The concluding article in the Psalm 119 series …
It took me 8 attempts to get my driver’s license. My Learner permit expired many times, and I had to go back and re-do the test. I failed once because I just didn’t bother reading the handbook and thought it would be a simple multiple choice. I failed the practical driving test at least twice (that I can remember) – both times I committed “immediate fail” violations. I ran the Stop sign outside the RTA car park and on another I sped through a School Zone – Each time the instructor told me even if I hadn’t committed the violations, my score was too low to have passed anyway. The end result: I was over 30 years old and did not have a full drivers license. I was a failure.
Most of my high school peers had their Learners in Year 12 and many had their Provisional license by the end of the year. I never even bothered taking my Learners exam until my second year of tertiary. I was heading to Sydney to live and couldn’t afford a car anyway so it wasn’t important to me… until I met a young lady to whom I later became engaged, who coincidently had a full license AND her own car! But even that didn’t motivate me. I drove away from our wedding reception in a car covered in cream, confetti, streamers and “L” plates. FAIL!
After considerable trial and much error, I managed to pass all the requisite exams and tests and was provided a driver’s license. Clearly this experience does not illustrate the success of victorious Christian living. Does it? After all, if I had prayed before doing the tests, I would have passed. Wouldn’t I? God certainly wouldn’t want a junior pastor traveling around Sydney without his own car or a driver’s license. Would he? If your measurement or definition of spirituality or holiness involves, achievement, success and possessions than I was the most vile of all sinners. For that matter, so were several other prominent characters of scripture and history.
The Apostle Paul struggled with sin, was beaten up and lost at sea and then died in prison. John the Baptist, lost all of his disciples, was thrown into gaol and Jesus didn’t help him, then he was killed. Jesus, didn’t own a house, didn’t have an income during his ministry and had every single disciple forsake him before his crucifixion.
A Christian is not dependent on trial and error. Receiving God’s forgiveness is not subject to determination of an assessor who awards my merit or penalises my violations. Salvation in Christ is completely apart from my own efforts and abilities. We become presumptuous about our abilities, achievements, material success, wealth, possessions and health that as soon as any of these are threatened or shown to be uncertain, our theology crumbles. We reason that loss of these things must be God’s punishment. This is precisely how Job’s friends saw his predicament. They didn’t realise that God was proving the extent of his grace through the temporary suffering of his servant. They missed the chance to bless him and lift him up. Instead of seeing Job’s loss as an opportunity for them to be generous they saw it as an occasion to boast, attack and criticise.
Job friends, and many like them, don’t fully appreciate that Salvation now, is from the guilt of sin. Salvation later, is from the final penalty, power and presence of sin. Until then – expect to fall flat on your face to glory of God! This is what the Psalmist is concluding in his tome on the Word of God. Without the continual grace of God at work in my life, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the scriptures, I will always fail. Everything I do, that is good, comes from God not me. Everything I have, that is good, comes from God not my abilities or effort, and God is good, all the time!
I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119:176 (NIV)