One of the songs we often sing at our church has a line that goes like this:
He gave His life, what more could He give?
Oh how He loves you, oh how He loves me, oh how He loves you and me!
When we come to Jesus Christ in saving faith, we are acknowledging that He gave His life to pay the penalty for our sin. That act of supreme sacrifice makes Jesus worthy of our love and worship. Even if Jesus never does anything else for us, His procurement of salvation for our souls is more than enough. Any other blessing we receive from Him is simply extra gravy on an already overfilled plate.
When we start to live our lives based on conditional requirements rather than on the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are, in effect, saying that His death was not sufficient for all our needs. We are saying that we need more proof, more tangible benefits before we will give Him the honor He is due. Can you see how arrogant that way of thinking is? Can you see how are attitude has shifted from gratefulness of being a recipient of God’s mercy to one of an expectation of God existing to serve our wants?
We all know of people who started out on fire for the Lord and who dropped out along the way. Many became angry with God for His not answering their prayers a certain way or for not protecting a loved one from harm. If we are honest we must admit that we, too, have become disappointed in God for failing to meet our expectations.
Discouragement sets in when we become disappointed. Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Our expectations and reality often collide and rarely do we blame ourselves as having expectations that were misguided, ill-founded or unreasonable. We blame either the reality around us or God for not changing the reality to suit our needs.
When pressed by adversity our hearts reveal the truth about us and about our relationship with God. Many believers are in love with the things of the Lord but not the Lord Himself. Despite what our lips may profess, our hearts show the shallowness of our faith. We act more like the crowds who followed Jesus for the miracles of food than the disciples. After all, when one becomes disappointed in God, is it His fault for not catering to our whims and desires or ours for not understanding His ways and trusting in His goodness?
God is good. When we cease to believe that foundational principle we open ourselves up to despair and hopelessness. Even when we do not understand the reasons why things are happening to us, we must cling to that one assurance. Job did. Job was greatly disappointed. Job could not understand why all those calamities had occurred in his life. Job, though, held onto his faith that God was good. Through everything Job never lost his faith in that aspect of God’s character.
One of the ironies of the Christian life is that so many of our prayers center on God healing or delivering us from a life-threatening situation – in effect delaying our arrival at the very place of our reward! How angry people get at God for transporting their loved one to glory instead of leaving them here to endure this sinful, broken earth. It seems that we have lost sight of heaven, that death has somehow regained her sting. Dying has become less than an entrance into eternity and our selfish desires to cling to more time on earth with our loved one trumps our desire to let God determine what is best for them.
The ultimate healing, the ultimate deliverance is from this body of decay and sin and to be with the Lord in heaven. When we take a lesser view on this it diminishes our faith and trust in a God who is good. This lesson was driven home to me in a dramatic way.
The day before my son, then 17 months old, was to have open-heart surgery, my wife and I were passing through the halls of the Ronald McDonald house where we were staying. People in those places get close to each other since all there are in similar situations. One lady we had spoken with quite often was packing her clothes. “I’m going home”, she said in response to our inquiry. Knowing that her little boy was very ill and could not have possibly been released, we asked her why. “My boy died last night”, she answered. Seeing our hurt, embarrassment and shock plastered on our faces, she took us aside and said, “You’re not ready for your child to die, are you?” We shook our heads no. “You need to be. Come in here and let me tell you something.” For over an hour she talked with us about how she knew her boy was in heaven, “doing that little shuffle-step dance for Jesus like he did in church on Sundays.” She told us that she was thankful for the years Jesus had loaned her boy to her and that he wasn’t suffering anymore. She thanked Him for His deliverance and healing of her boy. She praised Him for His goodness and mercy. At that Ronald McDonald house I learned that God loves my children even more than I do and that when we pray for complete recovery and healing it may be that God takes our loved ones to heaven to accomplish just that. God is good in all He does because goodness is a central characteristic of Himself.
Our faith grows deeper when we mature enough to understand that our belief at how God can best answer our prayers is different than His knowledge of how best to answer our prayers.
To be honest, even the depth of a faith that acknowledges that God is worthy because He made a way to provide for our salvation is not deep enough. You see, God is worthy because He alone is God. Even if He had not made provision to save mankind, if He had allowed us to enter eternity forever separated from Him because of our sin, He would still be worthy of praise. He did not have to save us. He made us. He made the earth for us to live on. He made colors and sounds and our senses to enjoy them. God made a universe and populated it with myriads of wonderful and incomprehensible things. He is God. He is the Creator and Maker of All Things. He is Good and Holy and this makes Him worthy to be praised.
Now, the fact that He made us with a redeemable soul and sent His Son precisely to redeem that soul is, indeed, good news. The character of who God is, though, is what makes Him worthy of praise and adoration. His holiness is the reason that He is worthy. A faith that worships God and gives Him praise and adoration based only on what He has done for us, whether it is a family, a job, a car or even salvation is a deficient faith. God is worthy because He is God.
This was a critical point in my walk with Christ. I loved the fact that He had sent people into my life to share the gospel with me. I loved the fact that His Spirit had drawn me to saving faith in His redemptive act. I loved the family He had given me. I loved being a minister of the gospel and leading others to faith in Jesus. But I had to ask myself if my love for Him was deeper than even that. Did I love Him just because He is?
In his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, Jeff Iorg makes this profound statement:
Most leaders easily forget their primary reason for being placed in their leadership role. The primary reason isn’t for you to do things for God. It’s so God can use your leadership setting as a laboratory for shaping the image of Jesus in you. (Iorg, 2009)
Excerpt from Is Jesus Enough? available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and our sister site, http://www.discernmentministries.webs.com