There are times when we feel like nothing good is coming out of our actions. WE try hard - but WE don't see much good fruit from all our trying. If you have not heard this before, grace is not based on what WE do, but on what GOD does in us. Try as we might - we cannot fix the problem of sin in our lives. Try as we might - we cannot "figure out" everything. We need a power stronger than ours, a wisdom better than our own, and a perspective higher than ours.
This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father. (Romans 4:16 MSG)
Paul is speaking to the Roman church. His message: Heritage in the natural sense does not guarantee "right-standing" with God, or some guarantee of never facing the hard stuff in life. Why was he saying such a thing? The Jewish believers had the idea their having the heritage of being of their "Father Abraham" made them better than the newer believers from the Gentile community who were joining the church. Now, isn't this just plain silly? No, you say? Hmmm....is it possible we might have encountered this in our own communities at one time or another? One group saying to the other group, "We are better because...." Silliness - pure and simple. No one gets "better treatment" from God just because they are of a particular "denomination" or "heritage"! God is an equal-gracing God!
Paul points out a couple of things we need to see in order to understand the importance of seeing God's best worked out in our lives:
- God makes all kinds of promises. It is not what we do, but what HE does, which makes the fulfillment of those promises possible. For example, the promise to never leave us or forsake us is based on HIS faithfulness, not ours! Isn't that good news? Knowing he is in control of the "never leaving" and "always keeping" part of our lives is a whole lot of comfort to this gal who struggles with consistency in her life!
- Our part is in the trusting. First, we trust God. Then we trust what it is he does and how he does it - his ways. How do we discover his "ways"? In scripture! We have been given the "play-book" of sorts, so we can get to know how he structures the best defense and offense in our lives! Trust is based on obedience, is it not? When we trust someone, we do what they instruct. Ever been part of one of those team-building exercises where you are told to put your back to the group of team-mates behind you, fold your arms over your chest and then just fall back? What are you doing? You know you could crack open your skull if no one catches you! Yet, you do it! Why? The lesson is teaching you to trust your team. Hmmmm....maybe God asks us to do things we think might actually "hurt", but in doing them, we find he "catches" us every time, keeping us from "hurting ourselves"! We learn obedience is built on trust and trust is built in obedience. Equating the two is often the best lesson we can learn!
- We have to embrace God, then what he is doing. We often want to go about this backward - embracing what God is doing without fully embracing him. Let me tell you, I would not jump out of an airplane alone if I knew I could do it a couple of times in tandem with another experienced jumper! I would choose the closeness of an experienced skydiver simply because I would feel "held close". Maybe there is a lesson there for us as it applies to obedience. God asks us to embrace him - giving ALL to him in this embrace. In so doing, he is holding us close enough to take whatever "leap" he wants us to take - all while we are held in his arms. We do our best "leaping" when we are in tandem with God - not by just jumping out on our own!
- We need to guard against "reading the story backward". Ever flip to the last chapter of a book to find out how it ends? If you have, you might just know the end of the book, but you don't know what led up to the ending! Paul wants to remind us of the importance of "precepts". A precept is a "direction" given as a means of action. We build upon the one precept we learn with another until we get the "context" of actions which lead up to the "right stuff" in our lives. We cannot just skip from the beginning to the end without all the "precepts" in place. If we do, we might "feel like" we got to the end unscathed and ahead of planned arrival, but we realize we still have all our issues in tow! Sometimes we need to take time to drop a few of these issues along the way - by understanding a new precept or two and acting on them. We call this obedience!
Just a few thoughts on "getting" God's best in our lives. Remember . . . family line is important, but it is not the end-all. Obedience matters. Trust and obedience go hand-in-hand. Get in on the whole story - not just the ending! Just sayin!