Tag Archives: Hope

God’s Grace.

One of Jesus’ most powerful parables is also one of the most well known: the story of the prodigal son. In terms of offering hope nothing matches the incredible story of God’s redemption and grace.

You may recall that the younger of the father’s two sons demanded his inheritance before his father died. It was an audacious and arrogant ultimatum but one the father agreed to honor. Upon receipt of his share of the estate, the son sets off for a foreign land where he quickly squanders the funds on riotous living. Destitute and starving, he lands a menial job feeding swine. For a young Jewish boy nothing could be more humiliating. He had hit rock bottom.

In time he comes to his senses and decides to return home. Certain his behavior has permanently severed the relationship with his dad, the son develops a narrative he hopes earns his dad’s mercy: “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant” (Luke 15:18-19, NLT).

The son believes his father loves him conditionally. As long as he acts uprightly, honors the family name, and doesn’t rebel, his father will love him. But any shameful or inappropriate behavior will cause that love to cease. In light of his debauchery the son concludes his dad no longer considers him family. His only hope lies in offering to work as a servant.

Does that reflect your view of God? Have you failed Him in the past and now believe He no longer loves you? Has a lifetime of rebellious behavior led you to conclude you can never be part of God’s family? Do you share the prodigal son’s view that you have to earn God’s mercy or that His forgiveness is conditioned on acts of contrition? If so, you’re going to love the rest of this story.

As the son approaches home his dad sees him and races out to greet him with hugs and kisses. Awash with joy, the father ignores the entreaty his son has rehearsed and instead tells the servants to bring a luxurious robe, the family ring, and comfortable sandals for his son to wear. What’s more, he instructs the staff to kill the prized calf and prepare a feast. It’s time to celebrate! What a remarkable contrast to the reception the prodigal son expected.

Jesus’ point could not be clearer. God loves unconditionally. Nothing we do – no sin, no act of rebellion – can separate us from His love. Equally comforting is the fact that we do not have to work our way back into God’s favor. He extends mercy to all who ask and does not insist we earn it.

Have you avoided God because you assumed He wouldn’t want you? Have you languished in despair over the idea that too much evil has flowed from your heart to earn God’s grace? Have you avoided committing your life to Christ because you believe He only calls the righteous? Well take heart. None of that is true.

God’s mercy and forgiveness await all who come. Like the father in the parable, He stands ready to receive you and enthusiastically awaits your arrival. Isn’t it time to take that journey?

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You are the beloved of God.

Most of us yearn to experience genuine, unconditional love in our lives. We seek absolute, unqualified affection from family, friends, and confidants alike. Such love inspires us to pursue bigger dreams than we ever imagined and motivates us to achieve greater accomplishments than we ever thought possible. Unconditional love encourages us to move past our failures and shortcomings and try again. Authentic love liberates us from the despair, discouragement, and hopelessness that paralyze and demoralize us. True love is the most integral input to a satisfying, fulfilled life.

Sadly, millions of Americans find such love elusive in an increasingly cold and impersonal world. We plod through life unaware of the power and hope produced by unconditional love. It appears too remote – like a desert mirage that lies just beyond our reach. We hunger for it desperately but consign ourselves to a reality that we will never possess it.

That is unfortunate since each of us has immediate access to a relationship grounded in a deeper, more authentic love than we have ever experienced. It is a love predicated on the majesty and glory of our Creator and not on our worthiness. We can never earn such love, yet we need not try because it is already ours. God’s love for you is not conditioned on doing anything to warrant it. He extends His affection because doing so brings Him pleasure.

You are dear to the heart of God. He cherishes you. He views you fondly. You are precious in the sight of God no matter what deeds darken your past. He wants to take you forward to a future filled with meaning and purpose. His love will break the shackles of regret and shame that destroy you. You are His beloved!

Take some time to revel in that truth. God loves you irrespective of how insignificant, how unworthy, or how unlovable you view yourself. He loves you no matter the stain of past behavior, the bleakness of current circumstances, or the futility-filled future you anticipate. God will restore you from the past, transform your present condition, and infuse your future with hope. That is good news. Indeed it is the Great News of the gospel.

Keep in mind, though, as the beloved of God we should not expect a life of comfort, pleasure, leisure, and luxury. God does not award in this life His beloved with an absence of trials, challenges, pain, or struggles. Instead He uses difficult events to transform us, draw us closer to Him, and teach us to trust Him. We learn to view the world through His eyes, to share His love with others, and to adopt His priorities. In the process we discover a life overflowing with significance and joy. For evidence we need look no further than the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The apostle Matthew recounts three instances in which God calls Jesus, ‘My Beloved,” (see Matthew 3:17; 12:18; 17:5, NKJV). On each occasion Almighty God asserts, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” We learn three things about Jesus in these verses.

  • He is the beloved of God.
  • He is the Son of God.
  • He has pleased God.

We might expect someone with these credentials to enjoy a long life filled with material blessings, career success, abundant prosperity, and the absence of pain. Yet Jesus endured a short life (thirty-three years) marked by ridicule and contempt from his peers, crammed with suffering, and which lacked worldly riches. His life refutes the perception (often taught as doctrine) that God rewards His people with health, wealth, pleasure, and comfort. In fact, no one ever pleased God as fully as Jesus did yet He died impoverished and despised, and suffered a brutal, unjustified death at the hands of those who hated God.

While none of us may undergo such a similarly vicious conclusion to this world, we ought to recognize that a life pleasing to God is often accompanied by trouble, anguish, and toil. Such experiences do not reflect the absence of God in our lives but rather allow us to reveal His strength, love and power to those around us. In view of Jesus’ life and death we should recalibrate our expectation of what it means to be beloved of God.

Like Jesus we ought to pursue lives that align to God’s will, advance His agenda, and bring Him glory – not in a futile attempt to earn His favor and unconditional love but in recognition that we have already received both. Our desire to please and serve Him ought to be born of our awareness that He gives our life meaning, fullness, and hope. Those in turn equip us with the resolve to follow Him no matter the cost.

Does your life enjoy the unconditional, authentic love of God – a love that sustains you through whatever trials life places in your path? If not, call out today and ask Him to reveal His deep, abiding love to you, His beloved. When he bestows that affection on you remember it may not improve your circumstances (indeed they may get tougher) but it will equip you with the strength to overcome them. And living in that love makes life much more joyous, meaningful, and hopeful.