Responding to God’s Grace
March 23, 2011 § 35 Comments
In this Blog’s prior Post, “Responding to God’s Goodness”, certain attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities for us were identified based upon that attribute of His. The same approach will be applied in the present Post concerning God’s Grace. Doing so reveals much overlap regarding what this attribute requires of us if we are to fulfill our purpose in life to know Him. These include unconditional giving and being of service to others. However, additional requirements follow as well.
Perhaps the most important thing to be said regarding any of God’s Attributes is that His Grace, if rightly responded to, evokes from us profound gratitude. As previously discussed in the prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, & Mercy”, God derived no benefit from Creation. As All-Perfect, Simple, Singular, and Unlimited Being, He lacks and, therefore, desires nothing. Thus, God’s Creative Power and Act serves to benefit us solely. His selfless and unconditional gift, likewise, bounds us to give and be of service to others (see, “Responding to God’s Goodness”). But even more fundamentally, the gift garners our sincerest thanks and shapes our attitude and perspective towards God and, as a result, the world in general. In this sense, understanding His Grace paves the way for our further grasping of all of His other Attributes and our obligations that follow from them. In fact, it is because we have come to terms with God’s Grace that we seek fulfillment of our purpose in life to know Him to begin with. It is the foundation and starting point of our spiritual quest to sow and develop a loving relationship with our Creator. If unable to understand the meaning of God’s Grace and follow through on the responsibilities which it entails, we will inevitably fail to recognize our purpose in life. Or in the case that we coincidentally assent to belief in that purpose but don’t grasp the context of His Grace from which it originates, we will be unable to respond authentically or effectively towards it. In this case, regretfully, the importance of properly responding will be missed.
To not realize and, thus, fail to fulfill our purpose in life to know God is obviously unfortunate; for this results in the wasting of our lives. Regardless of our material accomplishments, if these are not pursued and realized as a furthering of our relationship with Him, they prove meaningless as not having been carried out in accordance with our purpose. To those also unfamiliar with their purpose, a materially accomplished life may seen enviable, fulfilling, and successful. But to accomplish lesser material things in absence of doing so within the context of our fundamental purpose in life amounts to nothing more than a missed opportunity distractingly clothed in meaning.
As to authentically responding to our purpose in life to know God, for those who recognize it, the most meaningful thing that can be said is the sense of urgency it entails. While those are unfortunate who do not understand their purpose, perhaps even more tragic are those who have identified it but, inexplicably, either don’t respond at all or do so only half-heartedly. Among these are also those who, feeling that time is on their side, profess to plan on responding at some time in the future.
To incorporate a material analogy for this spiritual malady, consider the naturally athletically gifted potential baseball superstar who, does not give his craft the respect it deserves. He is lazy, seldom practicing to refine his talent. When he finally musters the will and energy to do so, he acts begrudgingly and without maximum effort. He is aware of his potential, for others are outwardly envious of his skill. Perhaps he reads the newspaper articles which tout him as the second coming of Mickey Mantle; maybe he overhears his teammates’ and fans’ praise. But his response to his opportunity is lethargic. So far, he has excelled based on his natural ability alone; and he is only 23 years old. Baseball players, he rationalizes, sometimes play into their 40s; and their “prime” is commonly not reached until their late 20s or early 30s. Further, he has other interests aside from baseball; partying with women and friends, fast cars, and travel in the off-season to exotic locales. Thus, there is no sense of urgency to his calling as a potential perennial All-Star.
Eventually, the ball player’s lack of respect for his skill and the game in general catch up with him and becomes apparent to others. Regretfully, his potential is never realized. He is despised as ungrateful, arrogant, and lazy. He is characterized as “wasted talent”. Some adopt a more forgiving perspective and describe his case as “unfortunate”. They point out that talent such as his, coupled with his fans’ and the media’s adoration early in his career, exposed him to the dangers of an inflated sense of importance and feeling he has already accomplished enough. Regardless of the perspective from which his disparaging originates, the ball player’s case is truly unfortunate; more so than the career minor leaguer who loved, respected, and revered the game but was never quite good enough to break into the Big Leagues, let alone attain superstardom.
What can be gathered from the above analogy and how does it relate to our more important spiritual subject matter? Our example’s failure to fulfill his purpose as a ball-player is attributable to his lack of gratitude for the opportunity with which he was presented. This manifested a sense of entitlement which prevented him from acting to take the necessary steps to fully realize his potential and fulfill his purpose.
A lack of gratitude, even in the case that we understand that we exist to know God, results in our inability to do so. It prevents that which is required; an authentic and urgent response. Thus, we see the importance of fully understanding God’s Grace. To fail to is erroneous in itself, which is unfortunate, but what this failure leads to is even more so; an inability to respond to God’s gift which, in turn, culminates in our failure to fulfill our purpose in life. With this defective attitude and perspective, the foundation and primacy of God’s Grace to our ability to effectively know Him is absent. While we may coincidentally grasp other of God’s Attributes, such as Goodness (again, see “Responding to God’s Goodness”), and therefore are equipped with the necessary guidance for right day-to-day thought and action, Grace inspires us to seek to do so at all. As a backdrop, it shapes our attitudes and perspectives towards thought and action thereby ensuring that these are carried out authentically. Short of coming to terms with God’s Grace, we cannot fully identify our purpose in life or effectively follow through on the quality of the response which it requires. Absent this understanding, we cannot start on our path to fulfillment of our purpose; and once started, without it we are unable to continue successfully.
More regarding God’s Grace can be drawn from our above analogy of the ungrateful, underachieving, and unfulfilled ball player. He is insulting to all those whom he relates relative to his purpose; all of his teammates, other less, equal, and more skilled players, his fans, and most importantly, the game itself. The last of these insults, as spiritual analogy, is akin to a slap in the face of God. But for God’s gift of Creation, we would not exist, have a purpose in life to know Him, or have the ability to fulfill that purpose. Thus is accentuated the urgency of our response to God’s gift. Not doing so immediately and with a quality that incorporates all of our heart, mind, and soul, is an insult to Him. Thoughts had and actions carried out knowingly incompatible with our purpose in life represent ingratitude which, if we don’t admit, at least exhibit. Each wandering thought, a lack of thanks; every shortcoming of action, an ungrateful gesture; given the gift, on it we spit. Would we not seek to respond appropriately to a person who holds open for us a door by expressing thanks as we quickly walk inside? To act otherwise would imply disrespect and solicit the ire of those present. Yet what triviality is this compared to our purpose in life. God exists. He Created to be known. Our purpose in life is to know Him. He stands at the door which He has opened. What is our response? Through it with gratitude will we we hurry? Or shall we turn a blind eye and assume a cold shoulder while instead seeking another door at which to knock?
I sincerely hope that my tone in this Post hasn’t taken on an heir of condescension or spiritual arrogance and grandiosity. This was not my intent. Let it be known then that while written for all to consider, it was directed at none other than myself. For 35 years I existed as the unfortunate example who did not know his life’s purpose to know God. While now I know, I presently live as the even more tragic one who does not always respond as authentically to my purpose as I should. As for the baseball analogy, while grateful for the talent required to have played a long time and at a relatively high level, I did not have the potential to be a superstar (couldn’t hit the slider).
In the next Post, God’s Mercy will be addressed. As we will see, it aligns more with His Attribute of Goodness with respect to its spawning of our duties, obligations, and responsibilities of day-to-day life versus the present Post’s handling of Grace that, as was hopefully demonstrated, evokes from us more of an attitude of thanks and perspective of gratitude which, in turn, acts as the basic foundation for our spiritual quest.