Tuesday, October 30, 2012
God’s office is at the end of our rope....
The truth that we do not want to admit is that Christians most often live within the confines of their own strength and ability. We handle it. Whether these are the pressing matters of job or family or home or personal crises, we deal with it. We deal with them. We use our minds and we think about what we need to do and we consult with friends and family to make sure they are on board. And then we do it. God, if He is at all involved in this, acts more as consultant than guide and as reserve more than primary strength. If God seems distant from us in our time of need, it may very well be that we have kept Him at a distance.
When we pray we more often direct God to the solution or course that we have determined than we pray to be content with His will and His direction. So it is no wonder that we think God's hearing of our prayers is somehow tied to our receiving the answer we hope for. When we do not get the answer we desire, we so often assume that God was just not paying attention. It is somehow hard for us to imagine that God could hear us out and then reject our plan or the path we have chosen.
In order for God to act at all, we so often have to be at the end of our rope -- at that point when all the props holding us up have fallen down, when all our abilities and favors have been used up, and when we have no other way than the way of the Lord. That is why it is said that God's office is tat the end of our rope. Office hear referring more to the sense of God at work and less the location or address for God. God is not accessible to us until we find ourselves without a choice but to depend upon His grace. We resist this as long as possible, in part, because we know that God's will may have nothing at all to do with our desire or decision. Yet nothing at all demonstrates what faith is about more than when we have no choice but to depend upon God's grace. That is why the message of Scripture is so often that His grace is dependable -- we can depend upon it to answer our need even when we cannot depend upon it to agree with the answer we desire and have sought.
We have come to assume that suffering is a sign that things are going wrong in our lives and so we think that if we can find the cause and fix it, the suffering will go away. In fact, it might be said that when our lives are most at risk and we are most distant from God's promises -- this is when we are most at risk. We are standing on our own strength instead of standing in the strength of the Lord. It could very well be just the opposite -- if we are not suffering, something is wrong. Over and over again Jesus cautions His disciples not to expect glory. If the world will not allow Christ to walk without challenge and suffering, how can we expect those who live in Christ to walk without these same afflictions? We must be careful to make sure we are not suffering for wrong but suffering for Christ. At the very same time we are not overcome by these afflictions borne because of the name of Christ. We are not overcome because God is with us in the midst of our troublesome journey.
The life of the Christian has come to mean a path without a hitch or drawback -- one constant improvement upon another. Where can you find such an incline toward glory in the Bible? The real life of the Christian is one of constant ups and downs -- often with us mistaking what is an up and what is a down. The remarkable thing about grace is that the Lord shows it to us in our worst moments. Like the angel who told the disciples to make sure and tell Peter that Christ is risen, God's office is at our lowest, at the end of the rope, when we have no where else to go. But, as Peter learned to say, "Lord, where else can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life."
The vast danger of so much of contemporary Christianity is that the focus is on fixing the wrong and improving our lot in life. God is the one with the directions and perhaps the tools but the work is largely ours to do. There is no Gospel in this. Worse, there is no hope for those who best intentions and efforts yield no fruitful results or rewards. When things are going well on our own, we don't need much help from God (or so we think) but the great truth of tragedy and failure is that when we deserve it least, God is there. So Christ has bridged time and eternity to deliver to us the promise of Emmanuel -- the God who is with us... even at the end of our hopes... especially then!