But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
Let us make crystal clear at the beginning of 2002, all we will
get from God this year as believers in Jesus is mercy. Whatever
pleasures or pains come our way will all be mercy. This is why
Christ came into the world – "in order that the Gentiles
might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15:9). We were born again
"according to his great mercy" (1 Peter 1:3); we pray daily "that
we may receive mercy" (Hebrews 4:16); and we are now "waiting for
the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life"
(Jude 1:21). If any Christian proves trustworthy, it is "by the
Lord's mercy [he] is trustworthy" (1 Corinthians 7:25). In the end,
when all is said and done, we will confess, "So then it depends not
on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (Romans
So as we enter the new year, let us humble ourselves and take
the position of the blind man, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on
me!" (Luke 18:38). Or the position of the leper, "Jesus, Master,
have mercy on us" (Luke 17:13). And let us take heart that we will
never obey enough to put God in debt to us. He will never owe us.
And let us take heart that the smallest seed of true faith in
Christ taps all the divine power of mercy – as the slightest
touch of an electrical plug to the socket gets all the electricity.
Really? Did Jesus say that? He did. Consider.
In Luke 17:5, the apostles pleaded with the Lord, "Increase our
faith!" And the Lord said (v. 6), "If you had faith like a grain of
mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and
planted in the sea,' and it would obey you." In other words, the
issue in your Christian life and ministry is not the strength or
quantity of your faith, because that is not what uproots trees. God
does. Therefore, the smallest faith that truly connects you with
Christ will engage enough of his power for all you need. Moving
trees is a small thing for Christ. The issue is not perfection for
Christ, but connection to Christ. So take heart, the smallest seed
of faith connects with all of Christ's mercy.
But what about your successes? Does your obedience move you out
of the category of supplicant of mercy? Jesus gives the answer in
the following verses of Luke 17:7-10.
Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep
say to him when he has come in from the field, "Come at once and
sit down at table"? Will he not rather say to him, "Prepare supper
for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and
afterward you will eat and drink"? Does he thank the servant
because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done
all that you were commanded, say, "We are unworthy servants; we
have only done what was our duty."
What does he mean that after doing all his commands we should
still say, "We are unworthy servants"? He means, you never cease to
be dependent on mercy.
Therefore, I conclude, the fullest obedience and the smallest
faith obtain the same thing from God: mercy. A mere mustard seed of
faith taps into the mercy of tree-moving power. And flawless
obedience leaves us utterly dependent on mercy. God may withhold
some blessings of mercy for our good if we stray from the path of
growing faith. But even this withholding is another form of mercy.
The point is: whatever the timing or form of God's mercy, we never
rise above the status of beneficiaries of mercy. We are always
utterly dependent on the undeserved. God never owes us anything in
ourselves. The smallest faith and the fullest obedience receive one
thing: almighty mercy.
Therefore let us humble ourselves and rejoice and "glorify God
for his mercy"!