“What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:31-32
A Christian should never make excuses for being less than what God desires him or her to be. But we do. I’m guilty of doing it and so is everyone I know. You know what I’m talking about:
- -“That’s just the way I am.” (Translation: “I have no intention of changing.”)
- -“God can’t really expect me to be holy”. (Apparently, the verse that says, “Be holy, for I am holy” was just a suggestion)
- -“The Bible doesn’t specifically condemn _______” (fill in the blank) (Looking for loopholes to justify things we want to do or believe)
- -“God won’t condemn anyone if he’s really a loving God.” (“All we need to do is just love each other; besides, we’re all going to be saved in the end”)
And so it goes.
I don’t mean to sound harsh. But it breaks my heart when Christians settle for being less than they could and should be. Part of it comes from being human and painfully aware of our sins, problems, limitations, and sorrows that life has dealt us. Many times those are what brought us to Jesus in the first place, looking for answers, forgiveness, and relief. But sometimes God chooses to answer our prayers in ways we don’t expect and may not want.
Recently I ran across a different take on grace. I found it in an article on the website DesiringGod.org which was written by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. The title of the article is When God Does the Miracle We Didn’t Ask For, and can be found here. I don’t know if she originated the terms but I’ll certainly give her credit. She speaks of delivering grace and sustaining grace. She uses Exodus to illustrate the difference. When the Israelites were brought through the Red Sea, that was delivering grace. When God gave them manna for forty years, that was sustaining grace.
We like the delivering grace very much. It solves our problems, takes away our hurts, makes our lives easier. It gives us testimony and makes us rejoice. There are times when we need it very badly. But it can also lead us away from God because once the source of distress has been removed we may return to where we were before. Daily life and the things of the world hold our attention until the next disaster strikes.
Sustaining grace, on the other hand, might make us angry at God, thinking he really doesn’t care about us. He didn’t give us what we asked for, but what we really need. Its purpose is to draw us closer to God. We learn to depend on him because we may still have the disease, the pain, or the unseen wounds, but God gives us the strength to endure them and the understanding of how he loves and tenderly cares for us.
Once again it comes down to one simple question that God asks: “Do you trust me”? God wants us to be fully trusting and dependent on him to supply what we need and find joy in the knowledge he gives us exactly that. No matter what trials and tribulations we undergo or experience, God tells us, “I can handle that. I have exactly what you need to be what I desire for you.”
We can and must be holy because God has the power to make us holy. We can overcome or endure our circumstances because He has the strength to overcome them, or if he chooses not to do so, sustain us through them. God orchestrates our lives in order to glorify himself and draw us closer to him. When we make excuses for not following what God has commanded in scripture, in essence, we are saying he can’t or won’t keep his promises. We are saying we don’t trust God.
Paul tells us in this verse that since God has already given us Jesus Christ, his own Son, to cover our sins and give us redemption, why shouldn’t he also give us everything else we need? We must understand, however, the purpose is not to gratify our desires or necessarily make our lives easier but to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ and glorify God. It’s why Paul could praise God for the ‘thorn in the flesh’ and be content in whatever situation he found himself. Paul intimately knew the source of his strength and sustenance.
We need to stop allowing ourselves to make excuses for lack of faith and rebelliousness. We serve a God who is bigger than our circumstances and a Savior who has taken care of the penalty for our sins once and for all. Let’s not settle or compromise: let’s submit to God and allow him to transform us into the glorious creations he intends us to be.