There can be great peace and security in having a relationship with God. That’s something He wants us to enjoy. But if you’re struggling, feeling as if you may never measure up to God’s standards, serenity is likely the last thing you feel. It might even be discouraging to see other Christians seem so confident when you’re secretly unsure if you’ll make it through the week as a good and godly person.
One of the most comforting truths revealed in the Bible is that God wants us to succeed. His “mercy triumphs over judgement,” which in Greek means that mercy “boasts against, exalts over” judgement “in victory” (Jas 2:13, NET). When He looks at us, He hopes to see us doing well and He wants to support our growth far more than He wants to pass judgement on us. And when we slip-up or stray off the “straight and narrow” path, He’s eagerly looking for us to come back. God wants as many people as possible to be in His family, and He’s deeply committed to making that happen.
The Compassionate Father
You’re likely familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. In some translations, it’s labeled The Parable of the Compassionate, or Forgiving, Father. This name shifts our focus as we read this parable to notice the father’s role. In this parable, a man’s younger son demanded his share of the inheritance, then went off and “squandered his wealth with a wild lifestyle” (Luke 15:13, NET). Once he’d lost everything and was living destitute, barely scraping by feeding pigs, he realized he’d be better off going home even if his father only let him be a servant rather than acknowledged again as a son.
So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him. … the father said to his slaves, ‘Hurry! Bring the best robe, and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Bring the fattened calf and kill it! Let us eat and celebrate, because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again—he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.Luke 15: 20, 22-24, NET
This father’s joy is the same joy God and all the hosts of heaven feel when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7, 10). God has felt this joy over us; we’ve all sinned (Rom. 3:23) and we’ve all had to repent many times. We count on God’s mercy to say, “Yes, I forgive you” every time we come to Him repentant and committed to doing better.
Wanting Us To Choose Life
God sincerely “desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4, WEB). He does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, WEB). His goal is salvation and truth for, and repentance from, everyone (with that last one connected to our acceptance of the first two). We need to opt-in to grace; God doesn’t give people eternal life unless we take Him up on His offer. But He very much wants us to accept His gift and He’s invested in our success.
“But if the wicked person turns from all the sin he has committed and observes all my statutes and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be held against him; because of the righteousness he has done, he will live. Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked,” declares the Sovereign Lord? “Do I not prefer that he turn from his wicked conduct and live?”Ezekiel 18:21-23, NET
We might sometimes think God seems strict or unfair, but the reality is that His whole focus is on making things turn out well for His people (Rom. 8:28). He says to people He’s working with, “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope” (Jer. 29:11, NET). That group He’s working with can include any of us; people from all sorts of backgrounds, personalities, and experiences. Through Jesus’s sacrifice, God has opened up the opportunity to live in covenant with Him to anyone who hears His voice and responds.
Invested In and Delighted With Us
God delights in people who do their best to follow Him, not in people who are already “perfect.” Which is good for us, since we’re all still quite a ways off from attaining perfection even though we’re headed that direction. What’s important to God is that we stay on the journey toward being more and more like Him.
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.Philippians 2:12-13, NET
There are so many verses saying God delights in His people. Ps. 149:4; Prov. 11:20; 12:22; Is. 62:4-5; Jer. 32:40-41; Zeph. 3:17 are just a sample that point out He specifically delights in those who keep covenant with Him; who love and obey Him. Doing these things leads to delight for us as well (Ps. 16:11; 21:1; 37:4; 112:1; 119:16, 24, 35, 47, 77, 143, 174; 149:2; Is. 29:19). The more we delight in God and His laws, the more He delights in us. And when we do sin–since, as Paul said, it’s a struggle to do good all the time even when you delight in God’s law (Rom. 7:14-25)–then God delights in our repentance; our choice to run home to our compassionate Father.
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