I happened to catch an interview with Philip Yancey, earlier today, talking about his latest book, The Question That Never Goes Away. You may remember Yancey, as 30 years ago, he published Where Is God When It Hurts.
What prompted this post, was a brief story he shared, where 30 years ago, an interviewer opened by saying that he hadn’t had time to read the book prior to the interview, but requested Yancey summarize the book in just a matter of minutes. Yancey replied, that the follow up question to where is God when it hurts, is to ask, where is the church when it hurts? The answer, Yancey continued, is that God is with His people. Returning back to today’s interview, he pointed out, that it’s interesting to note, that Jesus, when He came to earth, was located where He was, because He wanted to make sure the religious community understood the point of grace.
Grace, as explained during the show, is NOT fair. If we always stand to the letter of the law, eventually we won’t be free. As Ghandi observed, if we always expect an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, eventually all of society will be blind and toothless. Grace makes room for our faults. Experience of that grace should make us not want to take advantage of it, should we never get it again, whereby we make every effort to correct our faults.
That said, I experienced grace this morning. And what caught me about Yancey’s statement is what puts this post back on track. I knew God was in control of this situation and while I handled this morning on my own, I knew God was with me. And how did I know? Because outside of my immediate family, nobody knew of this mornings’ circumstances, except for 6, maybe 7 people.
And who were those people? Well, 4 or 5 of them are from my church. I knew God hadn’t left me alone in this matter, because close friends in the body of Christ, are people of character who I could confide in; that I knew weren’t sharing with people who I don’t know as well, and that when they said they would pray for me, I knew they would do so. And a few of them did pray with me right there, moments after sharing details of the situation.
Thus, it’s entirely possible, that people don’t know what God is doing in their life or where He is at work in their life, because there are not people of faith, close enough to them, to share the goodness and grace of God and how He has worked in their life and will continue to work in the life of the one in need.
Case in point… a lady this morning, shared her recent experience and why she was in the same building as I was… I gotta tell ya, it wasn’t long before I felt stupid for being anxious and nervous about my situation. Suddenly, I felt prompted about what I could do to be a blessing to her, despite my circumstance.
People don’t know where God is, because they don’t know where the body of Christ is. Or they think we are unapproachable and off-limits. This is why Jesus’ ministry took place where it did. Because the religious community was unapproachable…and seemingly “off-limits”.
Two-thousand years later, and the world still doesn’t understand grace. People still think God is not involved… and sadly, it’s probably because there is not a Christian in their life, pointing out God actually is involved. Religion requires it’s holder to be involved, but not of the object of that religion.
Relationship, however, requires both parties to be actively and openly engaged in each other. This is how it works with Christ. Religions fail and come and go, because it is one-sided…human. And humanity, without fail, fails every single time. However, when one actively seeks God and has a relationship with Christ, there is naturally, an active and participating engagement on Christ’ part to work out His plans and purposes. Much like a healthy friendship or marriage… you like hanging out and being a part of those who enjoy having you as a part of their life.
Is God found outside the church? Absolutely. But finding Him, happens more often and more quickly, when the people of God are more active outside the church.
Faith in God needs to be active 24/7, especially if you desire God to be actively involved in your life 24/7.
We can’t pick and choose when we want God around. Granted God is more gracious than your friends or your spouse, but try picking and choosing when you want your friends and spouse around, and one day, they’ll probably be nowhere close to where you hope. The fact, that very easily, God could decide to be that way, out to be compelling enough to make the most of our relationship with Him. Ultimately, though… it’s not a relationship based on fear, but willingness.
Who wouldn’t want a friend or a spouse who would not hesitate to fight to the death because of the value they placed on their relationship with you?
Yet, that is exactly what Christ did for each and every person, who has walked the face of earth since the last day of His ministry.
And to those who had relationship with Him at that time, He told them where He was going and what would happen next. Relationship works better with grace. The law of religion will make you wish there was grace.
This is the very heart of God. There IS grace!