Category Archives: forgiveness

When God Pulls the Rug Out

By: Ed Welch

Has this happened to you?

  • You read all the signs that were so blatantly from the Lord—“yes, this is the path, go this way, I am with you.”
  • You have been amazed at the way he opened doors—you were scared but you walked through them.
  • The Lord confirmed his will for you through other people too—they were excited that God was doing this.
  • Finally, you were on board. You were excited. You were all in. You had peace about your decision.
  • And then, splat, he pulled the rug out from under you.

How will you be able to trust God again?

This, I think, is a common experience. Very common. It happens with all kinds of decisions: business, vocational, financial and relationships. You pray earnestly, you see God moving, you are amazed, and then…  it looks as if he simply vanished and left you on your own. You especially see it in broken relationships. That is, you seek the Lord about a marriage or relationship decision, it starts almost too well, and then the relationship takes a sudden and tragic turn, and there is no explanation for it.

You want to know why

Some problems are universal, but this one is for those who are spiritually mature. It happens to people who are earnestly seeking God, and only the mature do such things. And though anger toward God might flash occasionally, it isn’t the real issue. The real problem is that you feel you no longer know him. You want to know why God did this, yet he is silent. It doesn’t make sense: he gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

“Why?”

When no response comes, you start filling in the blanks. Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you have done wrong and you need to figure out what it is. That’s what maturity gets you; you see yourself as the culprit. This approach is understandable and—misguided.

 Not a scavenger hunt for sin

“Why, O Lord?” is a recurring question in Scripture. In response, God does not send anyone on a scavenger hunt for sin, and does not fill in all the details that the asker might want to know either. Instead, he reaffirms that he does see trouble and grief (Ps. 10:14), and he will strengthen those who are weak (Is. 40:27-31). With these words he is revealing to us what we really need to know.

 Check your assumptions

But there is another matter to consider.

All this started with our assumptions about how God works—we had confidence that we could know the will of God. We could discern the “open doors” and had that “peace.” Even more, we were confident that those open doors would lead to blessing, according to our definition of blessing. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate.

The Apostle Paul held very different assumptions yet he believed that he knew plenty about God’s will. The King reigns, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are ripe for the picking—that was enough for him. The times he received specific direction, he was confident that it would mean blessing for the larger church and hardships for him. He knew that if God was in it there would be challenges—challenges that reveal weaknesses and test faith.

God is not playing games when he pulls the rug out from under you. He is up to something, but it is probably not what you think it is.

Written by Ed Welch / Published: Sep 10, 2012

Why was Paul so Tough?

Why was Paul so tough on those guys in Galatia? Not the members but the leaders. In chapter 5:7-12, Paul lays into the teachers in Galatia without mercy. He accuses them of hindering the spiritual progress of the believers. The word used here (5:7) means to obstruct their spiritual growth and even, at times, to arrest and to stop it! Not what you expect a spiritual leader to do with his flock. Paul says what they were teaching was so aberrant from the gospel that it could not have come from God who “called” them (5:8). He gets even tougher and describes their ministry as leaven which changes everything (5:9) and states that such teachers are worthy of judgment and condemnation (5:10). Keep in mind that epistles were usually read publicly to the church and these men were likely present. Paul was not playing politics but he was playing for keeps!  He goes on to claim that their “gospel teaching” removes Christ and the cross from the Gospel which he had not only preached to them but that he was still preaching and that he was still being persecuted for – something he would not do if it was not primary. That Jesus died for their sins on the cross was the very heart of their standing with God and assurance of His presence and power in their lives and their eternal future. So dangerous were such teachers that Paul wished they would slip with their own Pharisaical knives and emasculate (castrate) themselves. And yes, that is the literal and accurate translation of the Greek work Paul used in verse twelve. Wow! Why was Paul so tough on these guys?

Because the minute self-effort is mixed into the Gospel, it becomes powerless to save. Adding one’s own works to the gospel makes it like all other religions in the world – works based and graceless. Grace is removed and now one’s salvation depends on being good enough to earn favoritism from God. But the truth is that God will not ever be in debt to anybody. The minute one can earn their way or “keep” their salvation by their own meritorious works, they become the boaster and God the debtor and it is not possible for God to be God and to be in debt to anyone. God owes no one anything and no sinner can ever produce works enough to put God in his debt. He owes no man salvation or a place in heaven. We cannot do the work it would take. Jesus did the work. The only man who was not a sinner and who was infinitely righteous and eternally existent and able thereby to do the work, earn the merit, pay the debt man owed to God, and please the Father was the God-man Jesus. The minute the false teachers arrived in Galatia and began to spread their leaven, the glory and majesty of Jesus took a blow. Calvary was no longer the message but a footnote. The glory of God was diminished and the love of God was tarnished. What was their problem? Did they believe the Father did not respect the obedience of His Son? Did they think the life and Calvary-work of Jesus marred and sinful or that it contained errors and missteps? What was it about God’s character that made them think He would send His Son on a mission and then refuse to honor the Son’s work and sacrifice? What kind of Father did they think He was?

When these false teachers stepped in and began to devalue the work of Jesus and diminish the glory of God is when Paul got tough. As Paul Washer says in The Gospel Call and True Conversion, “This is why the apostle Paul labors with all his might in his writings to accentuate the depravity of humanity and prove their utter inability to please God in the flesh. He desires that ‘every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God’ (Rom. 3:19). Only then will people turn their eyes from themselves and look to God in faith. Only then will they cease from works and fall into the arms of grace. Only then will their boasting in self become a boasting in God. ‘As it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD’’ (1 Cor. 1:31).”

Wherever the Gospel of grace has been preached, this heresy follows. Satan is quick to send his preachers t mix the message, dilute the power of Christ and diminish the name of God. Many believe they’ve been saved but that they had better be good so that they stay saved. It is as though they believe more in their conduct and behavior than in the conduct and behavior of Jesus. Jesus lived a sinless life and died a perfect death and rose again with new life for those who trust in His work – not their works. No man is saved by his works. One can only be saved by Jesus’ work. Let go of your works and accept His. He obeyed because we could not obey and His obedience can be ours only by faith.

These false teachers did not like the idea that God’s Son had to die for them. This was, as Paul said, an offense and scandal to them (5:11). They must have been embarrassed that there was nothing meritorious within them that would impress God and force him to owe them their salvation. Their pride and desire for self-honor refused to let them give God His honor. That is a struggle we can all understand as we are strongly bent to please ourselves and seek respect and value in the eyes of others but the only true value and honor we can ever find is that which is found through the infinite value and perfect work of Jesus who invites us to join Him in the Father’s family as His joint-heirs. There is our proper and right rejoicing – not in me but in what He has done for me and for whom I am through His work – a forgiven and cleansed saint in the eyes of the Father. I am child of God and that I can boast in. As Paul exclaimed, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).