Last week at work a co-worker who knows I’m a Christian asked me: “what do you do when things stress you out, what do you think about??”

I paused for a few seconds and replied “I remind myself that everything that happens to me God already knew would happen from eternity and wanted it to happen for some reason.”

Whew. I was partially surprised at my answer.  2-3 years ago I think I might have mumbled something about “God not letting things happen to His children that they can’t handle, so I can have faith I can persevere through it.” And there would be nothing blasphemous about saying that, but I realize now that would have reeked of self-meritorious congratulation. I mean, sure I can persevere through things; we all can. But it hasn’t cracked through my skull until lately (I guess) that I can claim no merit on my own behalf for this perseverance.

You see, this line of thinking would have us believe our faith should actually lie in our OWN ability to persevere through trials, because after all…. God puts a cap on how much he lets me handle. He does his part, I do mine, and therefore His “Godness” is intact while I can still pat myself on the back for persevering. But those two  ideas are opposed to each other. Either God is all-powerful and rules every inch of his creation and thus even when I persevere through trials I can only thank God for the mercy he has granted by pulling me through it, or I can continue in my sinful self-congratulatory merit thinking I accomplished perseverance by my own power. In the process of this I would be mentally dethroning the very God that has grants me grace. Even worse, such a statement presumes that I even deserve His mercy, which erodes the very nature of what mercy is- escaping what I actually deserve as a sinner.

Its interesting how many times justification is mentioned in the bible it is instrinsically linked to sanctification. You can distinguish between the two, but you can never separate them. The sovereign grace of God does not ransom us from our punishment, and spiritually raise from our dead state (Eph. 2), and then leave us on our own to persevere through life’s trials and suffering by our own grit and determination. Rather, the same grace that works in us to produce repentance and works from formerly corrupt creatures is the same all-consuming grace that aids us in our need. There is nothing passive about it. Maybe thats why John Newton called it “Amazing”.

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