April 9

April 9
by Michael Stamos
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Today’s devotion is written for my Katy in celebration of her birthday. She picked this verse because it’s one of her favorites, as I’m sure it is with a number of you. It is for me as well, and although I primarily see this verse as a source of hope, it also challenges me. The challenging thing for me is the word ‘ALL’. Can it really be that God works for my good in ALL things? In every crummy thing that happens to me, in every hurtful thing I do or say? I’m reminded of the eulogy I gave at my brother’s passing, testifying that our God is not a preventing God, but a perfecting God. I believed that then, and I believe it now. For some reason, It’s easier for me to see God working in the major struggles of my life. It’s harder for me to see him in the daily annoyances and aggravations, in the mundane and trivial things of life. But there it is, plain as day in this verse… God is at work, for the good, in ALL aspects of my life. The compliment is almost too great to bear.
Not only does this passage challenge me to have faith that God is working for the good in ALL things, but it also gives me pause to question the depth of my love for him. Do I love God? Seems like a simple question to answer… at first pass. Of course I love God. But then I consider the measure of our love that Jesus offered: Obedience. “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Jesus says in John 14:15. And depending on where I am in my discipleship walk I either smile at the thought or cringe.
I thought about offering a devotion full of hope given the scary/uncertain times we’re in, but then I felt nudged to talk about the state of tension that scripture often puts me in. What does it mean to be a sinner-saint who is challenged by this man I follow, who continually raises the bar and asks, ‘Do you really love me?’ Today, I’m offering tension. The healthy tension we experience as followers of Christ when we meditate on his word and its implications for our lives. The tension we experience living in the space between Jesus’ ascension and his return. In this space, Jesus invites us to feast at his table and be filled to over-flowing with the Spirit, and he challenges us at every turn – feed my sheep, love my enemies, turn my cheek, forgive without end, care for widows and orphans, give to those in need and invite them into my home… and on and on). The challenge which asks me frankly, how far am I willing to go to be his hands and feet in the midst of a pandemic? What am I choosing not to do out of fear? Hanging out with this tension is not fun, but perhaps it’s a healthy place to be right now as a follower of Jesus.
“The hope of the believer is not that we will escape distress or peril or hunger or slaughter, but that God will make every one of our agonies an instrument of his mercy to do us good. ‘You meant it for evil,’ Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, ‘but God meant it for good.’ And so it is with every calamity (and every seemingly insignificant moment of our lives) of those who love God. God means it for good!”
I’ll close with words from CS Lewis, “And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”  

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