How do you react when life gets scary? Whether physical problems, financial setbacks, or something else altogether, life can be very frightening at times. People jumped off of buildings when they lost their fortunes in the stock market crash of 1929, but as those who are Christ’s, our response to things that seem bleak must be different.
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:7)
Grace is undeserved or unmerited favor. It is something good that God gives, not because of anything in us, but simply because He has chosen to. Many of us know Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Yet how, exactly, does this work? And why can we be assured that God hasn’t abandoned us when life gets rough? The answer to this lies in an ancient concept, that of covenants.
With the exception of marriage, the understanding of covenants has been lost to us these days. It was, however, well known in ancient times. The Mizpah jewelry popular several years ago—the ones with the seemingly endearing inscription, “The Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another,”—is actually part of the covenant agreement between the patriarch Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban. The actual text reads as follows: “And Laban said, ‘May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!’ Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.’” (Genesis 31:48-53a) A covenant was so much more than a contract; it was a relationship never to be broken. But what does this have to do with us today?
The reason we can be assured that, regardless of the seemingly bad things that happen to us God still loves us and hasn’t abandoned us, is because He is in a covenant relationship with us—with those who belong to Him. When you read the Old Testament you see that God formed a covenant with Israel, but many Christians today cannot trace their human lineage back to the people of Israel. Does this mean that we are out of luck, so to speak? No, because while God did form a covenant with Israel, He is also in covenant with all who belong to Him through Christ, regardless of ethnic origin. Remember the verses read during The Lord’s Supper at church? “Likewise He [Jesus] also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’” We know that there is a new covenant because Jesus identified it, and we know it exists because of and that it is through His blood which was shed for us. Yet what does this really mean?
What this means is that no matter what—no matter how truly bleak things seem humanly—God will never abandon you. A covenant relationship was a relationship for life. And while humans err, and theoretically the possibility existed that a covenant between two people could be broken, God will never break His covenants.
2 Timothy 2:11-13 records a statement of faith of the early church: “This is a faithful saying: ‘For if we died with Him [turning away from our sins and trusting Christ is called dying to self] we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us [“But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33]. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.’” Because of the character of God, He will never break His covenants.
What this means to us is that not only do we have the assurances of His many promises to those who belong to Him, but also that we have the assurance of His very nature—of His character—that He will be faithful to His promises. If we deny Him before others, He will deny us before the Father, but even if we are faithless—He will not deny Himself, He will be faithful.
This is significant, because when life gets hard and it looks like He doesn’t, we need certainty that God does, indeed, still love us. Think of it this way. If we believe His goodness to us depends upon our goodness or upholding our end of the deal, so to speak, we can never have certainty of His continued favor. But if His goodness to us depends not upon our character, but upon His, we have complete assurance, because He is always good and He never changes. In other words, He is completely faithful. We no longer have to wonder when things seem to go wrong. All we need to assure ourselves of is that we truly do love Him.
And we can claim the promise of the verse, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) If we truly love and belong to Him, we can rest in the knowledge that regardless of appearances, God is working everything out together for good. His loving-kindness toward us will never end—indeed it cannot, because it is dependent upon His character, not ours.
Remember Your new covenant with us. Impress upon us that Your loving-kindness toward us depends upon Your character, not ours and is, therefore, certain. Help us to rest in the knowledge that “all things work together for good to those who love You, who are called according to Your purposes.” Amen.