(You can read this devotional here or listen to it by clicking the link at the bottom of this post)
Do you ever just want to do something great for God?
I woke up one morning recently with a struggle that I’m not sure I ever had before: I was pondering all that God has done on our behalf through Jesus and wondering if I’m faithfully walking out my gratefulness for the magnitude of what that gift that He acquired for me. It’s not that I thought I needed to repay Him, it’s just that when I thought about the lengths the Lord went to secure my salvation and eternal life, I wondered if I was taking hold of all that He had for me?
If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you probably have heard that our faith isn’t based on works, but our works show that we have faith. (This is discussed in the book of James) That can actually get a little confusing at times. I have even heard it explained, believed myself and told my children that we show our gratitude for all He has done for by doing what’s right. I’m sure there is some truth to that, but it can be really easy to transition from there into a mindset of “repaying” God for all He has done. It only seems to make common sense, right? Well, not completely. We are told over and over again in scripture that our faith is based on grace alone. It is secured by grace alone(Ephesians 2:8,9). So how do we reconcile some of these other thoughts that seem to resonate so much with logical thinking?
THESE are the thoughts that were flying around in my mind in no particular order and with no answer in sight. So I did what I often forget to do: I asked God what the deal was. How does this all fit together? How do I, in the words of Paul, “Lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me”? (Phil. 3:12)
Let’s read through Psalm 116:
I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
Death wrapped its ropes around me;
the terrors of the grave overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Please, Lord, save me!”
How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.
Let my soul be at rest again,
for the Lord has been good to me.
He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
And so I walk in the Lord’s presence
as I live here on earth!
I believed in you, so I said,
“I am deeply troubled, Lord.”
In my anxiety I cried out to you,
“These people are all liars!”
What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.
I will keep my promises to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
The Lord cares deeply
when his loved ones die.
O Lord, I am your servant;
yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
you have freed me from my chains.
I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people—
in the house of the Lord
in the heart of Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
Let’s look at verses 1 and 2 : WHY does the Psalmist pray? What is his reason? Because he should? Because he’s good at it? NO.
Because God hears and He actually bends down to listen. That’s it. It’s because of HIS faithfulness that we pray.
In verse 6 he declares that God protects those of childlike faith. As moms, it’s not hard to picture what childlike faith looks like. It’s essentially embracing neediness, dependency and smallness. A child isn’t sorry for needing us. They just do… and they are okay with that. Childlike faith is humbly and simply accepting that HE is God and we are NOT and this kind of faith can alleviate a lot of anxiety.
Okay, now we are going to get to the bottom of this idea of “payment” to the Lord. In Psalm 116:12, the psalmist actually talks about “rendering” to the Lord:
“What shall I render(provide or give) unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
That sounds pretty close to “paying back”, doesn’t it? Again, it also makes so much sense to our human nature.
But let’s dig deeper:
One of my favorite things to do when I want a broader and deeper understanding of scriptures, particularly the Psalms, is to do a search with the particular passage along with “John Piper”. I have found that he so often has much more background on the passage AND many times ties it into the New Testament as well to get that perspective from the “whole of scripture”. So I did that with Psalm 116 and what I found out nearly took my breath away.
I’ll share some quotes (in bold italics) from his talk on this chapter in Psalms and expound just a bit on them.
Hang on to your hats, moms! This is SO good!
“None of my work can ever be a payment to God because the very work is another gift from God.”
Do you hear that? We cannot out give God. The work we get to participate in is a gift. It’s a gift to do this ministry of motherhood as unto Him. Why? Because the very fact that we get to participate is not a right, it is a privilege. We have been blessed with children(His creation, the work of HIS hands) to care for and raise for His glory. Just ask any woman who has struggled with infertility or lost a baby: these children are a gift.
They are a gift for many reasons, but I believe one of the biggest ones is because of the great things that God does in our lives through motherhood…all the ways He shows Himself faithful to meet us in our weakness, to even be made strong in our weakness. So to continually ask Him to strengthen us in this work is exactly what He wants from us. It’s not a burden to Him, but rather glorifies Him.
“The payment ‘rendered’ in Psalm 116 is really just another act of receiving, which magnifies the ongoing grace of God.”
The very word that would indicate payment actually refers to an act of receiving. We pay God back by receiving even more grace. Just when you thought you were coming to the bottom of the grace barrel, this is our God: pouring out grace upon grace! There IS NO bottom of the grace barrel and we actually GLORIFY Him by going back to receive more and more and more grace!!! That means that no matter how much we feel like we are messing up this mom thing, we can freely keep coming back for more grace.
“To pay back the Lord means: to go on receiving from the Lord, so that the Lord’s inexhaustible goodness will be magnified.”
This is so incredibly polar opposite of the ways of this world, but that just shows the unrelenting love and faithfulness of this God that we belong to! He will finish this work that He has started in us!
“Lifting up the cup of salvation signifies taking the Lord’s satisfying salvation in hand, drinking it and expecting more.”
I think I might know what you are thinking right now: that someone could use these statements as reasons to sin and keep sinning, but Paul addressed that in the New Testament…Romans 5: 20, 21-6:1,2 says:
God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
So these thoughts that I have shared from John Piper are in answer to the original question I asked at the beginning of this devotional: how do I faithfully walk out my gratefulness for the magnitude of the gift (of salvation) that was acquired for me?
Answer: I continue to go back and receive grace, grace and more grace.
“WHAT shall I render the Lord for graciously answering my call? I WILL CALL AGAIN!!
We so often feel that there is a limit on what we can ask God for or the number of times we can cry out for help, but this passage is proclaiming the complete and total opposite!
By walking this out, we humble ourselves and pay tribute to the fact that He needs NOTHING from us and shows that we have faith in the fact that His all sufficient grace is ALWAYS on the way! Never ending grace.
Dig deeper: Do you have areas of your life that you feel God is tired of hearing about? Based on what you have read today, can you begin to fully trust God with those? Are you willing to go back to Him again and again, trusting in His all sufficient grace? Are you catching a vision for how God is going to use motherhood in your life to show what a good, good God He really is
Podcast mentioned in the devotional- Children: a Blessing NOT a Burden
Photo credit: Ben Wilson