“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)
Some view the bible as a random list of dos and don’ts we’re expected to obey for no other reason than, “God says so.” Others agree, but feel the blood washes the dos and the don’s away rather than our guilt for breaking them, and view the bible today as being a warm fuzzy book full of hope and promises of salvation, healing, protection from harm and our enemies, and promises if we have enough faith, we’ll be given every desire of our heart.
Eventually, these latter “Arm Chair Christians” encounter the harsh reality of trials and the pain of reaping the fruits of sowing to the flesh. So they declare the promise in faith. To their shock, it’s not there to claim. At that point, these simple folk sometimes wisely re-read their bibles seeking where they went wrong, and God sheds light on the fact the promise hinged on their obedience. The danger they face at that moment is the temptation to go overboard and become legalists, obeying from fear rather than from trust and love. It can be addicting when living by God’s principles changed their lives for the better, maybe even saved it in the earthly. Runners face the hazard of losing sight of the grace that enables us to run. We must guard against this, or we’ll be disqualified.
Other Arm Chair Christians keep ignoring the bible’s wisdom on how to live, faithfully claiming the victory, and wondering why they don’t have it. Christians in the race try to gently point out to these folk that their sin is causing their woes and they need to repent of it to get the victory. The unwise ones accuse the runner of judging and may arrogantly compare themselves to saints who waited for decades or until eternity to receive.
Still others may well be in the race as a mere recreation, but when the race inevitably becomes difficult, they can become so disheartened, they give up altogether and become atheists or agnostics.
God’s word isn’t an authoritarian list of random do’s and don’ts that have no rhyme or reason besides “I said so.” Nor is it a list of warm fuzzy promises from a cosmic Santa Claus who doesn’t even keep a list of who’s been naughty anymore.
The bible makes promises, good promises, it is full of hope. But following Jesus is not without life’s struggles and hardships. Battling the flesh and the enemy’s attempts to derail us can make life even more difficult for Christians. If we don’t seek understanding in the bible’s pages for how God designed us to function and seek to grow in grace and wisdom, if we remain foolish and sow to the sinful flesh, we’ll reap pain, death, sorrow, broken relationships, and fractured lives.
God does all the work in us–at least that lasts. He saves us by grace, through faith, not by works. None of us can boast. We’ve all sinned and fallen short and anyone who claims otherwise is either a liar or naive.
But if we want the victory, and the victor’s crown, we need to be willing to actually allow God’s grace to transform us from sinners into saints. His promises were made to his saints, those who love and trust him and are spiritually descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you want the promise you’re claiming, stop sitting on the sidelines, waving, “Go saints!” in one hand and “Sinner saved by grace!” in the other and get in the game and run the race.