"But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms--all because we are one with Christ Jesus. And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus."
~ an excerpt from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Christians at Ephesus -- found in the book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 4-6. (New Living Translation, emphasis mine.)
"Deeply flowing grace clarifies, once and for all, who we are....Look how grace defines us. We are...billboards of mercy."
~ excerpts from Max Lucado's book -- Come Thirsty, chapter 3, pages 32-33. (emphasis mine.)
Interesting to me, that God would want to point to me as an example -- not for who I am or what I have accomplished; -- no, but as an example of His incredible wealth of mercy... favor... kindness... toward us. Pointing so that others can look at my life, and see His love, and be won by His grace.
Isn't it strange how we Christians often find ourselves trying to cover our mistakes, our faults, our little (or big) slips? Please don't let anyone see that I can fall, and fail...don't look to closely at my blemishes. When we find our faith is weak under the pressure of life -- layoffs at work...a doctor's diagnosis...a teenage child in rebellion...bills we can't pay...a marriage in jeopardy -- why do we duck for cover, and smile at others as though all is well?
In chapter four of Come Thirsty, Max writes about a place called 'Tuckered Town". Imagine you're holding the book, turning the pages, reading Come Thirsty:
Shoulders pressing, feet digging, lungs puffing, they muscle automobiles up and down the street. Rather than sit behind the wheel, they lean into the trunk.
The sight puzzles you. The sound stuns you. Do you hear what you think you hear? Running engines. Citizens of Tuckered Town turn the key, start the car, slip it into neutral, and shove!
You have to ask someone why. A young mother rolls her mini-van into the grocery store parking lot. "Ever thought of pressing the gas?" you question.
"I do," she replies, brushing sweat away. "I press the gas to start the car, then I take over."
A bizarre answer. But no more bizarre than that of the out-of-breath fellow leaning against his eighteen-wheeler, wheezing like an overweight marathoner. "Did you push this truck?" you ask. "I did," he gasps, covering his mouth with an oxygen mask.
"Why not use your accelerator?"
He cocks an eyebrow. "Because I'm a Tucker trucker, and we're strong enough to do our own work."
He doesn't look strong to you. But you say nothing. Just walk away wondering, What kind of people are these? A pedal push away from power, yet they ignore it. Who would live in such a way? (chapter 4, pages 55-56.)
When I first read this passage, I was reminded of another book by Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace. In this book I remember a story about royal brothers who left their father's kingdom against his wishes, and then found it was impossible to cross the river and get home on their own. One of these brothers became a stone-stacker. He spent his days carrying stones into the river, to build a bridge to the other side. Max compared this brother to Christians who accept grace and mercy at the cross, and then once they are saved, they go to work, to deserve it...stacking stones. Problem is, the distance is a lot farther than we can reach...we can only stack so high...and we'll never make it on our own.
Don't we, as Christians, sometimes find ourselves saved by grace, only to leave mercy at the cross? Why doesn't grace define our days? Why do we hide in the shadows, when God wants to point to us...billboards of mercy...
You know, I've been thinking....
There's another truth for me here... in this concept of being a billboard.
Sometimes the "billboard guy" comes along to make repairs, a new coat of paint, a new, catchy slogan to add to the sign...
Here's the deal. Often I pray, trusting God to meet a need, solve a problem, work a miracle...and then I wait. Here's where it gets tough. Waiting.
Why does God delay? Can't He see that I need an answer? He said if it's important to me, it's important to Him. (Psalm 138:8) What's He waiting for? He's God! He could just snap his fingers.
Maybe the billboard is being repaired or getting a fresh coat of paint.
Maybe He's waiting, for just the right moment, to point me out to someone else.
Who knows who might be planning to drive right down the highway next to my billboard.
Father, help me to be patient. To wait for You. Make me a billboard that shouts the "incredible wealth of Your favor and kindness toward us."
Does God's grace define you? Are you a billboard of mercy? Are you patient, as you wait for God to answer? Are you thirsty?
May I recommend the book, Come Thirsty, by Max Lucado?