I came across a quote in one of the books I am reading right now that really blessed me. The author wrote "It is the cross alone that ultimately proves the love of God to us-not the providential circumstances of our lives." This has been a recurring theme in my own personal life as well as many of the people in the church that I pastor. Several of our members are dealing with difficult circumstances. They range from job loss and financial issues to serious health problems and issues with rebellious kids. It always seems that these outward circumstances control how we think about the love of God in our lives. Many times we feel that if our outward circumstances are going well and we are having minimal struggles God is pleased with us and we are performing well. When the tides take a turn for the worse we tend to think that God is displeased with us and for some reason we begin to question whether God loves us. We forget to look at who God is and how He has always taken care of us. I think people tend to have this attitude because that is how our society is set up. I don't care if you are in North America or Europe of up at 9000' in the Andes mountains, society is set up in such a way that we are rewarded for our performance. In the company I worked for I would receive an end of the year bonus based on how well the jobs I ran performed. The more money my jobs made and the quicker they were complete I received a larger check at the end of the year. Athletes are given monster contracts based on their performance. I even tell my kids, "behave and I will get you an ice cream." This all translates into our view of God and our circumstances. If I am in the midst of difficulty I tend to look at my performance. What I need to do is look at the tender mercy of God. I need to remember who God is and who I am in Christ. Remember when Jesus was being baptized. The heavens opened up and God the Father said this is my Son, with you I am well pleased. The One that God the Father is pleased with is His Son, that is it. But when we come to Christ by faith, we are united with Him. Our lives our hidden in His life. His life becomes ours. So God the Father looks at us through the lens of His Son and so in Christ God looks at us and is well pleased. Our circumstances no matter how bad they are, are not the indicator whether or not God loves us. God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. All we have to do is look at the cross to see that God loves us. We don't ever have to question whether God loves us. So we need to get our eyes off our circumstances and onto God. We need to reprogram our minds from the way society is, in regards to a performance based reward system, and remember that God is a God of grace and He loves us. And yes I know that in the end we will receive rewards based on what we do here and now and yes we are to strive to live lives that bring glory and honor to God and strive after His will. I know all that, but that is not the basis for God's love for us. We do that out of our love for Him. But God cannot be more pleased with us than He is right now if we are in Christ. That is a great comfort. That is a great motivation. That is a great relief. It also should make us realize that the outward circumstances of our lives are not controlled by whether or not God loves us and is pleased with us. Just think about the life of Jesus. He had some pretty horrible outward circumstances in His life, yet God's love was infinitely poured upon Him. So for us, "It is the cross alone that ultimately proves the love of God to us-not the providential circumstances of our lives." If you are in Christ, God loves you more than you can even imagine. Take heart in that!
Soli deo Gloria