Archive for July 19, 2012

Lavish Grace

Posted: July 19, 2012 in Max Lucado

Lavish Grace.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Auguste Bartholdi traveled from France to Egypt in 1856. His artistic mind was stimulated by the grandeur of the pyramids, the magnitude of the mighty Nile, and the beauty of the stately Sphinx of the desert. While there, he met another visitor to Egypt, who was there to sell an idea to cut a canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, which would save merchant ships the long journey around the tip of the African continent. Auguste loved the concept and decided to design a lighthouse to stand at the entrance to this canal.

It wouldn’t be an ordinary lighthouse. It would symbolize the light of Western civilization flowing to the East. In the ten years it took to build the Suez Canal, Auguste drew plans, made clay models, and scrapped plan after plan. Finally he came up with the perfect design. There was only one problem. Who would pay for it? He looked everywhere, but no one was interested. The Suez Canal was opened—without a lighthouse. Auguste went back to France defeated, ten years of toil and effort wasted.

You would have liked his idea. It was a colossal robed lady that stood taller than the Sphinx in the desert. She held the books of justice in one hand and a torch lifted high in the other to light the entrance to the canal.

After Auguste returned to France, the French government sought his artistic services to design a gift to America. The Statue of Liberty lighting the New York harbor demonstrates that what happens in the midst of disappointments can often be a prelude to good things beyond our imagination.

If, for Auguste Bartholdi, things that seem to be disappointing, difficult, and defeating can be processed into that which is magnificent and significant, how much surer is this process with the hand of our wise and powerful God guaranteeing the outcome?  That’s what I find so encouraging about Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This oft-quoted verse packs a powerful punch in times of despair and discouragement.  Because of Romans 8:28, we know that “good” is the ultimate purpose of the process of pain. And that’s just it . . . It’s a process.

The only way we can accept defeat and discouragement is to believe that God has us in process. Each of us is a work in progress. Though God loves and accepts us the way we are, He sees all that we can become. Pleasure has a way of making us satisfied with ourselves, while pain catches our attention so that God can develop us into His plan for our lives.

The process is defined in several dimensions. First, it’s an all-encompassing process. Since God works “in all things,” we are guaranteed that whatever He permits—whether pain or pleasure, bane or blessing—He is able to use it all to transform us. It is also a continuous process. The fact that God “works” indicates a present, continuous process. He will never abandon His purpose for us or the process to accomplish it (Philippians 1:6). We also can’t miss the fact that it is a divinely inspired process. Behind the scenes of our life story is the hand of God Himself—moving, changing, limiting, applying pressure, providing strength, rearranging. God is the one working all things for our good.

Once we understand how the process works, we always have to come back to God’s purpose: to conform us to the image of His Son.  Anything that will bring us to a more accurate reflection of the quality of Jesus in and through our lives is good. Whatever it takes, pain or pleasure, it’s good if it conforms us to His likeness.

I can’t think of anything that would be more “good” than that!


  • Think of a time you experienced a season of disappointment or despair. How did God work through that process to conform you a little closer to the image of His Son?
  • Perhaps you are going through a painful process right now. What aspect of the process is most encouraging to you—that is all-encompassing, continuous, or divinely inspired? Ask the Lord to give you patience as He guides you through the process, and look forward with anticipation to the good outcome He will bring!
  • Do you have the confidence to say with Paul, “. . . being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion . . .”?  What is the “good work” He is doing in your life today? You can be sure He will finish the job!

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am —John 13:13

Our Lord never insists on having authority over us. He never says, “You will submit to me.” No, He leaves us perfectly free to choose— so free, in fact, that we can spit in His face or we can put Him to death, as others have done; and yet He will never say a word. But once His life has been created in me through His redemption, I instantly recognize His right to absolute authority over me. It is a complete and effective domination, in which I acknowledge that “You are worthy, O Lord . . .” (Revelation 4:11). It is simply the unworthiness within me that refuses to bow down or to submit to one who is worthy. When I meet someone who is more holy than myself, and I don’t recognize his worthiness, nor obey his instructions for me, it is a sign of my own unworthiness being revealed. God teaches us by using these people who are a little better than we are; not better intellectually, but more holy. And He continues to do so until we willingly submit. Then the whole attitude of our life is one of obedience to Him.

If our Lord insisted on our obedience, He would simply become a taskmaster and cease to have any real authority. He never insists on obedience, but when we truly see Him we will instantly obey Him. Then He is easily Lord of our life, and we live in adoration of Him from morning till night. The level of my growth in grace is revealed by the way I look at obedience. We should have a much higher view of the word obedience, rescuing it from the mire of the world. Obedience is only possible between people who are equals in their relationship to each other; like the relationship between father and son, not that between master and servant. Jesus showed this relationship by saying, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). “. . . though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). The Son was obedient as our Redeemer, because He was the Son, not in order to become God’s Son.

The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. You walls of Daughter Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest. Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of our children, who faint from hunger at every street corner.” — Lamentations 2:18–19

Jewish tradition teaches that the Gates of Heaven are never closed to tears.

Tears are said to be the “sweat of the soul.” When we are moved to our core, we shed liquid drops called tears. God takes notice when we exert ourselves to such an extent. There is no surer sign that your prayers have been heard then if you complete your prayers drenched in the sweat of your soul.

Rabbi Aryeh Levin of Jerusalem was a man of incredible compassion and sensitivity. One day, a recently widowed woman came to him for comfort and solace. But try as he may, Rabbi Levin was unable to console her. Finally, the woman said “Rabbi, I will accept your words of comfort on the condition that you answer one question for me.”

“Anything,” the Rabbi said.

“Please tell me, Rabbi, what happened to all of my tears? I prayed and I prayed for my late husband, I recited chapter after chapter of Psalms, and I shed thousands upon thousands of tears. Were they all wasted?”

Very gently, the Rabbi said to her, “After you leave this world and ascend to the heavenly tribunal, you will see how meaningful and precious your tears were. You will discover that God himself gathered them in and counted every single teardrop and treasured it like a priceless gem. And you will discover that whenever a terrible harsh decree was threatening the world, one of your teardrops washed all of the evil away. Even one tear is a source of blessing and salvation!”

The Gates of Heaven are never closed to real, sincere tears, and no tear is ever wasted. Now, that doesn’t mean that we will always get what we ask for – even when we cry for it. But it does mean that we have created an extremely powerful source of blessing that will be showered upon us when the time is just right.

So don’t be afraid to cry out to the Lord, my friends. “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” Every tear you shed is so very precious to God, and you never know how or when your tears will bring blessings to the entire world.

The Golden Rule

“You have heard the saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may become sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the wicked and the good alike, and sends rain on both those who do right and those who do wrong.

For if you love only those who love you, what reward have you earned? Do not even the tax-gatherers as much? And if you show courtesy only to your friends, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the heathen do as much?

You must therefore become perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Therefore, whatever you wish that men should do to you, do even so to them.”

The People Who Are Really Happy


John bear witness of him and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me–Joh. 1:15

The Large Place Witnessing Has in Scripture

The thought of witness-bearing finds ample expression in the Bible. “Witness” is one of the key words of the Scripture, occurring in the early records of Genesis and in the writings of prophets and apostles. It makes an interesting study to collect the passages in which the word “witness” is found. Sometimes it is God who is the witness; at other times it is the arching heaven above us. Then we read that when Joshua had made a covenant with the people, he took a great stone and set it up under an oak tree, and said, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us” (Jos. 24:26-27). Christ Himself is spoken of as a witness–“Behold I have given him for a witness to the people” (Isa. 55:4); Paul tells us that God had never left Himself without a witness (Act. 14:17); and it was at the feet of that same Paul that the witnesses laid down their clothes in the hour when Stephen cried, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Act. 7:59). Let us remember, too, that when we believe on Jesus, there is a witness which we have in ourselves (1Jo. 5:10). Such passages as these help to make plain to us what a large place the witness has in Scripture. The Baptist is not isolated in his witness-bearing; he is one of a great and evergrowing company. Let us try, then, to gather up some of the things to which John bore witness. It may be that we also, like the Baptist, may be sent to be the witness-bearers of Christ Jesus.

Witness to the Presence of Christ

First, then, John bore witness to the presence of Christ. The Jews were eagerly expecting the Messiah. They were thrilled with the hope that He was coming. God had awakened such a longing in their hearts that they knew the advent was not far away. So were they straining their eyes to the east and to the south; so were they anxiously awaiting some splendor of arrival; and John bore witness that the Christ they looked for was standing among them even while he spoke (Joh. 1:26). He was not hidden in the clouds of heaven; He was not lurking in some far concealment; He would not burst upon them in any visible glory, nor with any credentials that would be instantly accepted. Even while John spoke the Christ was there, moving among them as a man unknown–John bore witness to a present Lord. Now that is a witness which we all may share in. We may show our neighbors that Jesus is among them. We may make it plain to our visitors, as John did, that Jesus of Nazareth is not far away. And we do this not so much by speech or by having the name of Jesus on our lips as by revealing His love and power and patience in the general tenor of our lives. There are some men who immediately impress us with the fact that they walk in the company of Christ. There is no explaining the impression that they make unless it be that they are living with Jesus–their secret is, they have a Friend. That is true witness-bearing, and it is like the Baptist’s. It is a witness to the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Witness to the Greatness of Christ

Again, John bore witness to the greatness of Christ. Of course the Jews were expecting a great Savior; all their long history made them sure of that. The threefold dignities of king and priest and prophet were to mingle in the person of Messiah. But greatness has diverse meanings; it is touched with a thousand differences on a thousand lips; and when a nation falls from its high ideals, as the Jews had fallen in the time of John, the great man of the popular imagination is not the great man in the sight of God. Now this was part of the witness-beating of the Baptist, to reveal the true greatness and glory of Messiah; to single Him out as He moved amid the people, and proclaim that He was greater than them all. There were no insignia on Jesus’ breast; He was not clothed in any robes of state; there was nothing in His adornment or His retinue to mark Him off as one who was truly great. And it was John’s work to pierce through all disguise and see the grace and glory of the Man and cry that though He had no beauty that men should desire Him, yet none was worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet (Joh. 1:27). In different ways, and yet in the same spirit, we should all be witness-bearers to Christ’s greatness. It is always possible so to think and act and live that men will feel we serve a great Commander. He who thinks meanly and does petty and foolish deeds and has no lofty ideals clearly before him is not commending an exalted Savior. It is in a spirit that is so touched to reveal spiritual greatness, however humble be the believer’s daily round, that witness is borne to the greatness of the Lord.

Witness to the Lowliness and Gentleness of Christ

Once more, John bore witness to the lowliness and gentleness of Christ. I think that if John had been a time-server, and had cared only to flatter Jewish prejudice, he would have told his audience that the Spirit had descended, not like a dove, but like an eagle. It was not a dove for which the Jews were looking. They wanted a power to expel the Romans. What a chance for a false prophet this would have been, considering the symbolism of the Roman eagles! But John could only tell what he had seen–a faithful witness will not lie (Pro. 14:5)–and he bare record saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove” (Joh. 1:32). That means that almost in the teeth of his own stern heart, John bore witness to a dovelike Savior. There was to be a brooding peace about Messiah, a lowly gentleness, a still small voice. And when we remember what John’s own nature was and think of the Christ of common expectation, we see how true and faithful was this witness-bearing. May not we, too, bear witness in our lives to the lowly tenderness of our Redeemer? May we not make it plain, as John did, that the Lord whom we know is filled with the dovelike Spirit? We do that whenever we master temper or check the bitter word or take the lowest place. We do that when our unforgiving hearts and our stubborn and proud and selfish wills become imbued with that love and thoughtful tenderness which is the very spirit of Christ Jesus.

Witness to the Sacrifice of Christ

Lastly, John bore witness to the sacrifice of Christ. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Joh. 1:29). John had roused the conscience of the people; he had awakened in them the sleeping sense of sin. Jewish missionaries tell us that today that is still the first thing they strive to do. But when the sense of guilt was roused in them–what then? Then John’s great work of witness-bearing reached its peak. So it may be with every one of us. We, too, may be witness-bearers of the sacrifice. We may so hate and abhor and shun all sin, we may so feel the price of our redemption, we may so live in the sweet sense of pardon, we may be so hopeful for the lowest and worst men, that our life (unknown to us perhaps) shall be a witness-bearing to Christ crucified.


Declaring War On Your Besetting Sins.