And so it ends. Spurning an offer for prayer and without even a backward glance she left my office and overturned her marriage vows. The reason? Irreconcilable differences.
This has got to be the most heartbreaking few moments of a pastor's life when a congregant stiff-arms God, rejecting the free offer of divine grace. Grace cannot speak to my need. Grace cannot help in my circumstances. Grace cannot undo what has been done. Grace cannot...grace cannot...grace cannot...
It almost causes me to fall to pieces when in the lives of born-again Christians that the same grace that miraculously saves cannot providentially sustain. Why is it so many Christians have no difficulty at all whatsoever trusting their eternal soul to God for salvation but cannot turn over to Him a relationship? Or a marriage? Or a job? Or a financial responsibility? Or an unruly child? Or anything of any temporal significance?
More often than not I have found among God's people that grace is insufficient. We hear a lot about trouble, but little about victories. We see much selfishness, but precious little sacrifice. We readily accept defeat but practically never celebrate having conquered through Christ. My conjecture is that we fail to see things that are temporal as having eternal significance.
"Tony, God wants me to be happy." I have heard that stated so matter-of-factly that even I am almost brought to believe it. Each time I have gently and lovingly responded, "No, God wants you to be obedient."
And this is the crux of the matter. Obedience costs. It crimps style. It gets in the way. It denies you of what you may want. However, it always gives you what you need. Rather than choose obedience, we would stiff-arm God. As He stands open-armed, ready to receive, we race by with arm out-stretched, side-stepping His free offer of grace and mercy to help in our time of need. Why? Because grace cannot...
Being brought to the place of obedience is not easy. King David attempted to stiff-arm God, but a prophet got in the way. We are all familiar with King David's sin, but forgive a preacher a few moments of Scriptural reflection.
So David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!" Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"God was not concerned one iota about David's happiness. God wanted him in the place of obedience. If anyone had seen the marvelous hand of God's grace move it was David. The unfavored son, small and insignificant, was chosen by a sovereign God to rule all Israel. When he was but a boy, he took up a sling and amidst the taunts of those whom he loved but with the power of God, he slew a giant. Pursued relentlessly by a crazed lunatic, he overcame and was anointed king; his adversary dead by his own sword. Yet in the heat of the moment, having given way to the lusts of passion, he stiff-armed God. David's happiness became his ultimate goal. In his heart, he conceded, "Grace cannot..." David, having been the recipient of grace unmatched except only in the life of the Lord Jesus Himself, was unable to allow grace to help him overcome a moment's temptation.
So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." 2 Samuel 11:5, 7, 13
But isn't that what grace is all about? To overcome in life moment by moment? The temporal things do matter. My smile is vaguely temporary; but the smile of God is eternal.
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory...2 Corinthians 4:16-17