CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Getting God's Best
By Beth Hyduke
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Do you want God's best for your life? Do you know what "God's best" is?
By "God's best" for your life I am assuming that you mean blessings, and that you want God to bless you in the fullest way possible. The Bible differentiates between two types of grace — what theologians have commonly termed "common grace" and "special grace." Common grace is defined as God's universal, non-saving grace that bestows blessings to all humanity in the form of physical sustenance, education and learning, pleasure, beauty, etc. as an expression of God's goodness and love. This is what Scripture is referring to in Matthew 5:45: "...for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." In contrast, special grace is a saving grace that is applied only to Christian believers. It is expressed upon those whom God elects or chooses exclusively. This is the kind of grace referenced in Ephesians 2:8: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God..."
Initially, special grace results in a person's salvation; after they are saved, God's special grace to the believer continues working in their lives to produce a host of blessings including our spiritual illumination and edification (Ephesians 1:17-19), our ongoing sanctification (2 Thessalonians 2:13), God's guarantee that we will persevere to the end (1 Corinthians 1:7-8), and a variety of personal gifts (Romans 12:6) to be used in service to God and others.
Titus 2:11-12 links exposure to God's special grace with the inevitable shift that occurs in our lifestyle, priorities, and desires: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation...instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age..." In Jeremiah 29:11-13 God says this to His people: "I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart." Notice how Jeremiah also ties this special-grace intimacy and relationship with God to the God-given blessings of the prosperity, hope, and future He speaks of in verse 11. And, as in the Titus 2 passage, God's good plans and purposes towards us prompt and enact a change in us and in our behavior — we now communicate with, seek, and trust Him where formerly we were alienated rebels, refusing to listen and obey Him.
Of course, the promise of prosperity, hope, and a future does not necessarily mean or guarantee smooth sailing in this life. Though many have twisted verses like Jeremiah 29:11 to mean that if you follow God He will bless you with material wealth and make you financially prosperous, powerful, and/or influential, this is not what the Bible teaches. This "prosperity gospel," though phenomenally popular, is a false gospel taught nowhere in the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible clearly teaches that "charm is deceitful and beauty is vain" (Proverbs 31:30) and that "those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9). Jesus taught us not to invest in any aspect of this life since it's temporary and all of it is passing away (Matthew 6:19-20). Among others, the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 4:11), John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4), the parabolized Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and Jesus Himself (2 Corinthians 8:9; Isaiah 53:2-3; Luke 9:58) were all examples to us that poverty, physical humility, and lowness in society's pecking order are by no means disqualifications to salvation or to developing and furthering a personal relationship with God.
Jesus said, "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved...The thief does not come except to steal, and kill, and destroy. But I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:9-10). Jesus Himself defined His purpose as not just giving life but giving life abundantly; the life that Jesus gives to those who love and follow Him is unique because it is eternal, and He gives it to His redeemed in ever-growing abundance. One of the most beautiful paradoxical truths of the Gospel is that the poorest person in the world will have a richly abundant life in Jesus Christ if he or she is a true believer. If you are a follower of Christ, then you cannot help but be blessed, and blessed abundantly, because this is the work of the Lord applied to every one of His children.
Having said that, there are things we can do that will bring God's discipline and hinder the extent of God's blessing in our lives. Those who by either insincerity of faith or idle laziness, who fail to produce any fruit fall into this category. Sometimes people expect the Christian life to be a sedentary one, in which they kick back while God bestows blessing after blessing on them. Hebrews 6:7-8 says, "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God, but if it bears thorns and briers it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned." The "land" represents God's people (Isaiah 5:1-7), the "rain falling on it" is the Word of God and the Spirit of God (Isaiah 44:3-4; 55:10-11). The productive field is blessed while the idle and unproductive field is destroyed (Isaiah 5:4-6). Commenting on this passage, Matthew Henry wrote:
Believers not only taste of the word of God, but they drink it in. And this fruitful field or garden receives the blessing. But the merely nominal Christian, continuing unfruitful under the means of grace, or producing nothing but deceit and selfishness, was near the awful state above described [in verses 4-6 and 8]; and everlasting misery was the end reserved for him. So let us watch with humble caution and prayer as to ourselves.
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Published on 8-23-16