tailspin, and I was a basket case. The management nagged me about my decision. Then, I wondered how would I leave my job or haul away my belongings if I indeed decided to leave? Staying was the reasonable (and sane) thing to do. Any image of a nervous wreck you can come up with, I fit the bill that day. At one point, I sat in my car in tears, beaten merciless by a pressing decision.

(And why does it seem God isn’t speaking whenever you need to clearly hear him?)

By 4 p.m. or so I called the management and told them that I would move away. I could hear the stun in the woman’s silence. In fact, in the hours following the conversation with the plumber, I had a terribly difficult conversation with my boss and I borrowed money from home to rent a U-Haul and car hitch.

By 2 a.m. my entire apartment was packed in boxes; at 6 a.m. I loaded the truck; at 8 a.m. I dropped off the house key; then I had my car hitched to the truck and returned my work keys; and in 600 miles and about 24 hours after my decision to leave, my life had totally changed.

The Providence of God

I apologize for the details, but they mean so much to the process God used to teach me what I share now. I’m sure you understand.

Romans 8:28 explains that God works together with us to bring about his good purpose. But Paul also explains in the preceding verses that the Spirit helps us in our weakness; that we don’t always know how to pray as we should, so he helps us.

I knew I was on the fringes of God’s will just being in Indiana. Moreover, I experienced the worst spiritual slump of my life during that time, and vice grew like weeds. I didn’t like myself. Yes, I was weak, but thank God I was never lost to him.

Just maybe God was in the details of my bizarre departure, you think? I was out of place geophysically and spiritually. God knew that I would have never left Indianapolis without the rushed decision coupled with my growing financial burden.

I heard later that people at my workplace assumed I was running away from some type of trouble. No, I recognize it as divine providence, God’s guidance and preservation over his creation, including human life. It is his sovereignty over situations and even evil that ultimately results in the fulfillment of his will and good purpose. It is as much mysterious as it is pervasive and great.

The providence of God supplies us with confidence that when we veer off course, he watches over and steers us back into the right lane. But his way with us may not always be conventional.

Sometimes we get a glimpse of the value of his saving hand. Psalm 116:8 says, “For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” Perhaps there was a financial collapse ahead of me or worse. Where in your life do you perceive God saved you? Some of us, by now, might have been in grave troubles or even dead, but God intervened. Is he not worthy of praise?

The psalmist continues (vv. 12-13):

What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

Why Being Good Doesn’t Cut It

Segovia Castle, Segovia Spain
CC BY-NC, ktran_wz, Flickr

The following poignant words belong to Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his classic, The Cost of Discipleship. He details the believer’s righteousness:

The source of the disciple’s life lies exclusively in his fellowship with Jesus Christ. He possesses his righteousness only within that association, never outside it. That is why his righteousness can never become an objective criterion to be applied at will. He is a disciple not because he possesses a new standard, but only because of Jesus Christ, the Mediator and very Son of God. That is to say, his righteousness is hidden from himself in fellowship with Jesus. He cannot, as he could once, be a detached observer of himself and judge himself, for he can only see Jesus, and be seen by Him, judged by Him, and reprieved by Him. It is not an approved standard of righteous living that separates a follower of Christ from the unbeliever, but it is Christ who stands between them.

What I hope you gather from these words is the difference between salvation and human goodness. Expounding upon this quote in my “Reflections On Evangelism,” I stated and restate here, “This is why merely good people don’t get to Heaven. Our best efforts and supreme moral good is worthless to make any difference for our salvation (Isa. 64:6)—and so is a righteousness given by God should we ever try to divorce it from Jesus. The righteousness which is from God ceases to be when we try to take credit for it. Jesus is everything in the ongoing conversion process, for even our confession is by the Holy Spirit.”

Ascending the Hill of the Lord

The rich young ruler (Matt. 19) approached Jesus with an epithet—Good Teacher—and Jesus checked him on the spot. Jesus challenged his reference to him being good, the word used conveying essential goodness or goodness by nature and only in relation to God. “Why do you speak to me in glowing, divine terms but view me as a mere mortal?” Jesus wasn’t trying to vindicate his deity but reprove the man’s flattery and high-mindedness and underscore his need for simplicity.

The more sobering aspect of Jesus’s challenge and expressed humility is the glance we get at the incredibly steep climb to God’s righteousness. God is utterly right (morally pure) and distinct from every other thing (holy); his perfection is the ground of human morality and ethics. Objective moral values exist and they proceed from the character of God.

Furthermore, only God is intrinsically good and of inherent worth. Every other thing derives its value from him. He created the cosmos and deemed it good because it, as it could only be, proceeded from his plenitude of perfect goodness.

One who says “Well I’m a good person” and claims his or her goodness to be deserving of God’s favor…his Heaven…asserts a personal righteousness that even Jesus dared not avow—and he came to fulfill the law of God. In effect, these (prideful) people argue that they have breached the high walls of God’s moral standards, satisfy a compendium of requirements for humankind, and are so entitled to his fellowship.

Really? Just like that? People approach human royalty with some trepidation; God is infinitely beyond their worth. Is there no reverence? Even the angels terrify humans! God is holy. This position makes me think of insects flying into the zapper! Good people just don’t understand their moral trespass and God’s holiness.

You see, Jesus came to tell us that there is nothing we can do about our moral shortcoming. We simply won’t scale that wall, even with our best effort. But Jesus can get to God and get us to God—and make any goodness of ours a servant of God’s holiness.

This is about spiritual transformation, not degrees of right and wrong and ticking off our moral checklists. We have a sin problem and salvation is the answer. Salvation is the flood of God’s holiness and goodness—all that we lack—surging into us, renovating us body, soul, and spirit. Mere goodness cannot achieve that.

Hail the Morning Light

CC BY-NC, M.RICHI, Flickr
CC BY-NC, M.RICHI, Flickr

What is it that makes the God of the Bible greater than all others?

Ever since humankind fell into sin, however it occurred at the dawn of human existence, God, who anticipated it all, responded in un-godlike fashion, if we believe the historical characterizations of deities.

He did not become intemperately furious and rain down destruction to wipe humans from the face of the earth; he did not scorn his creation and leave them without divine support. Instead, he chose to communicate himself and a grand design for restoring the race that was blind to its need.

The salvific nature of God—that he redeems—is among his greatest characteristics. God has committed himself to a plan of reconciling all things to match his wonder. No other god takes the time to deal with sinners more than to exact punishment upon them. But God seems to specialize in processing and refashioning what is broken and repudiated and presenting it to a watching world gloriously restored.

Is this not the story of so many biblical characters? Better still, could it not be your story? Our life’s journey bears the twists and turns that only bend at the permissive nod of a God who loves us extravagantly. We climb mountains and plow through valleys, experience the heat of drought and the refreshment of the stream—are they all not teaching moments? Do we merely live and die? I dare not believe that life is a circle lacking of real purpose in my experiences.

Contrarily, I know that every experience builds me in some way and anticipates a greater moment, not only for me but also for those who should enter my life. Every good and bad moment is a teaching moment of how to ride the waves being disciplined and true to God. You see, God redeems the brokenness of our lives and life itself.

Proverbs 4:18: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” This verse is proof to me of God’s purposeful intention in our lives. The one who stands and raises his or her hands atop the mountain is the one who with strength and determination, cuts and sweat, conquered not only the mountain but every mental foe that threatened their resolve.

When that person takes in the view, perhaps a sunrise, they cherish every moment in the process it took to get there. Our redeeming God is eager to get our attention so we don’t waste our time. Many people don’t have a clue that they’re on any kind of journey or, sadly, don’t wish to climb the mountain. Some mountains don’t move because they’re not meant to move—we are. But it is never about the mountain.

In the end, the joy belongs to those of us who ascended. We may not have been perfect, but that certainly wasn’t the point. It was that we were committed to God and loved him back as richly as he first loved us. We acknowledged him and his plan in every high and low of life, and we served others with the knowledge we were blessed to experience. His reward to us is a view from the top, an uninhibited look at his goodness, the grace that all along pushed us higher and higher. This is the glory of God.

As Seamless As Light

CC BY-NC, judithbluepool, Flickr
CC BY-NC, judithbluepool, Flickr

One day while on a train, I paused and took in the splendor of the sun. The colors of the land seemed to come alive in the light, but the strength of the light itself was stunning. I thought to myself, How the sun rules the day! Then another thought interrupted— No, the sun is the day!

And I saw God in that moment.

I perceived him no longer as one who acts, as though he loves and gives what is good. Instead, I beheld in that bath of light his perfection: that he does not love as much as he is love itself; that he does not give the good, for he is goodness itself. I understood that God wills himself to me.

It is a hard concept to humans for whom virtue must be cultivated and so earned. But God is holy, utterly different, inherently perfect, and unfathomable. What more can be said of him than he himself is the ultimate reward?

The word of God so aptly came to mind: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). A natural moment had become a spiritual illustration and alter to worship.

Later I read Albert Barnes’ comments on the verse, which are simple and profound:

John here says that ‘God is light’—not the light, or a light, but light itself; that is, he is himself all light, and is the source and fountain of light in all worlds. He is perfectly pure, without any admixture of sin. He has all knowledge, with no admixture of ignorance on any subject. He is infinitely happy, with nothing to make him miserable. He is infinitely true, never stating or countenancing error; he is blessed in all his ways, never knowing the darkness of disappointments and adversity.

Hallelujah.

God’s Vow To Be Near

CC BY-NC, Tom Rydquist, Foter
CC BY-NC, Tom Rydquist, Foter

I have discovered that I am never more aware of God’s presence than when I am experiencing hardship. I recall certain times of pain in my life—events, circumstances, and even sin—and remember the foremost thing in my mind always being God: What is God up to? There were times when I bristled at the mention of God and prayer and considered giving up on faith. But the secret of my heart, that only God could see, was that I thrashed for him like a drowning man needing air.

We all have heard or read the poem “Footprints in the Sand.” It has become a classic spiritual reflection on the Lord’s aid to us. But I have now come to frown upon the writing. Before you refuse to read more, hear me out. I get the writer’s intended message, but I am not sure it is correct, according to God’s Word, about his nearness and assistance. Let me explain.

The poem is an allegory and relates a dream the narrator has of walking along the beach and seeing scenes of his or her life flashing across the sky. The focal point is footprints in the sand, one set belonging to the Lord and the other to the narrator. This person notices that at life’s most painful times, the Lord seems to have disappeared, for there were only one set of footprints during those times. This prompts the narrator to question the Lord’s faithfulness. The Lord replies that during the times the one set of footprints were seen, that was when he was carrying the speaker.

There is no one who lives the Christian life that will not get his or her share of trial and proving. Also, no one should think that the Lord has not ordained these times. Remember God’s words to Ananias in Acts 9:15-16 concerning Paul, then Saul of Tarsus? “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Hardship comes with the package.

“Footprints” is very true in its expression of human feeling, something I understand fully. I know what it is to be overwhelmed by difficulty and inner turmoil. I know what it feels like to drown emotionally. I know what it feels like to be at my wits end and wanting to die. I know what it feels like to think that all, including God, have abandoned me. My problem with the poem is not that it accurately details the experience of divine absence. Psalm 10:1 plainly asks, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” What a strange concept that God can be known, or silhouetted, by his apparent absence. Moreover, we should not overlook the fact that God may indeed withdraw the sense of his presence for the proving of our faith. And here is where my problem with the poem surfaces. It never achieves a biblical portrait of the suffering saint.

The promise of God throughout scripture is his presence: I will never leave you. In fact, we may consider his wonderful and abiding presence the primary benefit in our relationship with him. Even when Israel sinned to their heart’s desire, God punished them but never deserted them because they were his own. We also are God’s possession and whether we have the sense of his presence or not, it gives us no place to question his faithfulness to us. Contrarily, it requires complete faith to be sure of his promise, especially in tough circumstances.

Let me explain this from an account with Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah 15:15-21 details a profound rebuke from the Lord to Jeremiah for his impatience. Jeremiah has been persecuted by the leaders of his community for his preaching and, once again, has become impatient with God’s slowness to vindicate him. He lashes out at God and even refers to him as being possibly deceptive and unreliable in his manners (v. 18). God stops Jeremiah and rebukes him with stern words.

Jeremiah felt it his right to God’s vindication because of what he was doing for God, namely, being his prophet. God debunks Jeremiah’s notion by telling him that his vocation doesn’t guarantee him less suffering. Jeremiah was not doing God a favor because he and his ministry belonged to God. The real issue in Jeremiah’s impatience, God says (v. 19), is his suspicion of God’s faithfulness. In Chapter 14, Jeremiah had just pleaded for God’s mercy, reminding the Lord of his covenant with his people. Now the Lord applies the theme to Jeremiah personally to express that he would never break covenant with him as he told him at his call (Jer. 1).

Even deeper was God’s implication that he didn’t necessarily need Jeremiah’s service, but he had obligated himself to Jeremiah; if he obligated himself to need Jeremiah, he would be completely faithful to the prophet despite any suffering he might experience. God tells the prophet that his attitude and words were so revolting that they spiritually ejected him from his prophetic office and that he needed to divorce his human passions from his divine assignment. His passions were a frustration and hindrance to his mission. God uses the image of a precious metal being separated from its dross to represent the purifying Jeremiah needed in his heart; such would restore to him the prophetic mantle.

This very same scenario is present in “Footprints”—“Why have you not been here? Why did you leave?” But God promised that he would never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). Jesus said that he was with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). God reassures, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). Our first duty is to trust what he says; what he says right clearly is that not only is he near, but he draws closer to us in our trials.

I cannot agree with the poem for its main point: the one set of footprints that indicate God carrying us. The spiritually mature Christian relies on God and adheres to his words, and God expects that of us. He has endowed us chiefly with his Word and his Holy Spirit, and through these we are made equipped to weather the storms that may cloud our lives. This means that we can bear up under pressure. We can stand and fight. We can walk and progress. God is not taken by surprise at our circumstances, and he promises to never allow anything in our lives that is too great for us to handle. Thus, if we find ourselves in it, God saw it first and knows that we have available to us everything necessary to walk through it and come out better persons on the other side (2 Pet. 1:3). He will draw close to us—that’s his promise—but there is no reason for our needing to be carried as though we were too weak or in jeopardy.

Sure, God carries us in the sense that he strengthens and comforts us. The miracle of grace relies upon his full provision for our total existence and well-being—“…apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Yet the result of that grace is our spiritual vitality and enablement. “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you—energizing and creating in you the power and desire—both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight” (Ph. 2:13, AMP).

This grace is even more wonderful because God promises his presence to us even when we err. Israel sinned to the point of drawing God’s indignation, but he never left them. God’s dealing with them throughout the Old Testament is a marvelous and loving example that, although our sin will bring punishment, the Lord faithfully walks with us through the consequences.

It is unfortunate for many Christians who miss the richness of God’s purpose with hardship. These are ever trying to throw the yoke from their shoulders or view it as a scheme of Satan when God has very well appointed such times in their lives for proving and perfecting. They surely miss a deep experience with God and perhaps some deeper aspect of his person that only comes with the intimacy born out of shared pain. One thing is certain though: Our ease is not God’s primary purpose with us. Frothy teaching will always align us more with self-help practices and cultural comfort than biblical teaching. Instead, God wants our whole hearts and resistance to the soul will give him the results he seeks.

So it doesn’t matter what the state of my life is. I can know without doubt that God is near and even closer when I face trouble. Although I may not see him, he sees me; although I may not feel him, he feels my pain. My confidence is his purpose for me in the situation. My hope is the refinement the fire brings. My relief is that the burden won’t crush me. God told Jeremiah, essentially, “I am not like you. Your affections with others will change, but mine won’t—and they won’t change regarding you. I am faithful.”

“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isa. 49:14-16)

The Person God Chooses

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Nothing is news to God. Our common, human customs and contingencies are atypical of Heaven. What are recent events or developing stories to us were in the mind of God before time. Astounding as it may be, God’s omniscience should be encouraging to those who trust him. His providence means that he mightily and lovingly controls all that can be known. Nothing happens that is outside of his intelligence.

That includes us, too. God knows every aspect of our lives. He understands the range of our unique personalities, our likes and dislikes, desires and temptations, potential, and even the possibilities of an infinite combination of our choices. He knew the when-and-where of our birth before the world existed. He knows about our work, finances, relationships, goals, and health. He has already seen our final days and cross into the afterlife. Again, this is encouraging to know.

NC, Stef Lewandowski, Flickr
NC, Stef Lewandowski, Flickr

He Knows Us

Sometimes we get moody with God, however, because we too know some things about him and ourselves, if only meager by comparison. One thing we realize is that his great holiness and our sinful imprudence don’t comport, and we find it inelegant and awfully hard-to-believe that, beyond our relationship, he still chooses us for his service.

Then, with what has to be exasperating to God, we find other non-issues with which to excuse ourselves from the divine call. Jeremiah saw himself as too young (1:6). Gideon felt he was too poor and wrestled feelings of God’s abandonment (Judges 6:13, 15). Moses deemed himself insignificant, speech-impeded, and ignorant of God (Ex. 3:11-13; 4:10). The first task seems to be God getting us out of the way of his using us!

God tells Jeremiah in very concrete language, “I knew everything there was to know about you before your life began. And I had already determined to use you as my prophet!” This had to be an eye-opening moment for Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:5 is one of those verses people often whip out with some use of emotional provocation; however, if we stop and think about it—and put ourselves in Jeremiah’s place—we might catch a glimpse of God’s greatness implied therein.

Still Within His Reach

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul gives a list of qualifications for overseers and deacons in the church. The bar of moral character is set high. They are reasonable qualities by traditional leadership standards and Christian ideals. Even the secular world today affirms such expectations of Christian leadership.

But to say that Paul’s list requires perfection in any way is to miss the point. God doesn’t call perfect people because there are none. All people, even the most spiritually disciplined ones, daily deal with the very personal problem of sin; and let no one convince you that he or she does not.

Let’s be honest about this: There are many reasons for God to reject us for his service, reasons well beyond the ones we can point out to him. He knows what else lies within our hearts and what will develop there; the circumstances that might activate vice; and how we will deal with it. Still, he chooses us.

Despite all our failings and misgivings, he is eager to make us his ambassadors and to display his strength where we can only prove weak. It is the depth and glory of his love.

Donald Masters, Flickr
Donald Masters, Flickr

So after we’ve messed up big-time, lost our heads and sinned to the max, wanted no part of God and his ways, and then regained our spiritual composure and wondered if he could possibly still use us, let us rest assured that he never left our side and tells us, as he did Peter, “I’ve already prayed for you that your faith wouldn’t fail. Now that you’ve repented and returned to me, go strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32, my paraphrase).

Our Joyful Obligation

This underscores another point. The fact that God is relentless to use us in his service should drive us to serve him better. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 4:1-2, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.”

Such mercy should strike the chord of spiritual discipline within us and cause us to yield to the Holy Spirit’s work to transform us in Christlikeness. This includes our resolution to fight and conquer sin, our willingness to accept our eternal status as God’s debtors, and our conscientious endeavor to think about ourselves as God does.

And to be clear, this isn’t just about those called by God to special or highly visible ministry, such as a pastor. God will use anyone that avails him- or herself to him for the smallest of tasks that spread his character, name, and kingdom. It’s just a matter of degree on our part: how much of ourselves are we willing to give him, including those weak areas of our lives?

No Need to Hide

Let’s be even more candid about Jeremiah 1:5. God, knowing everything there is to possibly know about us, knew the sinful penchants and weights we would deal with in life—the excesses, vile urges, secret rages, and sinful comforts we all have faced.

We hide our indecencies from others like we conceal our naked bodies. We act this way toward God, too. We feel that what is odious and shameful before others should also be hidden from God, for he certainly detests it more; ergo, he will certainly reject us as people do.

First, it is pointless to hide anything from God because he knew about it before we did. Second, we are right to evince an attitude of shame and culpability for the weak and sinful parts of our lives. Yes, Christ took our shame so that we wouldn’t have to be shamed by our sin; however, we respect God’s holiness and should feel uncomfortable about sin controlling any part of us.

NC-ND, Fabrizio Lonzini Flickr
NC-ND, Fabrizio Lonzini, Flickr

But, third, God doesn’t reject us in our sin but asks us to draw near with naked honesty. Only then can we find “the grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). God is not like us. Exposure to his light gives freedom. Remember, Jesus came and took our sin upon himself in order to place his righteousness on us.

Concealing weakness and sin, apart from being a silly thing to do in God’s sight, is unbiblical and more harmful than helpful. Solomon states it best: “Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them find mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

David says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Ps. 32:3). God can do more with the heart that prays, Lord, I’m struggling and I need your help, than with the one, like Adam in the Garden, who runs to hide from him.

And let’s be real—some things from our past lives we may struggle with until we die. But God honors the one who keeps fighting while relying on his grace not to be overcome.

Even Our Weakness…an Offering

Moreover, God doesn’t only use us despite our vices but also because of them. Two fish and five loaves of bread were useless to a crowd of multiple thousands. But such a weakness given into Jesus’s hands became a miracle. This is ministry.

The weak areas of our lives that we’re willing to place in God’s hands can be the starting place of healing for someone else. What we are willing to share of our own struggles and deliverances, God can use to draw others to himself. We may not be able to share every detail about our troubled or sinful past, but our honesty before God, in the least, will keep us compassionate and empathic toward others who suffer in ways we did or still do (1 Cor. 6:11).

And as we know of Christ’s ministry, compassion is a portal of the glory of God.

This is why a revamp toward deep spiritual discipline is important. The fruit of the Spirit growing where sin once abounded in our lives is the safeguard that we won’t disregard those who find themselves in our former, unenlightened state. We have an obligation to God to be transformed by what has altered our circumstance.

Jesus, in Matt. 18:21-35, tells the story of the unmerciful servant who was forgiven his debt of 10,000 bags of gold but couldn’t forgive his fellow servant’s debt of 100 silver coins. This incurs God’s judgment. When we’ve received grace, we can offer grace; however, to refuse to do so is egregious sin.

Content to Be His

NC-ND, Dustin Bryson, Flickr
NC-ND, Dustin Bryson, Flickr

Thank God that sin and weakness isn’t enough to change God’s mind about us. He still desires us and can use our lives and various situations to bring others closer to himself. So to all of our shamefulness, outrage, incredulity, and excuses, we are still his choice.

He could send the angels in dazzling displays of heaven-on-earth to preach us out of sin and convince everyone to believe. But, no, he uses “jars of clay” instead (2 Cor. 4:7), cracked and stained and fragile, to show other cracked pots how they too can display the beauty of salvation.