When I started out, I was going to be great. I was going to be a step faster than others, a bit brighter, and just shake the world up something fierce. Of course, I would always add, "God willing" to that, but I was fairly certain that God was willing for me to do all the great things I wanted to do. Why would He not? I am one of His favorite people.
Nasty thing, life. Along the way I discovered that I was not the best, or the brightest. I surprised myself in just how mediocre I could be at times, and how I could fail even myself with my sins, and leave unaccomplished so many of the dreams I had so carefully crafted for myself. I had a go at assigning the blame to others, to society, to those short-sighted individuals around me who exercised too much power in my life, and to bad luck. But I don't really believe in luck, and I am cursed with a streak of realism that made me face the fact that many of my shortcomings were due to . . . my shortcomings and failures, and sins.
I also have met people who showed me, mostly without intending to do so, that there are more talented, more intelligent, and more gifted people than me around. I was surprised to discover that I am not the best preacher I know, but I am delighted as well to know those I know who are better than me. I found out that there are better theologians, out there, than me. There are better teachers, better pastors. My youthful hubris was in error. I am not 'all that'. Thankfully, I am not the worst I know in any of those categories, either, but life has pounded me with the reality that I am not many of the wonderful things I set out to be. And God's will for my life has gone in ways I never imagined, both in delightful ways, and in some not-so-delightful ways.
Nevertheless, I remain one of God's favorite people. That is one of the best surprises. In spite of the fact that I am not all that I had hoped and dreamed I would be, God is always with me, at my side, leading, guiding, and even carrying me, at times. His Word has never changed, and He has kept all of His promises to me, with the exception of those that still await fulfillment, like rising from my grave. I haven't gotten into it, yet, so I cannot rise from it yet, either. But I have no doubt that He will also keep that promise. He promised that He would never leave me nor forsake me, and that He would work His good and gracious will for me, and as far as I can see, He has and is keeping His promise.
Nothing I have written here is intended as a pity party or a complaint. I imagine it may have sounded like that, but I am simply using my life as illustration, rather than speak hypothetically. Parts of what I have experienced, and reported above, are merely elements of the process of growing up. I was the smartest person I knew, until I met someone who was clearly smarter. I have also met a significant number of people who are not smarter. My early goals were goals set by the values of the world that I was absorbing as a young man. Some of them, I discovered, were not worthwhile, when I came to the place in life at which I could fulfill them. The books I wanted to write were already written, and well-done, by people I respect and admire. The only purpose my writing of that book would have served was to stroke my ego, and I decided that was not a worthwhile task, or at least not worth my time and energy. Besides, when a close friend has written a book, and I read it and say, "That's exactly how I would have said it", my words would just be repetition. It is a better idea to encourage others to ready my friend's book.
My sins, now, they are the problem. They are worse than I would have expected from me. They make me feel so, I don't know, so human, and not in a good way. I have disappointed myself more often than I would like to admit. I have proven the worst judgments of Scripture on mankind's nature and tendencies. The Law of God speaks way too clearly and accurately about me. I don't like it one bit! It is difficult to imagine my friends, the men and women I so respect, to be guilty of the sorts of things I am guilty of. They may well be. I don't know. Frankly, I don't want to know, if they are. I like them and respect them too much.
And yet, I remain one of God's favorite people. That is not due to my behavior, obviously. I told God I was going to be a better person than I have been, and I sort of suggested that I was going to do great things, most of which I have not done, yet. But He still loves me, and He has answered my fearful confessions with the announcement of His forgiveness. He still holds me up in my times of trial and trouble, and provides richly for me even in circumstances where I cannot see how He is doing so. His abundant goodness to me has everything to do with who He is, and only a little to do with who I am. I am His, chosen, baptized, called by name, and adopted into His own family. That is the one thing about me that figures into His goodness toward me. It is that one fact, His grace, that makes me one of His favorite people. Even that one fact is Him, not me.
Like I said, I am using my own sadly inadequate life as an illustration. I am not unique. Everything I have said about God's grace and goodness and mercy that is true about me is also true about you, the reader. Your sins are probably not the same as mine. For some, they may be less. For others, maybe just as bad. They are your sins, after all, and I do not know what they are. I am going to guess that they disappoint you, when you think about them. At least I hope so. You probably expected to be a better person too, and you are buoyed by the fact that most people don't know what your specific sins are, so you can hold your head up in public. You probably know people whose public behavior is worse than yours, so you can look at them and say, "Well, at least I am not like that", but your sins trouble you like my sins trouble me. If they don't trouble you, that fact probably troubles you.
Still, God forgives you. When you realize your sins, and you come before Him acknowledging them, confessing them, repenting, He forgives you. You, too, are one of God's favorite people. Your status with God rests in Jesus Christ, just as mine does. You can identify His love for you in the fact that you have a church, that you are permitted to be refreshed in the Word of God, be comforted with the absolution, and to receive His holy Supper. He has taught you the Gospel and brought you to faith. Even the fact that you can read this reminder of His love for you marks the reality of His love. There are other signs of His love in your life, and I am confident you can pick them out, if you consider all of your blessings.
Take this sign, for example: the Old Testament accounts of the heroes of the faith. For some strange reason, we don't hear much about them any more. It used to be that Sunday School lessons were full of the stories about Joseph and his many colored coat, of David, of the young man Solomon, of Sampson, or Gideon, or Elijah. I loved those stories! Actually, I still do. David is my favorite. There are so many great stories about David in the Bible, and how God worked with him. Oddly, none of the individual accounts is my favorite. My favorite part is how after David has died, God speaks to Solomon about how David was so faithful and followed in His commands, and how in Acts, David is described as a man after God's own heart.
David's story fascinates me because David was the one who committed adultery, and then, to hide his transgression from the sight of other men, he had Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite, killed. David was guilty of terrible sins, and yet, when he repented, God forgave him, and blessed him for many years, and gave Solomon, the son of the David and Bathsheba, the throne after his father, and called David a faithful servant and a man after his own heart. That is forgiveness! That is grace! If the sinner David could stand in the presence of God and in His approval after what he had done, there is truly hope for someone like me!
But look at the rest of the heroes of the faith. Abraham, Father Abraham! He was impatient with God. So, he had a child with Hagar, the maid of his wife. Sure it was a custom back them, but still! He was a coward: he claimed Sarai was only his sister to avoid problems with the lust of Abimelech. This is the great Father Abraham. What made him great for us was not Abraham, but God and God's faithfulness. Isaac tried to ignore the promise of God toward Jacob and give the blessing to Esau. Jacob stole his brother's blessing, had four wives, had a really dysfunctional family, and had his own trouble trusting God. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute. Samson had a problem with anger management, and with women, and lost his hair, his strength, and his eyes over Delilah. Each of these great men of God, our so-called heroes of the faith, were fallible, stumbling, real human beings. Each was a sinner, whose real claim to fame turned out to be the gracious choice of God. God is the real hero in every story!
When I consider myself and my sins, I can see that I am in good company. I don't use those Biblical accounts to diminish my sense of guilt or sinfulness. I use them to remind myself that God forgives, and that even men who sin in horrible ways (like our Bible heroes) can be counted among the great men of God, men after God's own heart. The lesson I draw is not that I am not so bad, I am a sinner, but that God's grace is just that great. He truly does not measure His grace against us, but on His scale and for His own reasons, and we are richly blessed to be counted among His chosen people - the men and women of His favor (his favorite people).
Well, enjoy the summer weather, and pray for those who have faced fire and tornado and flood. Do something to help them if you can, and give thanks for the grace of God that made you one of God's favorite people!
Yours in the Lord,
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