Oct 8, 2012

The Even Bigger God

It is one thing to encounter the God who deals with the needs of our soul.  It is entirely another to encounter the God who takes on the needs of our days.  The God of our souls is certainly big.  But, in some sense, the God of our everyday need is even bigger.

The Apostle Paul recounts in the New Testament how he sought God three times for one such need, what he called his, “thorn in the flesh.”  We are not entirely certain of the nature of the problem to which Paul was referring.  But we know it was, as is many times the case in life, one of those enduring difficulties.  It was some sort of disability that was both insurmountable for him and long term in scope. 

  Paul is describing that frightening and seemingly hopeless place where lives the reality of being completely outmatched by our troubles.  And, it is all but absolutely certain that we will each arrive there at some point in time.

Paul, in such a place, says that he “pleaded with the Lord” to take this “thorn” away.  And this was the Lord’s answer to him.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

This was probably not the answer that Paul was hoping for, at least at first.  He was probably hoping that Christ would answer in His “almighty-ness” and simple flick the problem out of existence with His divine finger. 

Most of us, when facing a similar intimidation, probably, approach God, at least initially, in that same way.  Our first hope is usually for a quick, or even an instant, solution from Him.

But, as the Lord indicated to Paul by His answer, there is another solution which God often chooses to employ as an alternative to instant deliverance.  It is the “Graceful Solution.”  And that is the solution that He offers to Paul for his “thorn.”

This offer of Grace instead of Raw Power may be a little disappointing, at least initially, to those who are actually suffering under the weight of some overwhelming burden.  But, when we understand the full implications of this offer, then, disappointment is replaced by relief and hope.  And that relief begins with the word itself, Grace.

It is often the case in more recent times that Grace is merely understood to be God’s “unmerited favor toward man.”  This definition actually better defines Mercy, which is certainly a product of God’s grace.  But Grace is a much larger term than Mercy, and so, the two don’t equally interchange.  Grace, as generally defined by any dictionary, is best and more accurately understood to be, even in the New Testament context, “an innate or naturally occurring goodness.”

So, what we are really seeing in the Lord’s offer of His graceful sufficiency to Paul is His willingness to bring the innate goodness of His divine nature to bear.  Christ is offering to put His natural goodness to work in Paul’s behalf. 

This is the same Grace (natural goodness) which designed the redemptive plan for mankind.  This is the same innate goodness mentioned in the Book of Ephesians, where Paul writes, “For by grace [God’s natural goodness] you have been saved through faith, and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…”  So, Christ is offering to employ His own limitless goodness to design and provide a wonderful solution for Paul’s dilemma.

But, why?  Why not simply use His “mighty cosmic powers” to just instantly remove the problem?  Why go through the motions of some graceful solution, when quick and easy are so available.

A few days ago my 10 year old grandson came to visit me.  In his hand was a Walmart bag.  In the bag was a bunch of parts from a lamp, now thoroughly broken.  Together, he and I built this lamp for his room, a couple of years ago. 

He said, “Pawpaw my lamp is broken.  Will you fix it for me?”  I was overjoyed.

Now, I could have said, “Oh, let’s just run to Walmart, and I will buy you a new one.”  That would be the quick and easy, “almighty power of Pawpaw,” flick the problem away, kind of solution, of course.

But, I much prefered the gracefulness of another solution.  That is the solution where I take my grandson to our beloved place, my workshop in the back yard, and we spend time together doing what he needs done. 

There, while we fix the lamp, we will talk about a thousand things.  We will tease each other.  We will challenge each other.  We will laugh.  We will brainstorm. We will tell tall tales. And he will learn, not only about lamps, but about Pawpaw.  And I will learn about him.  And our love, and the depth of our relationship, and we, ourselves, will grow through this time of pure goodness as it unfolds.

That is the answer to the “Why.”  God chooses to employ Grace, to allow His natural goodness to unfold before us, because in doing so, we interact with Him through the process.  And, in that interaction, our love grows, and our relationship is deepened, and we are transformed.

Paul’s response, when He eventually understood the inestimable worth of what God was offering to do for him, was this, “Therefore, most gladly will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Paul eventually understood that his troubles were only the opportunity to experience, at a new level, the transforming power of Christ’s natural goodness unfolding through his need. 

The simple reality is this.  What life presents as trouble, grace (the divine goodness) is able to transform into the means of a deep and durable friendship.  And, that process changes us and introduces us to the even bigger God, the God who is our everyday help.


Another article regarding "Grace" which you may find interesting is "The Nature Of Grace."                    
                                 Go To:  "The Nature Of Grace" article.