A Word of Grace – April 15, 2013

Posted by on April 15, 2013

Monday Grace

There will be no message next week due to travel.

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He brought me out into a broad place;

    he delivered me, because he

           delighted in me . . .

You gave me a wide place for my

           steps under me,

    and my feet did not slip.

Psalm 18:19, 36

Agoraphobia (noun): An abnormal fear of open or public places.

— American Heritage Dictionary

David was in real trouble — not an irritating inconvenience or a momentary anxiety attack, but life-threatening, movement-restricting, plot-thickening, “I-may-never-make-it-to-tomorrow” trouble.

His enemies had his feet snared and were pulling him down with jealousy, anger and deceit. David’s prayer in Psalm 18 broke the glass and pulled the alarm for emergency help from the Lord. As the beloved old hymn tells us:

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

— Joseph M. Scriven, What a Friend We Have in Jesus

There are two things you can be sure of when you pray a prayer like David’s – the Lord knows what you need and he will have mercy.

Oh, yes, one more thing — the Lord your God is not a mild greeting-card deity, content to hold you close and blanket you with comfort in your distress. He has no intention of being good company to you in your misery. He is going to do something about the problem.

He will tear the heavens apart and shake the earth to its foundations to answer your prayer. That’s the way that David experienced the Lord and described him.

Don’t be content to merely pray for stability in chaos, or strength to make it one more day. It may be all you can bring yourself to ask of him, but your God is capable and willing to do a lot more than that.

Good parents seek wide-open spaces where their children can run and play, breathe fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun and the splash of the rain. A parent who  carries  his or her child at  all  times  and restricts their play for fear that they will get dirty or skin a knee is crippling the child.

Of course the parents watch and step in if necessary, but a child needs to learn the simple joys of jumping and throwing, the capacities of legs and lungs, and the competing tensions of balance and gravity. To  really know what it means to be alive, a child needs the space to find out.

God the Father is the original parent, like none other. He brought his son David out of his dark confinement, not to hold him or hide him , but to set him down “in a broad place.”

There are four things that one experiences in a broad place — exposure, perspective, proportion, and growth.

David had spent a lot of time hiding from his enemies in caves and rocks. He knew the value of fortifications and cover. But God wanted to show him the best defense — dependence on God’s grace. David would never learn this if God allowed him to crouch down and hole up somewhere trying to out last his enemies.

You will never know God’s grace as long as you rely upon props and defenses of your own devising. Are you merely speculating that God will cover you or do you know? David said that “by my God I can leap over a wall” (Ps 18:29b).

The Lord may give you, his child, the strength to leap over the wall in answer to your desperate plea to be relieved from the trap set by your enemies. He may show you handholds and footholds that will enable you to climb over the wall. If leaping or climbing aren’t options, he may lead you to a door. Or he may just knock down the wall.

Understand this — what’s on the other side of the wall will be different. Living with God means living without walls. He does not restore us to the way it was before. He saves us for the way he wants it to be called “the kingdom of God.”

Our lives on this earth are mostly lived in enclosures of our own or someone else’s making. When things go badly, our instinct is to make those enclosures tighter and stronger to keep others from getting in including the God who, to our horror, may want to expose us instead of sheltering us.

We are not called to the cringing existence of mere survival on this earth. It is God’s desire that we be exposed to the shining brightness of his glory so that we see and know that he alone is God and there is no other. He gives us the gift of perspective so that this desire may be fulfilled in us. Our walls of defense and shelter cut off the view and have to go.

In the “broad space,” the only thing that obscures the view is our refusal to look at the “the day the Lord has made” and to “rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24). That’s our choice of course, but God wants us to look so we can learn the difference between the real and the fake and know that the Lord is everywhere and his grace is always more powerful than sin (Cf, Rom 5:20-21).

From the perspective of an unobstructed view comes a right sense of proportionality. Enemies that looked so large and intimidating when we were closed in, now are dwarfed by the gracious spaciousness of God. We can see a horizon meaning that there is an end to our troubles, but it is wider than we can span and we cannot see beyond it with our human eyes. That’s when “faith … the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” is activated (Heb 11:1).

Things come into proportion in the wide-open spaces where God leads us so that he is much bigger than we thought and there is more to see and know than we thought we understood.  The surpassing proportions of grace shrink our problems, so large when we were closed up with them, down to their right size and magnify God to fill our vision.

It is axiomatic that one cannot grow without the space to do so. Paradoxically, the proportions of a bigger God and a smaller self lead us to spiritual growth as God’s love draws us toward him. That’s why the Apostle Paul prayed so earnestly that we would “have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18-19).

All this time we’ve been focused on our enemies which simply confirms that we are enemies of someone. We’ve been contorting our souls to fit our defenses, trying to avoid exposure.

The thick of the forest is not where one plants a tree so it can grow tall. It will be crowded there by the shade of the other trees and denied the light and nutrients necessary for growth. It is necessary to plant the seedling at the edge of the forest or in the field where the sun can trigger photosynthesis and the rain can do its work unimpeded. God wants us in the open where his grace can do its best work.

The Lord rescues us from the cramped, tawdry existence of sin and fear. He delivers us for no other reason than he “delights” in us as David observed. He wants us to grow and enjoy freedom because that’s what he made us to do (Gal 5:1, Col 2:19). God created us in love because he thought we might like it.

Consider the spirit he gives to those who let him have his way with them. “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (1 Tim 1:7). In other words, he gives us a spirit made to experience and enjoy his spacious grace.

We are prone in human nature to say that we don’t have any enemies. Why then does trust come so hard to us? Why do we take such precautions in guarding our hearts against pain and locking our doors against invasion and theft. We all have enemies that would entangle and bring us down if they could. If that’s all we are thinking about, then our walls and defenses make a crazy kind of sense.

But God’s plans for us are as limitless as eternity and his provision for us is as spacious as heaven.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the human heart conceived,

what God has prepared for those who love him.

1 Cor 1:9

One of the things we know that he has built for us is a home. He promised to come for us and take us there (John 14:1-3).

We don’t have to figure out the path through enemy territory for ourselves. David’s prayer points the way out.

In my distress I called upon the Lord;

   to my God I cried for help.

(Ps 18:6)

The Lord your God knows where he wants you to be. In his time and in his way, he will take you there — for sure!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).

Under the mercy of Christ,

Kent

Kent Hansard Word of Grace

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