What keeps us “loyal” to God? Biblically, it should be the incredible fact that God “first loved us” – it’s God’s loyalty to us that should help us keep our eyes on Him, and which in turn can “keep us in perfect peace” – but all too often this isn’t our reason. Instead, most of the time, many of us (whether we’re aware of it or not) remain loyal to God only because things are going well; and when they don’t – we feel abandoned, we feel cheated, we feel wronged, we feel stabbed in the back, thrown under the bus – and as a result, we’re usually quick to question God’s love. But let’s be brutally honest with ourselves; we only feel wronged when we believe one of our rights has been violated. The problem is, we have very few true “rights.” The love of “rights” is a slippery slope towards entitlement, and “the beginning of entitlement is the end of grace…”
Tony Snow, press secretary for the Bush administration from 2006-’07, was a devout Christian man. Prior to his death earlier this month, Snow was asked by Christianity Today to write an article about what “spiritual lessons” he had been learning through the ordeal of having terminal cancer. One comment stood out to me. He wrote, “God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, [but] he does promise us eternity.” There is a man who understood the difference between a “privilege” and a “right.” The life lived in awareness that good things (like a long life) are privileges rather than “rights” is a life saturated with a Biblical understanding of grace.
Let’s make this more real. Question: Do you and I really have the right to expect “life, liberty, and happiness?” Are we really entitled to these things, as Americans or human beings in general? Shockingly, I think the answer is “no.” We are entitled to the pursuit of these things – that is part of “free will” – but we are not entitled to acquire them. Life is not our right, Liberty is not our right, Happiness is not our right. We are not entitled to The American Dream. Does the Bible say, “We are entitled to every good and perfect thing that comes from above…?” No! The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights” (Ja 1:17)... All good things in life are from God. All good things are gifts -- and no one is entitled to a gift.It is a dangerous thing to insist on receiving what we are entitled to. Why? An old Newsboys song puts it this way – “When we get what we don’t deserve, that’s a real good thing; When we don’t get what we deserve, that’s a real good thing!” Why? Because all we’re entitled to as a result of our inherited sin is judgment and Hell. That is real, cosmic Justice. Wonderfully, we have a God who is more than “Just” – He is merciful, full of ‘Hesed,’ which is loving kindness, which his underserved, which is GRACE. After the most unimaginable series of disasters allowed by God to ravage his life and livelihood, Job managed to whisper out this simple declaration of loyalty – “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” God tested the limits of Job’s loyalty, to see what it was built on, and discovered that Job knew the truth about God – that the bad circumstances in our lives are not reflections of how He feels about us, or even necessarily signs of His disapproval – more often, they are instead refining moments of purposeful discipline, and “God disciplines those He loves” (Prov.3:12). God loves you, and He loved you first. That is grace, and that is the truest kind of loyalty.