“You cannot ‘out-little’ God,” I told some friends the other day. It is an odd phrase to be sure and I made it up on the spot. It conveyed what I wanted to say which is that there is no concern of ours that is beneath our heavenly Father’s attention and response.
There are those who will tell you otherwise. “Don’t bother God with your petty, little worries,” they say. “Get over it. Work it out yourself.”They portray God like an austere, imperious, aloof parent who is much too busy or intent on great things to spend time on a child’s skinned knee or lost toy. Some make out the Deity to be something like an overworked, overstretched, grouchy dad who needs his sleep and shouldn’t be awakened unless the house is burning down.
Then there is the insistence that we must do everything we can, lining up our spiritual “ducks in a row,” holding out clean hands with pristine fingernails and immaculate, ordered hearts before we dare approach God with a request. If this were true we could never approach God.
God is majestic to be sure. He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lords of Lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:13-14). “The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).
But Jesus left the Father’s side and came to us with grace and truth. He piled up the grace in fact, layers and sheets of it. “From his fullness we have received grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Jesus said there is a whole other side to my Dad that you need to know, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Included in that “whosoever” is you and me for sure if we choose to open the door of belief and walk in to his embrace.”
When I was a kid we sang a boisterous chorus in quaint King James’ English that stuck in my heart and mind.
“Whosoever surely meaneth me,
Oh, surely meaneth me,
Oh, surely meaneth me!
Whosever surely meaneth me,
whosoever meaneth me!”
When we belted out the second verse of “To God Be The Glory,” by that marvelous Christian, Fanny J. Crosby, I knew that I was included.
O perfect redemption,
the purchase of blood,
To every believer
the promise of God;
the vilest offender
who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus
a pardon receives.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or wills us to do or not to do. Jesus Christ makes us children of God as of right, not of whim. He won’t change his mind on you or hold back his love with “if onlys,” or “but you have tos.” “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12).
The Father tells his exhausted and fearful children. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jer. 31:3). When does faithfulness end? “God is faithful” and “God is love” (1 Cor:10:13; 1 John 4:8). He is not going to pick you up to drop you. He is not going to stop loving you. If God stopped thinking of you with love, he would cease to exist (Eph. 1:3-15).
God is not like anyone that we’ve known here that gets tired, misunderstands, gets irritated and forgets the really important stuff. This is what he says. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the child of her womb? Even though these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands” (Isa 49:15-16b). That’s commitment. He did that very thing when Jesus took nails pounded through his very real flesh for us.
Think about what a loving parent does. Our prayers may be little more than stick figures and squiggles. We may have too much glue in some places and overdo the glitter, but a proud mom or dad is going to post the picture on the side of the refrigerator with pride. That’s how our Father in heaven accepts our prayers, not with a dismissal, but with a blessing (Matt. 7:11).
“Ask,” he says, “and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7). “Pray about everything” (Phil 4:6). “Everything,” includes the big and small concerns of our life and everything in between.
I have stood on a platform and preached the gospel to several thousand people, but I have felt closer to God in 3:00 a.m. feedings of my infant son. If God means anything to us it will be in the ordinary and the less than beautiful moments of our life. That’s when love matters most, when we are not at our best; hungry, angry, lonely, tired, hurting or ashamed. It is amazing grace that when we are at our worst, he is at his best for us (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Jesus has thrown the door wide-open to us to boldly walk in and claim mercy and grace in our time of direst need ( Heb. 4:16).
Here is one of my all time favorite things that I have read about experiencing God: “God comes to us wherever we are: in our toothaches, in the bittersweet pain of separation, in our kitchens filled with dirty dishes, in the howling, bleeding births of infants, in the still-births of dreams lost. God touches us, moves us, changes us in our nitty-gritty lives experienced by bodies capable of ripped flesh and souls that yearn for transcendence. If the presence of God doesn’t reach us in the dead of night, rubbing our skin, like Jacob’s, with sand in the desert far from civilization, then religion is just a bunch of words” (Leslie Williams, Night Wrestling [Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1997], p. 7).
The men and women who I’ve known that have believed that their problems were too small for God’s consideration somehow acquired the perverse notion that thinking this way is humility. Nonsense!
We know of course that thinking that our sins and mistakes are too big for God to forgive is arrogance. “Love keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13: 6). God is not seeking large sins to submit to The Guinness Book of Records. He is looking to remove our sins, not marvel at their size or vileness. He is looking to eliminate our sins, not keep score. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:5-6).
It is just as arrogant to think that our problems are so microscopic that it would be a waste of God’s time to bring them to him. Your heavenly Father can give you the exact count of every hair on your head in a nano-second (Matt. 10:30). Do you really think that he is unconcerned about anything that is troubling you?
True humility, wrote the Apostle Peter, is you and me putting every care and anxiety that we have before God in prayer and leaving them there. “‘God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.’Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:5-7).
“All your anxieties” means we don’t keep the little worries in our pocket until they ripen into something worthy of God’s examination and action. “Cast” means we throw our sins at God who can take whatever we throw, “For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption” (Psalm 130:7). His capacity for forgiveness is never, ever exhausted. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).
Our God is the shepherd who leaves 99 safe and healthy sheep to pursue one lost sheep. Our God is the woman who, even though she has nine of her ten coins safely in hand, keeps searching and sweeping for the one last coin. Our God is the father who keeps looking for his wandering youngest child even though that child chose to reject the father and go his own way. In each case, the successful search resulted in a party of celebration, not an inquisition and root-cause analysis of why the loss occurred.
The real problem with sin is always the separation from God, not the reason for the separation, and the solution is a return for reconciliation and restoration to the relationship. God wants us back. Christ did not come to earth to write better laws and make us more moral men and women. He came for us — not for one, two or three select, good-looking, intelligent winners among us — but for all of us. He came to give us life by giving up his own life in love. “Because I live, you also will live,” Jesus said — simple as that. If we accept his life as ours, yielding ourselves to him completely, then we are where we should be, encompassed and suffused with the very life of Christ (Gal. 2:19-21).
“But Kent, we have to do our part before God does his part,” is the objection that I often get. That’s pride talking, not the Gospel truth. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).
Our job, and it may be the toughest job of all because of our stubbornness, is to trust the Lord for what he has done for us, not to try to outdo him. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). His invitation to us is to “rest” in his strength, not to work harder for what he wants to give us (Matt. 11:28).
It is silly anyway to think we can hold out on God “for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought” (1 Chron. 27:9). There are those words “all” and “every” again. The Lord is patient. He is undeterred by our best-laid plans and our worst mistakes. He knows that our success without his eternal, creative power will not be permanent. He realistically expects more failure from us than we do ourselves and still he pursues us in love to hold and heal us when we fall.
I read the following words a week or so ago and they jolted me with electric grace: “If God isn’t bigger than our mistakes, then ultimately we’re not trusting him; we are trusting our own performance. What kind of trust is that?” (Wayne Jacobsen & Clay Jacobsen, Authentic Relationships [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003], p. 98). It is worth our time to think about these words.
This is the gospel of Jesus Christ that we’re talking about here. It is truth for real life. I have watched with awe as it has brought proud men and women including me to their knees and softened our hard hearts. Unexpected compassion has wrenched my insides and stilled my self-sufficient smugness into reverence as I have seen the broken-hearted, crushed, shamed and vile lifted and transformed by grace.
The love of God is manifest to you in Jesus Christ. His love is there for you to claim. Love, by its very nature, gives you the freedom of choice in whether you accept or reject it. But never think that he isn’t interested in you. “Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.”
Under the mercy of Christ,