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One of the hardest life-lessons to learn, and, consequently, one of the most difficult truths to fully apprehend, is God’s unflinching favor. As humans, hearing of something (or Someone) that is unflinching, unwavering, unremitting, is so foreign; the steadfast grace of God transcends finite intellect. And because we often forget to remind ourselves of God’s unrelenting favor of us, we can, very easily, get swept up in the mire that is juxtaposed between our “good days” and our “bad days.”
The good day, bad day conundrum.
If you’ve ever read Dr. Jerry Bridges’ The Discipline of Grace, I’m sure you’ll have an idea of where I’m headed (and if you haven’t read that book yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough). We all have our ups and our downs, good days and bad days. Our life isn’t defined by a steady line, but a line that ebbs and flows, fluctuating between the “über-spiritual” and the “dastardly wicked.” This “good day-bad day” conundrum is really a black hole — something we get sucked into if we’re not careful. The quandary goes something like this.
First, you have a spiritually “good” day. You wake up early, before dawn (because all spiritual people wake up early!), and have a solid quiet time and prayer time with God. You then eat a great breakfast and leave early for work. Your drive to work is good, too, hitting all the green lights and no one cuts you off. Everything, seemingly, goes your way and life seems “good.”
Contrast that with the spiritually “bad” day. You wake up late, well after your alarm, leaving you with no time for personal devotions or prayer. You hurriedly scarf down some pop tarts before rushing off to work, and things don’t get much better from there. You hit every single red light and you, more than once, lose your temper because of the seriously bad drivers who consistently cut you off and make general mayhem of the roads with their horrible vehicular dexterity. Everything just doesn’t go your way the whole day. Life seems “bad.”1 But looking at these two days from a bird’s-eye perspective, on which of those days do you think God is “more pleased” with you? On which of those days do you think God’s love for you is greater? Well, if you answered those questions with anything but “neither” then you answered incorrectly!
The same love.
The truth is, on our bad days and our good days, God’s love for us is the exact same! The Father’s love and grace for you is unflinching, unmitigating, undeserving, and unconditional! As a matter of fact, if you think that the “good” you do is the cause of God’s love and favor, you’ve just nullified everything that the gospel is — you’ve nullified the very favor you claim to believe in!
The apostle Paul says, that “if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Rom 11:6) If the redemption you claim to trust in, if the salvation you say you have, if the pardon you say you’re banking on, is placed upon the grounds of anything other than the grace of God, you’re making a mockery of the gospel, a joke out of grace. And that’s what’s so hard. We want so much for what we do to count and to matter, that we forget that grace is everything — it’s our lifeline, it’s our strength, it’s our anchor, it’s our hope. We owe our all to grace. We owe everything we are to God’s unmerited favor of us. Indeed, as Dr. Barnhouse says, “One of the hardest lessons for man to learn is that everything that God does for us is by grace. Man is so eager to have some credit for his blessings that it is difficult for him to admit his utter spiritual bankruptcy.”2 We want so much to get the credit, get the glory, for something, that we will do whatever we can to avoid admitting the one thing that set us free: that we’re utterly bankrupt and, indeed, absolutely nothing without Jesus Christ.
Nonetheless, I implore you to lean on the gospel and bank on grace! Because that’s something that’ll never waver, never fluctuate! “Seasons vary, circumstances change, feelings fluctuate, friendships cool, friends die, but Christ is ever the same,” says Octavius Winslow.3 God is always the same! His loving and gracious disposition towards us never wavers, never falters, never falls short, never casts conditions or prerequisites — it never changes! Yes, grace, just like Jesus, “is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8) It’s the Solid Rock upon which you rest and the Firm Foundation upon which you stand.
Impossible forgiveness, meet inexhaustible grace.
Sometimes, when we mess up, and we’re in great need of God’s forgiveness, we often feel as though God can’t forgive us. Oftentimes, we’re fooled into believing that, “That sin was the last straw! No more forgiveness! No more grace!” But that’s not at all how God deals with us. Amazingly, thankfully, and miraculously, God the Father “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103:10–12) Praise God for his unflinching forgiveness and unmerited favor!
God can do nothing but love you! That’s what Jesus has ensured. (Col 3:13–15) All the animosity and wrath that is due your sin was borne, in full, by Christ the Son — he took it all, bore it all, and erased it all, thereby securing, fully, finally, and forever, your forgiveness! Yes, “our sins are forgiven, forgotten, cleansed, pardoned, atoned for, remitted, covered; they have been cast into the depths of the sea, blotted out as a thick cloud, removed as far as the east is from the west, remembered against us no more forever, cast behind God’s back.”4
We may doubt, and debase, and deny our Divine relationship, yet God will never disown us as his children, nor disinherit us as his heirs. We may cease to act as a child, he will never cease to love as a Father.5
That’s what you can lean on, Christian. On your good days and on your bad days, that God will never cease in his loving care and gracious affection of you. For, love must be unconditional, or else it’s not true love; grace must be boundless, or else it’s not veritable grace; mercy must be free, or else it’s not real mercy; forgiveness must be full and final, or else it’s not true forgiveness. And the good news? You have all those things in Jesus!
Lean on me.
Therefore, on the good days and the bad days, don’t bank on your “goodness,” bank on Jesus! Rely on him! Lean on his grace! Push into his gospel! This is what the good news frees you to do. It declares that “your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”6 In all phases of life, old or young, rich or poor, happy or sad, frustrated or content, it is all of grace.
It is grace that strives with the sinner, grace that renews him, grace that leads him to the cross, grace that forgives him, grace that heals all his diseases, grace that bears with him after forgiveness, grace that guides him along, grace that fights for him, grace that comforts him, grace that trains him for the kingdom and makes all things work together for his good, grace that keeps his soul in peace amid the tumults of a stormy world, grace that maintains his unbroken fellowship with the Lord, grace that lays him down quietly to sleep in Jesus, with the blessed hope of soon rising again and putting on immortality — it is grace that does all these marvels.7
It is grace alone that performs all these wonders, secures all these blessings, ensures all these hopes, all in the Surety of Christ Jesus, the Lord. Bank on Jesus, Christian, bank on his unflinching favor, his unmitigating mercy, and his unrelenting grace.
Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), 13–14.
Donald G. Barnhouse, Expositions of Bible Doctrines Taking the Epistle to the Romans as a Point of Departure, Vol. 3 (Philadelphia: The Evangelical Foundation, 1963), 3:111.
Octavius Winslow, No Condemnation in Christ Jesus: As Unfolded in the Eighth Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 136.
Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1954), 283.