The small meeting, I was attending was becoming offensive to me. Growing increasingly agitated, I stood up intending to depart — and no one could stop me! In my mind I heard an alarm, “Respond, do not react.” Suddenly I could clearly see myself acting like a spoiled child. Grasping the door handle, it felt like an electric shock. I heard Father’s inaudible voice, “No. You must not do that.” I stopped and returned reluctantly to the scene of the offense. I was humbled, but safe and free from my own immature reaction. My response transformed the climate of the gathering. I was left stunned and wiser.
Life does get difficult. If we are to continue to live safe and free amid all that comes our way, we must learn not only to receive the grace of God, but to participate in the grace of God. Hope requires that we refuse gloom and doom. However, at the same time, the grace of God is coaches us to face all of life with reality. With the discovery of reality, there is the ever-present danger of becoming offended. The Greek word is often translated correctly—stumbled. With offense can come the reaction, “I’m out of here.” We head for the door rejecting the grace that is offered to mature in that moment.
It requires spiritual courage to remain safe and free. 40+ years ago the Father provided Judith and me with an understanding that has served to give us the grace to encounter and work through the various offenses and potential stumbling blocks. It is a quote from E. Stanley Jones book, The Unshakable Kingdom and Unchanging Person, pg. 139, Professor Royce of Harvard said,
No man is safe unless he can stand anything that can happen to him. Then the one who belongs to the Kingdom is safe for not only can he bear failure, sickness, old age, and death—he can use them. He is the only safe man in the universe. He has the significance of the ultimate order [Emphasis added].
God uses all things to conform us to the image of His Incarnate Son. He does not cause them, but He does use them redemptively for His eternal purpose. His purpose will not be dismissed or circumvented.
The concept of giving Father the proper response to life’s events was working strong within me when the above event provoked my unexpected reaction. A biblical insight followed quietly and silently. We often refuse to open ourselves to God as a Father. I saw three different ways of responding to offense: grieving, denying, and ignoring.
- We may grieve the Holy Spirit by resisting His grace to face challenges to our faith and behavioral issues.
- We may be tempted to deny the Person of Christ. When Christ makes requests that are too demanding, We may make the choice to refuse the way of the cross and deny His yoke.
- We may ignore the voice of the Father. Repetitive reactions that refuse Father’s correction, instruction, or admonition happen so often that we may eventually miss His voice altogether.
Remaining open to the voice of God as a Father has not always been part of my own journey. I have made the issue to be one of the first two. However, when I have heard and embraced Father’s voice, it dawns on me: He does care how I respond to offense. Note in John 15:1-2, from The Message. God as a Father has reserved the job of pruning for Himself: “My Father is the gardener.” The key, as Jesus says, is to abide in Him. The grace to overcome is supernatural. We cannot succeed by joining the “we try harder” club.
We see the implications of the fruit of the Spirit. The Good Farmer produces good fruit. Discipline is relational and not doctrinal.
Summary: When we are consciously open to Father’s voice correcting our responses and reactions such as anger, withdrawal, or immaturity, we begin to stabilize. We freely release others and circumstances. We know God as our Father will intervene. Blessed are those not offended by that which life presents. We are, increasingly equipped to face life as ones safe and free. We can learn to walk without stumbling.