7 Side Benefits of Grace, Part 2

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To say that God has His eyes on you would be an understatement! Think about what this verse says –

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9a TNIV)

That’s one of the most remarkable verses in the Old Testament. And it’s a profound truth; God’s eyes travel all over the world, continually, giving strength to His people. It’s a comforting verse. It can also be terrifying verse. Let’s note the context before diving into the third side benefit of God’s grace.

Before we read about the eyes of the Lord, we read this –

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.” (2 Chronicles 16:7 TNIV)

It’s a fascinating story that you should take the time to read, but in sum, the prophet Hanani took King Asa to task for trusting Syria (man) instead of God. His rebuke went like this: God once delivered the Egyptians into your hands; why couldn’t you trust Him this time?

Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. (2 Chronicles 16:8 TNIV)

King Asa’s big problem here was his inconsistency. He trusted the Lord one time but not the next. He experienced a great victory when he trusted the Lord, yet he turned right around and instead of doing the very thing that guaranteed victory, he chose to trust man instead of God. Asa was so mad at the prophet, he threw Hanani into prison and oppressed those who didn’t like it.

We can denounce Asa and decry his behavior, but we need to look in the mirror. How easily you and I forget the power of God brought to bear in the great crises of life, but fail to trust Him in lesser decisions. Yet through it all, God is ever faithful to those who are faithful to Him. We don’t have to be perfect, just faithful.

The seven benefits of God’s grace work like that. They work as long as we are faithful to God. The first two side benefits of God’s grace are wonderful:

• God names His people;
• God numbers the hair on your head.

However wonderful they are, they only work when you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ. As long as you are in that relationship, God’s grace manifested in those two benefits will flow to you. But you’re out of luck if you’re out of that relationship for any reason.

Let’s turn our attention to side benefit number three:

God counts our very steps, Job 31:4

Does he not see my ways and count my every step? (TNIV)

Job was a man, you’ll recall, who had suffered greatly. He had such a great life.

Oh, for the days when I was in my prime… (Job 29:4a TNIV)

I guess anybody over 40 or 50 has said that. We look back with great fondness to the “good old days,” when we had hair and didn’t need glasses; when our knees didn’t hurt or our hands ache in the cold. But poor Job had it real bad. He had such a good life, but then it all went bad.

Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud. And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest. (Job 30:15 – 17 TNIV)

This man was in bad shape; he’d lost his family, his reputation, and his health, and he was getting no help from even his closest friends. That’s often the case, by the way. When you suffer, you often suffer alone because honestly, no matter how sincere a friend may be, in the end, humanly speaking, you’re on your own. But Job never really gave up on God. At times it sounded like he did, but he continued to pray and plead his case before God, which is always a good thing to do.

Job was positively sure that he had done nothing to deserve the suffering he was experiencing, and that’s the whole theme of chapter 31. He goes through all kinds of sins or categories of sin that might have been the cause of his problems, but he solemnly swears he’s completely innocent. Of course, nobody is completely innocent, but in the midst of his declarations of innocence, Job manages to utter a deeply profound and meaningful theological truth: God counts our every step. That’s a real poetic way of saying that God sees everything you do and everywhere you go. Within the context of what Job is saying to God, that’s more than a comforting thought. Remember, Job was pleading his innocence before God –

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. For what is our lot from God above, our heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? (job 31:1 – 3 TNIV)

The certainty of his innocence is based on the fact that he knows God knows what he’s been up to; that God sees all and knows all and He punishes only the wicked.  And he’s not wrong about that. Job, in the midst of his misery, hit the nail on the head.

Does he not see my ways and count my every step? (Job 31:4 NIV)

Yes He does! There is nothing about you that you can hide from God. Good thoughts, bad attitudes, questionable relationships, and quiet compassion; God sees it and God knows it. It’s a side benefit of grace, that God takes such notice in your comings and goings.

God records our thoughts, Malachi 3:16

Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. (NIV)

This is a very personal, little insight into just how closely God pays attention to us. But let’s take a quick look at the context and you’ll see why it’s the fourth side benefit of God’s grace.

What everybody knows about Malachi is this –

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Malachi 3:10 NIV)

That’s right; Malachi is all about tithing, right? Wrong. It’s actually a very prescient little book that ought scare the devil out of Christians. It was written to a very specific group of Jews who lived thousands of years ago, but it describes the way too many modern Christians are. What prompted God’s challenge to tithe was the people’s arrogant attitude towards Him. Just read this exchange –

Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’” (Malachi 3:8a TNIV)

And so it goes. God accuses His people of something and they come back with a smart aleck retort. That takes some nerve, doesn’t it? How about this exchange –

You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’” (Job 3:13 – 15 NIV)

“Arrogantly” is another way to translate the more obscure “stout,” as seen in the KJV. It refers more to an attitude than just words. Their arrogant, skeptical attitude resulted in their vocal criticism against God. Of course, they have their smarty pants response to God’s accusation ready: “What have we said against you.” That word, “said,” means “talking together.” In other words, these people seemed to be in the habit of talking together about God and the state of their lives and blaming Him for their unhappy state. They commiserated together about the apparent futility of serving God. They basically said that serving God and worshiping Him was a total waste of time. In the end, this attitude manifested the height of their selfishness: there was nothing in it for them. There was, in their worldly minds, no profit in serving God.

And if that doesn’t describe a lot of Christians, nothing does. Many believers think that God owes them a good life simply by virtue of their confession of faith. This kind of Christian may openly appear to serve God, but inwardly they have little or no relationship with Jesus Christ, yet they blame God for every bad thing going on in their lives. They have no joy in the Lord. God sees that arrogant attitude and He hears their false statements about His character.

But not everybody was like that in Malachi’s day, and not every Christian is like that today. Thankfully! And that brings us to the fourth side benefit of God’s grace. Just as He hears and takes note of those who carelessly talk about Him; who impugn His character; who play fast and loose with what He has revealed about Himself to man, our God pays attention to those of us who love Him and serve Him when we talk about Him.

In the prophet’s day, the godless in Israel complained about God and dissed Him among themselves, but then the godly did the same, except that their conversations were positive and right. What these pious people said was not recorded for us, but we can guess. Perhaps their conversations about God were like this:

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalm 34:1 – 7 TNIV)

Yes, in a way we don’t understand, God keeps a scroll, or a book of remembrance dedicated to our conversations about Him. We may debate the literalness of this passage all day – is this a real book or a symbolic one? To waste our time doing that is to miss the whole point of what Malachi is trying to get across, which is profound one.  God pays attention to what we say, and when we get it right, our names and His thoughts concerning us are permanently, divinely recorded. This message of permanence to a people who were constantly facing threat after threat to their very existence must have been so comforting. To any of us today, facing our own threats – threats to our health, our livelihood, to our way of life, we should be comforted as well. God is an eternal Being, and that means His thoughts, His care, His concern, and His plans for us are also eternal. This is just another side benefit of His amazing grace, available only to those who love Him and are serving Him.

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