Grace

Five To Focus 45. You Are A Partaker Of Grace

Last week, we looked at one of our identities as a believer in the local church—we are partners in the gospel. Today we continue that theme by looking at another aspect of our identity within the body of Christ as Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6-7.  

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One Tip for Handling Criticism With Grace

Criticism can be difficult because it can be easily interpreted as an indictment on your competence and worth.

Last week I wrote about one idea in Amy Baker’s book on perfectionism and now i want to share and expand on another of her thoughts. Baker gives this tip for handling criticism: start with what God says about you, not what someone else says.

This reality can be a tough reminder because Psalm 14:2-3 says,

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

Now wait–why is this the verse offered and not something we might think is more uplifting? Here’s the point: God’s assessment of us is the most damning criticism we will ever receive, yet He has graciously made the way of forgiveness and freedom possible when we go to Him in forgiveness (see Amy Baker’s book, Picture Perfect, pg. 134).

Unlike some who just see our faults and condemn us, God sees who we really are and still sent His Son to pay the price for our sins (Romans 5:8). With that in mind, we can listen to criticism and not be completely crushed because we have hope since we will not stand in ultimate judgement before any earthly critic but before a loving God.

This is the message of Romans 14:10: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God”. Constructive criticism is possible and helpful, but I’m referring to destructive criticism in this post, which is what is in view in Romans 14:10. Some can’t seem to refrain from criticising for reasons that might be the topic of another post, but the focus here is on your response to criticism. The command to not pass judgment on your brother is rooted in the fact that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. In other words, be more concerned about God’s judgment than man’s.

It is wise to listen for any truth in criticism and to repent of any sin if present. But let criticism stir you to a greater understanding of your worth by realizing that the One who truly knows you inside and out doesn’t hold that over you but chooses to forgive through Christ (Romans 8:1) and offer life to its fullest (John 10:10).

Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash

Circumstances Blind Us to God’s Faithfulness

You’ve probably heard the account of Jesus feeding of the 5,000–all these people getting hungry, no food, doubting disciples, and Jesus miraculously multiplying the five loaves and two fish to not just feed everyone but have much left over as well (Matthew 14:13-21).

Notice that the phrase “desolate place” occurs twice (verses 13 & 15) in this passage. That’s part of the setting. A desolate place and hungry people.

Now fast forward to Matthew 15:32-39 where the feeding of the 4,000 is recorded. This situation is similar but different from the feeding of the 5,000 (Jesus acknowledges both in Matthew 16:9-10). The similarity is that people are gathered to hear Jesus teach and they are hungry (16:32). Jesus told his disciples that he had compassion for those hungry people and desired to feed them.

But look at what the disciples ask Jesus right after he says that:  “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”

Wait-WHAT??!!! Did they already forget what happened possibly within just a week prior?

  • The desolate place.
  • Enough food.
  • So great a crowd.

ALL of that was true for the feeding of the 5,000. Two desolate places. Enough? There was more than enough–12 leftover baskets in fact (14:20). So great a crowd? They just saw a great crowd miraculously fed.

Somehow, all of a sudden, the circumstances blinded the disciples from God’s faithfulness and the power of Christ.   

Does this happen in your life? You have seen God provide and have seen his grace over and over. But for some reason, when that difficult situation confronts you, you somehow go blind to His faithfulness.

Find great comfort in 2 Timothy 2:13: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  The context of that passage contrasts denying Christ with being faithless. The ESV Study Bible footnote says that being faithless is a temporary lapse in trusting Christ, for which there is still hope because Christ is faithful to pardon, restore, and keep those who are truly his.

Even when we find ourselves like the disciples having a temporary lapse in trusting Christ, there is still grace and forgiveness. Right after the disciples ask Jesus how they could feed so many people, Jesus doesn’t just slap them across the face and say don’t you remember last week??!!

No, our gracious Savior lovingly said, “How many loaves do you have?” Grace on display! The Lord could look into your circumstances and calmly ask you to tell him all about it, then trust Him, and rely on His grace for every situation.   

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