By Grace Through FaithPosted: July 2, 2008
Another revelation to one of my favorite verses:
In the Letter to the Ephesians, second chapter, verses eight through nine reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” ESV
When I go on long drives, I often sky watch. Yes, that does mean that I spend less time watching the road, but that’s for another entry. On a recent drive, I was spying the sky and spotted one of those darned birds; you know the ones that seem to want to get stuck in the grill of a car? They fly at you furiously flapping their wings coming dangerously close to your windshield and at the very last second they pull up as if to mock you, showing off their skills in flying. I despise those kind of birds (well, I really don’t discriminate with my hatred of birds, because I think I hate all of them equally). Now, contrasting that type of bird, a little while later, I spot another bird higher up in the sky. It’s wings are magestically spread wide open, gliding effortlessly on the winds, high up, safe from any imminent dangers, almost as if it didn’t have a care in this world. It was an eagle (one of the few birds I love). Eagles just seem like they own the sky. Using a popular term these days, Eagles are fierce! So why am I talking birds? Precisely because I feel as though my recent sky watching excursion has led me to understand Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians a little bit deeper.
I’m a doer by nature. It could just be the prideful Korean spirit in me or it could be the Protestant work ethic that I’ve adopted, but whichever way you look at it, I am a worker. This is even true in my relationship with God. And contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t squeeze the joy out of my relationship with Him, because, sinfully, I love working hard at my relationship with God. Admit it, some of you are Christian masochists just like me. Sweat the most at a prayer meeting and you can be sure that you’ll feel like you’re that much closer to God. Go to the toughest areas of the world and come back the skinniest and no one can deny you of your blessings. Fast longer, read faster, sing louder, have more meetings at Church and of course you’re going to be on top of your relationship with God. Isn’t that how we are sometimes? We’re workaholics. We’re addicted to the religion of Christianity. At least, I know I am. No pain, no gain.
But all that work for what? Why does your work have to determine how “blessed” you feel? Paul says, “this is not your doing.” This work of salvation is solely by grace through faith…it doesn’t include you anywhere in the equation. It’s God’s gift. Naturally, I’m always rebuked when I read this passage in Paul’s letter. It cuts to the core and driving passion of who I am. I want to earn everything I get, because it just tastes sweeter that way. Free? That’s for bums and lottery winners. I want to know I’ve put my sweat and blood in it. Obviously, this is the exact opposite of Paul’s understanding of salvation. Our relationship with God is not dependent on ourselves, in fact, we are nowhere in the equation. It is simply, “by grace through faith”.
So why the birds? You know those annoying birds that fly dangerously low flapping as if to make a scene? Well, that’s me. From God’s perspective, I’m that bird that flies dangerously low, weaving through oncoming traffic, acting as if I have to flap harder just to get anywhere. And what’s my fate? I’m inevitably going to land in the chrome grill of a Nissan. So what does God want me to be? He wants me to soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40). He wants me to put out my wings and glide, as if to effortlessly navigate the skies, high above any dangers. You ever notice that? Eagles hardly ever flap their wings. Yes, they have to flap their wings to get started, but once they catch that wind current high in the sky, they can glide forever. But they not only glide through the sky, they can actually soar! Without flapping their wings, they can raise their elevation by merely manipulating the wind’s currents. Amazing.
In that same manner, God’s plan for salvation is not to trigger a life of working and doing in order for you to merit your salvation. But it’s for you to receive your salvation as a gift, and to employ it merely by spreading your wings. Open them up. Resist the urge to flap. Yes, you have to flap at times, but learn to glide. And not only glide, learn how to “soar on wings like eagles”. We’re not created to flap, we’re meant to soar. Wings are useful for flapping, but they’re created to be spread wide open. Let the winds of God’s grace take you.
I need to learn how to soar.
(maybe I should scrape myself off this grill first)