had another great meeting with two of “my guys” this morning (if that statement makes no sense to you, read this). although they seldom agree with me, our dialogue gives me opportunity to clarify my thinking and hone my philosophy (they would probably say “bolster my position”). we talked about “the favor of god” and what that means in contemporary christian culture. dave got my juices flowing on the subject and then suddenly said “i gotta’ go” so i will use this space to finish (finish? hardly possible!) pontificating.
i enjoy god’s favor. i am blessed of god. in fact, no one is more favored/blessed than me. i am in debt. i have no money in savings. i drive a ’94 chevy pick-up with 230,000 miles on it. and yet i can say unequivocally that no one is more blessed than i am. how can i say that? because i am a recipient of grace.
because of what jesus did on the cross, my sins have been forgiven and i’ve been reconciled to god. i am in communion with the creator of the universe. he’s not just mindful of me, he’s madly in love with me. based on jesus’ sacrifice, i am righteous (say that slowly…r i g h t e o u s). i stand before god perfect and whole. again, all this has not been given to me because i am devout or dedicated–i am utterly sinful. in fact, i am consistently disingenuous and unfaithful. jesus is aware of my infidelity, however, and still loves me. in fact, i am not disqualified by my human weakness, i am blessed in spite of it. when i think of grace, i realize that i am not slightly blessed or barely blessed. paul wrote to the church at ephesus, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” dictionary.com says lavish means “to expend or give in great amounts or without limits.”
god lavished grace on me…how could anyone be more blessed? (and we haven’t even mentioned eternity!)
all that being said, though, grace is apparently not enough for some believers. some people think “god’s favor” also includes money or success or an elevated status. all due respect, but if grace is not enough for you, then you are greedy and the bible says i can’t have lunch with you (1 corinthians 5:11). some well-meaning people suggest that god wants to make me wealthy so he can use me to bless others. the problem with that theory is that i am self-centered and materialistic and if god were to suddenly begin funneling money through my ministry, i’m pretty sure i would see how much i could keep for me. i hate to confess that, but its probably true.
i’m not saying that christians should live in poverty, or that money is evil, or that it’s impossible to be wealthy and live a life pleasing to god (i know a few people that have). just that i have adopted the axiom that paul taught his young minister/protege, timothy: “but godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 timothy 6:6). i’m trying to say that, for me, grace is enough.
“but, randy,” you counter, “what about all the promises in god’s word that refer to wealth and prosperity and long life?” it’s plain to me that there is a significant difference in how we are supposed to view “god’s favor” before/after the cross (or, old testament and new testament). god’s purpose has always been to set apart a chosen people as a way to demonstrate his love and power to a world that doesn’t know him. in the old testament, god is saying, “i’m sorry you don’t qualify for real blessings, so i will give you wealth and land and long life and lots of children.” when jesus came and died and reconciled us to god, though, its like god said, “ahhh…now i can really bless you! you can have communion with me like adam had. i can give you my spirit to lead you and walk with you. i give you grace.” and now i don’t need that temporal stuff any more. it has lost its value. i have treasures in heaven (because i choose treasures in heaven). god’s blessing has taken on an eternal nature.
we love to quote matthew 6:33 (“but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”) what “things”? jesus begins this passage by saying, “you cannot serve god and money. therefore…” the only “things” jesus mentions in this passage are “what you will eat or drink; or…what you will wear.” (matthew 6:25). and even about those “things,” jesus says, “…pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (matthew 6:32)
for me, “seek first” means that god’s passions and god’s agenda become paramount in my heart and mind. my desires and my appetites atrophy. god becomes the focus of what i want and what i dream about. it hasn’t happened yet, and it certainly isn’t easy or automatic. but the more i perceive/understand grace, the easier the struggle.
i wonder why i haven’t been invited to talk about this stuff on christian television?