By James Christopher Powell
As we journey through life we encounter situations and circumstances that invoke a wide array of emotions. Many life situations bring a smile to our faces. Take for example a child graduating from high school or college or a baby taking its first step and saying its first word. Instances like these bring happiness and contentment to those who have invested their lives in the baby or the graduate. There are other situations, however, that bring sadness and/or disappointment. For example, those times when a report from a doctor is an unpleasant diagnosis or when a child makes a bad life decision. Both these positive and negative experiences bring about emotional responses rooted in our human make-up. However, those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior know there are more reactions than emotional responses of happiness/contentment and sadness/disappointment to situations and circumstances that arise in our lives. Ask yourself this: Have you ever had a moment where either you watched life situations play out before your eyes or you personally experienced a situation in which the only response you could muster is to thank and praise God for His love, mercy, and grace that He continues to pour out on your life? In other words, as you move through life God is revealing to you more about Himself and His character through the situations you see or experience on a daily basis. I encountered a situation this week that left me in a state where I could only praise God for his holy love for me and for humankind.
This week I visited one of the local baseball parks to watch two kids I know play in their baseball games. I started out watching my five-year-old niece play her t-ball game and also walked over to watch another young man play in his baseball game—a game with boys ranging from nine to eleven years old. Ask any person who has ever visited a kids sporting event and they will tell you there are always those parents who demand their children perform as if they are a professional sports player. You know the parents I am talking about; they yell at their kid when they make an honest mistake, they are constantly critical of their kid, or they heap unreasonable expectations and pressures on their child instead of letting the child learn the sport and learn to love the sport. Now, please do not mistake me, there are times and places to correct children and to push them to perform better and to hold them accountable for their actions. I am not talking about this sort of correction and healthy sportsmanship; rather, I am talking about parents who seek to make a child's sporting event more about him- or her- self and their public perception than about the child. Observing the game of the older boys, I quickly discovered "that parent" among the onlookers. At first, I overlooked him and tuned him out while enjoying the game on an uncharacteristically cool and breezy May evening in Florida. The game became intense as each team was playing strategy, trying to gain and keep the lead. The visiting team (the team of the young man I was there to see) was making a comeback and every at bat was critical to the team making-up its three- run deficit. The boys were excited, the fans were sitting on the edge of their seats, and into the on-deck circle stepped the son of "that parent" described above. My ears were not prepared to hear what this parent was about to say. As his son was swinging to warm-up the parent barked, "If you hit the ball, I won't tear your butt up when we get home."
There are many ways to look at this situation and my mind was racing when I heard this parent base his child's punishment on the child's performance in the batter's box. However, in the moments following this statement I could not help but leap for joy in my soul because God Almighty does not base His love for me, His salvation of me through Jesus Christ, or the grace and mercy that flow from Him toward me upon my performance on a daily basis. As I reflect on this experience at the baseball park, I am constantly reminded of Paul's words to the Romans. In Romans 5 Paul was continuing his logic from the previous chapters in which he exalted Jesus Christ as the way unto salvation, the only way into a righteous standing before God, only by faith in Jesus Christ. In Romans 5:8 Paul wrote, "But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (NIV). The principle of this verse stands in stark contrast to the parent above.
Unlike the parent above, God did not base His offer of salvation for humanity upon humanity's performance to do something right or correct. Again, unlike the parent above, God does not offer a withholding of punishment for sin if someone can meet His standard this time around. Rather, Romans 5:8 tells us that while we as individual human beings were still stuck in a sinful disposition deserving of God's wrath and punishment with no hope of escape, God provided salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God provided this through His unfathomable love and unmeasured grace and mercy. Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord can praise God for His salvation and can exalt God for His abounding love. But for those who have not accepted Jesus and made Him Lord of their lives, God is standing with arms wide open to give you His love and His holiness through Jesus Christ's death on the cross.
James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years.
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.