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July 24, 2017

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

The Scripture texts for this Sunday[1] include some of my all-time favorite verses. They are verses that I have relied on throughout my life. These treasures have pulled me through times of joy, disappointment, illness, loss, sadness, and a host of other emotions and experiences. Scripture is the gift that keeps on giving.  It never disappoints.  The Old Testament text explains why that is–God has been faithful to his people over the millennia: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession . . . Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is a faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 7: 6, 9).

God didn’t choose the Israelites because they were such good people.  He didn’t choose us because we are amazing people or because of our accomplishments. He didn’t choose us for what we have done, but for what he did in sacrificing his Son for us.  Peter explained this to the Pharisees in Jerusalem who argued that Gentiles were required to follow the Mosaic law, including circumcision, to be saved: “No! We believe that it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved, just as they are” (Acts 15: 11). It is by his grace that we are saved, expressed in this well-known acrostic:

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

We are reminded of his grace in this verse from Romans: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.   One of the things I like about this verse is the word “all.” Paul tells us that God works for the good of those who love him in all things. That means that even though evil exists in the world and in every human heart, God will find a way to work every single thing into his plan “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” So if you love him, and you have answered his call, he will take even the most difficult circumstances of your life and turn them into something beautiful.  Something that is part of his plan for salvation.  Something that will play a note in his Symphony for Mankind. You won’t be able to see or hear it at the time. We cannot see clearly or hear the symphony when we are overtaken by a wave of emotion that threatens our relationships, families, jobs, and other aspects of our lives.  But even in those times, you can turn to the one who feels your sorrow and your pain.   You can turn it over to him, and ask him to use your sorrow, your pain for something good. That is such a comfort to me, especially when I face life’s inevitable challenges.

And during times of pain and emptiness—when you think that God is MIA, Paul reminds you that “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39).   Nothing and no one in this life or in the next will separate you from the love of God. His love is constant. He is faithful, “keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations.” (Deuteronomy 7: 9b).

Jesus spoke of God’s kingdom as “a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again , and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13: 44). There is no castle, opulent villa, or glittering jewel—there is nothing on this earth that holds a candle to the riches awaiting those who follow God’s call. There is no amount of money, prestige, power, gold, diamonds, or other treasure that can compare to the love of God. And yet it’s free.

We often receive text messages and mailers telling us that a million dollars or some other amazing gift is ours for a phone call—you just need to claim it. That is, until you read the fine print.   But God encourages you to read the fine print in his Word.  When you do, you will discover the truth.  God’s riches at Christ’s expense are being held for you.  You really do just need to answer the call.  His call.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost are Deuteronomy 7:6-9; Psalm 125; Romans 8:28-39; Matthew 13: 44-52.

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