Isaiah 48:1–49:26, Luke 19:11–48, Job 11:1–12
Yesterday I shared with someone that I felt discouraged because I could not see God doing anything in answer to my prayers, particularly for my family. This person told me that I needed to try harder, be more obedient, and so on, then God would hear and answer me.
This made me feel even worse. If God does what I say or reveals Himself to me only in relation to my performance, then our roles are reversed; I become the god and He becomes the servant. “Trying harder” has never worked for me.
Later in the day, God corrected my complaint. Instead of needing to “see” what He is doing, He reminded me that I am to walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) I need to trust Him even when I cannot see what He is doing. Instantly my spirits lifted.
Then this morning, the Lord reminded me of His gracious power to save in relation to my prayers. He said . . . “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders . . . those who wait for me shall not be put to shame . . . . for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children . . . . Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:22–26)
What is it about the human heart that forgets the truths of God and needs to be continually reminded? Sometimes I wonder if I will ever “get it” when it comes to simply trusting God. He said it; He will do it; and that is final! Until I forget . . . sigh.
God also encouraged me from Job. These lines are words from one of his ‘comforters’ and have value, but they were spoken from an attitude of accusation, rather than trying to comfort Job in his misery.
Zophar said, “For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” (Job 11:4–6)
Of course we get less than our guilt deserves. God does say that the soul that sins must die, but He also says that whoever puts their faith in Jesus Christ will have eternal life. Both statements are true, but if I live by the first one, I have no hope. Being told to ‘try harder’ is a statement that fits with that hopelessness. I already know that my efforts apart from Christ are useless.
However, if I live by the second statement, my life is lifted above what my guilt deserves. Faith carries me into obedience, and that is not my own doing; it is the work of God’s Spirit in me and it happens by faith. When comparing these two, I can rejoice because mercy triumphs over judgment.
Jesus affirms that any worthiness we have is a gift from Him. While some have more opportunities than others, everything we do depends on what He gives us. His parable about the nobleman who gave money to his servants illustrates how Jesus gives resources to His people. Some get much, others little, but each is expected to be faithful with what they have and each will be rewarded. From that, I understand He is more concerned about faithfulness, not quantity or big productions.
The story illustrates the importance of being obedient with a willing heart. Some of the nobleman’s citizens hated him and declared they didn’t want him to rule over them. One of them refused to use what he had been given. This man lost everything. The nobleman had those who refused his rule brought to him and he said, “Slaughter them before me.” (Luke 19:12–27)
Those who reject the lordship of Jesus Christ will suffer judgment, getting what their guilt deserves. Those who submit to Him and use the resources He gives will have varying degrees of success and at the end their work will become visible, even revealed by fire. That fire “will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13–15)
That is, if I do what Jesus tells me, big or small, He will reward me. Anything I do apart from what He tells me will not pass the test and be lost. However, my salvation does not depend on those works. Salvation is by “grace through faith” — and both are gifts from a merciful God, One who gives us everything we need to do whatever He wants us to do, even the faith to trust Him when we cannot see what He is doing.