What does God owe you?
The Lord has brought the Joneses to our knees (on our best days) in this difficult season. Will finishing his PhD in a season of economic downturn is not what we expected. Before he completed his time at Rice in April, my dreams were filled with possibilities: moving to a cool college town, owning a home, pursuing adoption, sending missionaries to the world with our extra. All of these dreams, though, require a job and a second income. That is not what the Lord has handed us. As I write to you, my eyes are filled with tears at the loss we’ve experienced so far.
While our losses have troubled me greatly, what God has revealed in my heart is even more concerning. As I studied for my apologetics class this week, God used Tim Keller’s words to convict me of something ugly rooted deep inside me:
“Moralistic religion leads its participants to the conviction that if they live an upstanding life, then God (and others) owe them respect and favor. They believe they deserve a decent, happy life. If, however, life begins to go wrong, moralists will experience debilitating anger. Either they will be furious with God (or “the universe”) because they feel that since they live better than others, they should have a better life. Or else they will be deeply angry at themselves, unable to shake the feeling that they have not lived as they should or kept up to standards.”
Woah, God. Not me! I’m not a moralist, a pharisee. On the other hand, I have lived a really good life. I do deserve respect and favor, right? Oh friends, I am a pharisee. I have lashed out in anger at my family. I have grumbled about my circumstances and about those who have it better than me. I have been deeply disappointed in myself for not living up to the standards of the world. I have questioned my choice to follow God into vocational ministry. I have felt hopeless. What God has revealed in this season is that most of all, I always believed in me. And I’ve always been unable to save us.
What Tim said next offered me hope in my hopelessness:
“The gospel, however, makes it possible for someone to escape the spiral of bitterness, self-recrimination, and despair when life goes wrong. They know that the basic premise of religion- that if you live a good life, things will go well for you- is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet he had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture.”
I had forgotten Christ’s suffering! If Christ’s perfect morality couldn’t get him a house, an income, a vacation, why would mine? This truth has given me far more hope than the well meaning encouragements of those who say it will all work out. I have rested in knowing that my dreams might not come to fruition. God has made it possible for me to surrender those plans. I can count it all rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Him more and attaining the resurrection from the dead. It has been painful to learn that I’ve been trying to save our family from loss. I have bought into religion and believed that I should have more because I do more. This self-righteousness has kept me from experiencing the gospel. Praise God that in his great love and mercy, He is restoring my heart to His salvation through faith by grace alone. I’m praying for each of you today (many by name) and asking the Lord to restore the gospel in your hearts. If you are trying to pull yourself up in this season of loss, join me in returning to dependency Christ. I think we will live radically different lives.
Cami Jones is a leader coach at The Bridge and a part of the Southside House Church.
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