Sometimes God taps you softly the shoulder, and sometimes he slams into your head with a two by four.
“Do you ever complain to God for his grace?” The pastor looks out over the congregation, but then he focuses on the pastors sitting in the front row of pews. “Do you ever complain that God gave you the gift of your ministry?”
I had gathered with a bunch of other pastors to install a pastor at his new ministry. Pastors had gathered from all over the nation; old friends and family came for this experienced pastor in a new location. I was in the area – only about thirty miles away. But this is the man that God used to encourage me into the ministry, so I felt a certain excitement about seeing him again and getting to give him a blessing as a part of the installation ceremony.
And the preacher for the special service grabbed my attention. I really don’t remember a LOT of the sermon, other than this point: Our reaction to God’s grace so often is complaining.
God gives us an opportunity to spend an hour a week hearing how much he loves us. And we complain about “having” to spend an hour in church as if it’s such a terrible thing, and not the gift of grace it is.
God gives us the opportunity to celebrate his forgiveness with other people who are just as bad as we are. And we complain about “those people” and how much they annoy us.
God gives me a ministry, a chance to tell others what awesome things God has done for them. And how do I react?
Man. How boneheaded can a guy get?
Now, this preacher was good. He didn’t leave me in the agony of guilt. He pointed to the grace we so often complain about. He pointed to the level that Jesus loved: “Father, forgive them! Father, receive my spirit!”
I spurn the grace of God, but he pours it on my anyway. I have forgiveness. I have life.
AND I still get to keep my ministry! How awesome is that?
God’s grace is funny. I was looking forward to seeing an old, familiar face and getting reacquainted. I looked forward to celebrating with him. But as I walk away, the highlight of the day was hearing God speak to me through the voice of another pastor.
But why should that surprise me? Shouldn’t God and what he says always be the highlight? Again, a little poke. A reminder that my life is not as lined up as it should be.
But then again, God forgives and delights in loving me.
That’s just cool.