WHEN NEWS CAME that his army had been defeated at the Battle of Malplaquet, the French King Louis XIV exclaimed “Has God forgotten all I have done for him?” He had done much to advance the Catholic cause, and therefore he reasoned that God should not be so ungrateful as to allow his army to be defeated.
It’s difficult for you and me to put ourselves in the position of an absolute monarch. When you have the power of life and death over your subjects, you get used to having what you want. That kind of power breeds a special kind of arrogance. But just maybe we can recognise King Louis’ attitude in some of the ways we behave.
Have you ever thought, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why is God letting this happen to me?” or “I don’t deserve this.” These are not uncommon thoughts— even for followers of Christ. When life goes wrong it can be very hard.
Look at it another way. Have you ever thought, “I’m a decent kind of person. I’m a lot better than some. I don’t see why God shouldn’t be pleased with me”?
These are two aspects of the same attitude. Do you recognise it in the way you think? If so, you need to sit up and read this carefully—because these kinds of thoughts betray a massive gulf between the way you’re thinking, and the way of God.
Saved By Grace
The Apostle Paul said this: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8). This is a profound statement that’s worth pondering. “Grace” is defined in a Bible dictionary as ‘undeserved favour’. The grace of God is a fundamental theme in the Bible. God is the Creator, the Giver of life and everything, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sins: ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). He owes us nothing, and we owe Him everything. When we look at it like that, does our self- satisfaction take on a different hue?
Jesus told a story:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9–14).
The Gift of Salvation
The Pharisees were the religious rulers of the day. People looked up to them, and they were generally very pleased with themselves. Tax collectors were as unpopular in those days as they’ve ever been—this man would have been working for the Romans and so doubly resented by the Jews. The contrast between these two was simply this: one believed that he was a good man and deserved God’s favour; the other knew his need of God’s mercy.
There was another occasion when we see the two categories of people together.
Jesus was invited to dine by a tax collector.
And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:15–17).
Coming to terms with God and His ways means putting our lives into perspective—accepting what we are when we come before Him. In another of Paul’s letters he puts it like this: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23–24).
So it’s worth asking yourself the question—do you believe you’re a good person, and God ought to be pleased with you? Or do you recognise yourself as a sinner? If you accept your need for God’s grace, He will extend it to you. If you don’t, He won’t.