I am not the world’s most patient person. In fact, I have an extremely low tolerance threshold for nagging or for repeated questioning. I get annoyed when people are condescending with me, especially when they are in the wrong. I don’t like to be interrupted when I am working. I dislike it when people come to me, I tell them what to do because they ask, and then they do what they want anyway (I see it as a disrespect of my time). I’ll outright tell people that I don’t like them if I don’t. I don’t have time for nonsense. I don’t have time to baby people. Not only that, I am not good at nonsense or babying.
Recently when someone irritated me, I thought, “I wonder if this is how God feels when we know what we are supposed to do something, and just don’t do it.” Immediately the Spirit dropped within me, “Frustrating the grace of God.”
The Spirit was echoing the words of Galatians 2:16-21: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? By no means. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I may live to God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness is attainable by the law, then Christ hath died in vain.”(WBS)
This passage is important today, just as it was in days gone by, for a lot of reasons. I think every one of us needs the reminder that we are not saved by ourselves, nor are we saved by the works of the law (or our own re-created concepts therein). All throughout history, people have attempted to operate via their own means of righteousness. They do this by creating their own law, or their own version of the law. No matter what tower we are building to ourselves in order to keep ourselves sheltered therein by it, we are creating a means by which we do not have to confront ourselves as sinners. If we simply do not associate with certain people out of a sense of self-righteousness, we are creating our own law. If we hold ourselves above other people because we consider ourselves to be superior, we are creating our own law. If we are not doing what God has asked of us and calling that “grace,” we are creating our own law.
All around me, I see extremes. I see one excessive end of “dos and don’ts,” and another extreme of people who just don’t obey God in the least. Both are equally frustrating to God, and are a frustration of His grace to us. Grace has not been given to us as an excuse for us to disobey what God is saying to us, nor is it an excuse to just modify our relationship with Him to suit our own personal need to be self-righteous and personally glorified. As with all things in the Father, God calls us to seek the balance – the middle ground – between these two excessive extremes. When we find balance, we are grounded in a place that ceases to frustrate His grace.
Just as I see my time as valuable and see it as a form of disrespect when it is dishonored, so too does God see His grace as a valuable and precious thing. When we dishonor the grace He has freely given us, God feels dishonored. We focus a lot on the character development away from impatience and intolerance, but I think we often don’t flip the coin and look at the reverse. Sometimes people are as patient as they have within them to be, and people continue to grate on that. Sometimes people lash out or say things that perhaps they shouldn’t, but sometimes they are provoked. In this instance, the goodness they have has been frustrated – and the result is a sense of anger. It is not a vain anger, but a righteous one – one that in an honest setting should cause all to step back and look at themselves.
Today, we don’t like to think of God as angry or displeased. We certainly don’t like to think of ourselves as having the ability to “frustrate” God’s grace. We want to think it’s not possible to frustrate it, simply because it’s from God – but the Word doesn’t give us that perspective. Modern-day ministries tend to emphasize certain attributes of God that are appealing to people – and, in turn, advocate these attributes in people, which often equates to a manipulative form of people-pleasing. This turns, over time, into a source of control for people, who think the witchcraft they work is some sort of mainstream for “faith.” I call it the “First Church of MakeNice.” People today think Jesus came to earth to “MakeNice” with humanity and now God “MakesNice” with us. In such ridiculous theory, this also means that we should “MakeNice” with each other. It’s not supposed to matter if they are frustrating not just us, but God, as well. It doesn’t matter how annoying or frustrating someone is – we’re supposed to pretend we are all right with how they behave. This is considered character-building. No, what it is is dishonest. I agree that sometimes we need to be understanding, but sometimes we need to just tell people, with a true spirit of love and honesty, that their behavior is unacceptable. Grace does not exist so we can be endlessly needy or annoying, nor does it exist so we can be self-righteous and pompous with one another.
We want to hear about the mercy, grace, and patience of God, but we don’t want to hear about the flip side, which is our own doing: frustrating the grace of God. God IS loving and merciful and patient, but the Bible specifically commands us not to frustrate the grace of God. In other words, the Word commands us with the same commandment found since the beginning: to be obedient. God still doesn’t cotton well to self-righteousness. He still does not like disobedience. His work and grace still stand, but we are still called to cooperate with the work He is doing in us. In the end, the choice remains ours as to whether or not we frustrate God’s grace. I write this so all of us can take a good, long look at ourselves, and the things each one of us needs to work out in order to move to the place He has for us. How are we out of balance in our lives? How is that frustrating God’s grace? How are we, as a type, frustrating others with our out-of-balance approach? How can we be better prepared for what God is asking us to do?
Our personal frustration is a type, a shadow, a reminder, of what God goes through with each one of us when we frustrate His grace. Next time you have this experience, step back and think about the work God wants to do within you…and take the steps to do it.
(c) 2013 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.