“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT)
It’s a yearly ritual. I’ve done it every year since I began working. Now the process is elaborate and convoluted—in the past it was a 30-second conversation with my boss.
If you have a job, you have taken part in the process—it’s the annual performance evaluation. In my current job it’s a complicated multi-step process. The process isn’t as important as the result—either I’ll get a raise in pay or not.
Each year my employer attempts to quantify what I’m worth. The testimony of my co-workers, my self-assessment and my supervisor’s opinion determine my compensation. It’s based on my performance. The compensation never seems adequate.
I loathe this activity.
Are You Good Enough?
Whether you work outside your home or not, whether you’re self-employed or work for someone else—you are familiar with ranking.
• Are you good at what you do?
• Did you do a good job on the report your boss assigned?
• Did you sell enough to keep your business going?
• Do your dishes sparkle?
• Are your kids successful?
• Do your co-workers consider you a “good” co-worker?
• Are you a good spouse, parent, child…
Boiled down to the nitty-gritty, the question is, “Are you good enough?”
I don’t know about you, but even in my best moments my answer is, “No.” I’m not a self-hater. I just know my weaknesses. I know how often my motives are self-serving. I know how often I could have done better if I had tried just a bit harder. I’m a procrastinator. I’m stubborn. I’m opinionated. I may be my own “thorn.”
One thing I know is I can’t do this on my own. I’ve tried. Some days I still try. Some days I believe my own PR, or I listen to those who appreciate me and I try to live life in my strength. Tired and frustrated, I’ve caught myself asking God why He didn’t “Do something” to save me from myself.
A Slap of Grace
That is when grace so graciously slaps me upside the head.
Paul gushed about God’s goodness and grace in the greeting of his letter to the Ephesians. What was it Paul understood?
If Paul was a Christian writer today, I imagine the title of his book might be Embrace Your Suffering with a follow-up book Be Weak and Get Ahead. I doubt Paul’s works would be on the New York Times Best Seller list. His books would be dusty on the bookstore shelves. This isn’t a popular message. It flies in the face of EVERYTHING society teaches.
Is it any wonder that when we arrive at church on Sunday we default to the “I need to earn God’s favor” mentality? God’s not interested in giving me a raise for my good performance. He’s not interested in my Continuing Action Plan to earn His favor. THANK GOD!!
Suffering, trials, weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles—we run from those things. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not mature enough to ask for hard times. That’s not what Paul is saying.
Paul is facing the truth—it’s what Jesus spoke so plainly, “In this life you will have tribulation…” If you stop there, it’s not a good deal. Certainly not one I’d willingly accept. Jesus went on to say “…but take heart, I have overcome the world!”
God’s blessing is almost as elusive as God’s will—at least when most believers speak of it. Many of us talk about God’s blessing like this:
• If I’m good, God blesses me and living is easy.
• If things are tough, there must be some secret sin, some unbelief or something wrong in my life.
• God is unjustly picking on me.
In Psalm 73, Asaph pours out in song what most of us hold inside—why do evil people prosper while the righteous suffer? Does God even care? Why am I being so good when all I get is suffering for my goodness? Come on, you’ve thought it. If you’re bold enough, you may have spoken it. It’s in verses 16 and 17 that Asaph begins to understand. Asaph arrives at Paul’s conclusion in verses 25-28.
God’s Blessing is His Grace
If God “blessed” you and me based on what we deserve, our blessing would be meager. After all my hard work, my performance assessment and the meeting with my boss, when I look at my 2% raise I often think, you might as well keep that, I’m worth MUCH more! If you want to work for God’s blessing, you will never be satisfied. No matter how “good” you are, you will never be “good” enough.
Paul tries to explain that working for your blessing is fruitless. Embracing your struggle, your suffering, your trial—admitting that you aren’t enough is what opens the flood gate of God’s lavish grace.
Grace is more than you and I deserve. God’s goodness, kindness and grace should draw the believer closer to God and away from the temporal trials of today. God pours His grace on the weak. God showers kindness on His children. Grace is more than you and I can understand—it’s rarely experienced in human-to-human relationships.
The trial, the thorn, the suffering, the adversity, the trouble you and I face aren’t meant to punish us, burden us, or to determine how much we can stand—those situations are meant to drive us to the only source of hope there is—God’s grace.
Father, make me quick to run to You as my only source when I face adversity. Teach me not to rely on myself—but wholly to rely on Your lavish grace.