Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Great Blessing of Thanksgiving: God’s Divine Attributes

By Gary Roberts
Robertson School of Government

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

As we reflect on the blessings of Thanksgiving, I urge you to meditate and be thankful for God’s attributes. One of the greatest gifts of God is the comfort He provides as we trek through the “worldly sorrow” emotions that burden our souls. When we are lost in the wilderness of pain, sorrow, self-pity, depression, and fear, His healing rain provides sweet relief. When we seek the Lord with an earnest desire, we find a gentle voice that eases the pain with His tender touch. Below are eight principles of divine comfort that are water on the lips of a man parched in the desert.

Principle 1): Eternal Love: God did, does and will always love you and I unconditionally. If you doubt this, remember that Jesus sacrificed the most for us when we were at our worst! He first loved us while we were sinners mired in our unsaved state of condemnation.

Principle 2): Unconditional Forgiveness: What a joy to realize that we are blessed with 360 degree eternal forgiveness! Jesus forgives all my sins, past present and future. The blood of Jesus protects and cleanses us and quiets the voices of fear, guilt, condemnation, shame, and doubt emanating from our flesh and the demonic realm. Jesus is tearing down the walls and identifying all the sources of unforgiveness. Take comfort, as Jesus is our advocate, lawyer, and redeemer!

Principle 3): Amazing Grace: Grace is God’s love in action. It involves all elements of the trinity, and is most fully developed in the New Testament redemptive covenant of complete forgiveness of sins. Remember that grace covers every failure, sin and weakness. Grace is the foundation for abundant living. Ponder the formula that ongoing weakness + God’s grace = Abundant Life. Embracing grace is one of the most powerful forms of belief and faith. It is a sin of pride to reject God’s grace. We must humbly accept this great gift and apply it liberally to our wounds, sins, temptations and weaknesses. The Holy Spirit is the comforter, teacher counselor, and provider of grace. God’s grace is always with us and we must build our homes upon its rock solid foundation. Grace softens and purifies the motives of our heart freeing us from the bondage of legalism and a spirit of works. When we desire to earn a reward from God, it is very easy for Satan to transform our motives into a “works spirit” that becomes a cruel taskmaster given the need to perform and accomplish instead of simply being in relationship. Grace meets us where we are at, and we do not need to be “cleaned up” as the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) clearly illustrates when the father runs towards the distantly viewed son and then joyously hugs and embraces his pathetically downtrodden and sin-stained child.

Principle 4): God is Patient: God is never frustrated or angered in human emotional terms. He is patient whether I obey or not, act or not, agree or not, and this takes away the burden of legalistically having to please God. We don’t have to change all at once, only God can provide instantaneous transformation, and in most cases it is contrary to His will to “zap” us given that we need gradual transformation to build character, faith, patience and empathy. These attributes are the foundation of a ministry of healing that God creates with our tears and scars. The comfort we are given, we give to others. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings and remember that the Lord will not let us be tempted and tested beyond our ability to bear.

Principle 5): God is Responsible for the Increase: God, not our efforts or talent, is responsible for the fruit, the healing and the change, both within us and with others. This reduces the pressure to “perform” and reinforces the power of Godly excellence which entails embracing obedience, humility and character growth. This assurance enables us to love others and ourselves in the appropriate fashion, with the combination of support/encouragement and necessary “tough love” accountability. We must always ask for the Lord’s power and guidance to base our motives on agape love which helps guard our heart from guilt, condemnation and manipulation.

Principle 6): God Will not Test Beyond Our Ability to Endure: Romans 8:28 clearly states that all things work out for the best for those who love God. This means that in all circumstances, the Lord will not test or tempt beyond our ability to bear the burden. This provides powerful reassurance that irrespective of how large and powerful the Goliaths and strongholds that we face, God’s power to protect is always greater! Another key element is to reject any form of comparison with others regarding the size or nature of our problems. God does not use a comparative standard in terms of the objective size or strength of our enemies or judge us on a relative standard of strength and courage. He is equally pleased with the “timid and fearful” who learns to trust God and face their fears of a mouse as He is with the brave warrior who is facing lions. Never despise the day of small beginnings!

Principle 7): Godly discipline is always for our benefit. God uses trials to discipline us, and His discipline bears pleasant fruit when we humble ourselves and surrender our will. Every thought has the power of life and death, and Satan attempts to influence our thinking to plant seeds of doubt, unbelief and fear that impede God’s purpose. How do you hear the voice of Jesus? Even in those bible passages in which He voice anger and frustration, it was always done with a spirit of love as evidenced by His actions. He always forgave and moved on, He was patient with reoccurring failure, he never abandoned or rejected even when His beloved disciples fled, and He returned love and peace for failure and sin.

Principle 8): God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness: This is one of the most comforting but humbling lessons. Christians are victors and victorious, but this triumph is based upon a radically different definition of success and excellence than the secular world and culture utilizes. Victory and success in God’s eyes entails: 1) loving Him unconditionally, 2) obedience to His commands and will, 3) recognizing, confessing, repenting and renouncing our sins, 4) learning from our mistakes and failures, 5) learning to love, and 6) forgive and offer grace to others and ourselves. It is not an outcome based perspective. It is when we are weak and in a failed state that we most clearly recognize that our strength, victory and power comes from God. An attitude of humble strength acknowledges that all of our talents, gifts and abilities, all of our successes and accomplishments, our ability to focus, work hard and persist, all are gifts from God, hence we cannot boast. When we are successful, pride insidiously infects our ability to assign the appropriate locus of responsibility to God and redirects it to our character and “worthiness.” Failure is very effective at penetrating the defenses and placing us back on the correct path.

I pray that you will dedicate yourself being hearers and doers of the word, and that these principles will be a source of Godly blessing and encouragement.

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