God Shows Up When the Chips are Down

BY MATT JOHNSON

If everyone would just live by the rules, the world would be a better place, wouldn’t it?

Wisdom. Justice. Goodness. Any reasonable person can see God’s good creation and recognize He has ordered the universe in a certain way. Sounds reasonable, right? Now, read this:  

That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened - Thesis 19, The Heidelberg Disputation

UHH...SAY WHAT? 

Well, maybe it could be said like this: because we human beings are born default-mode theologians of glory, we are constantly on the lookout for information to improve ourselves. A theologian of glory’s main aim in life is transformation and personal growth. The glory-story theologian’s goal is to attain God’s invisible attributes--virtue, godliness, wisdom, justice and goodness--all attributes found perfectly in God. So it stands to reason, we ought to “reach for higher ground” and take the “glory road” to attain enlightenment, to reach God. The problem with our version of “enlightenment” is, it sneaks around the offense of the cross. But it’s at the cross that God most clearly displays his glory.

THE CROSS: THE DEATH PUNCH TO POSSIBILITY THINKING SPIRITUALITY 

Ever notice how God frequently shows up amidst your pitiful defeats rather than through your strengths? It’s a difficult paradox to swallow, but true. Just ask an addict unable to change. 

“Theologians of the Cross take great comfort in the thought that, when they are suffering, encountering difficulties of every kind, it is not a sign of God's abandonment or displeasure, but is, in fact, a mark of His presence and work in our lives...Of course, the problem is, none of us actually believes this...” - via R-J HEIJMEN at Mockingbird

A HUNK OF SPLINTERY, BLOOD-STAINED WOOD: THE CHRISTIAN’S HOPE 

It’s been said that one of the reasons we can know Christianity is true is that none of us would have thought it up. Think about it...a man is wrongly accused and dies, on a plank of splintery wood. And that’s our only hope in life and death? Really? Where’s the pithy, spiritual pick-me-up? How does the cross help in maximizing personal potential? What’s the practical meaning behind the cross?

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. - Thesis 20 

 
God loves to show up when the chips are down, not when we’re self-confident and able bodied.
 

People misuse the knowledge of God, Luther says, as they use their own religious efforts to reach Him. God’s answer to that? To reveal himself in a seemingly hidden way—through the cross.  

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. - 1 Corinthians 1:21 

ONCE & FOR ALL

God loves to show up when the chips are down, not when we’re self-confident and able bodied. Fortunately, God knows what is best for us—Himself—and he will rest at nothing until we receive our rest and identity in Him. Even if getting there means having to undergo sufferings and trials so that we hunger for Him instead of our own abilities. 

The cross shows us that we are powerless in our ideas of self-salvation. The cross also reminds us that God’s purposes are accomplished even amidst suffering. And sometimes, especially in suffering. Knowing this may not help us feel better when things are going poorly or always give us clarity when bad things happen. But what we do know is this: God deals with sin once and for all at the cross.

Matt is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology. He is a freelance writer and editor with a penchant for redemptive snark. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry. Many moons ago Matt forwent a proper education and traveled the country playing drums in 90 Pound Wuss, Roadside Monument and other bands you've never heard of. He likes long walks on the beach, puppies, and has questionable taste in music.

Twitter @BlingFortheKing