We stood no chance

Published 12:35 pm Saturday, March 17, 2018

by Charles Qualls

Near the port city of Kusadasi, Turkey, some of the finest and most durable rugs are woven. Heirloom pieces, these goods are made to stay in families and be passed down for generations. If you go there, you know that a crew of very masculine men will try to high-pressure you into buying. They toss the rugs around as though they are nothing, and unroll them with precision right at your feet. What’s surprising is that these heavy, strong rugs are made of some of the most delicate silk.

Small, marble-sized balls of moth’s silk are soaked for a time. Then, small and delicate women — not strong men — loom the silk into strands of fiber that are just right for dyeing and then weaving. That’s the starting place.

The silk looks so fragile in its original state. These women are anything but imposing as they transform it into these lasting treasures using the opposite of brute strength. Truth is, if the silk were mishandled, roughly pulled or rushed, it would no doubt break.

Weakness creates strength and durability in this ancient trade.

If you’ve ever participated in an egg-toss at a picnic or a fair, you’ll know that your strength will quickly work against you. Rather, soft hands and a delicate touch will win the game. Golf is a game more of precision than raw strength. My years playing baseball and softball did not serve me well once I took up golf. Trying to murder the ball only caused flaws in my swing to be exaggerated.

One dentist said that he loves chopping wood on the weekends because, “I love getting to smash large things.” Further explaining he said, “I spend my entire work week trying not to crack little things.”

God’s people had been tough people. As we read in Ephesians 2: 1-10, we remember that they had handled hundreds of years of slavery, only to spend a full generation or two wandering in the wilderness. Then, the disturbing battles of the conquest for Canaan put them in such physical trauma for more generations.

Into a culture accustomed to hard living came the newest covenant in Christ. This covenant would cause believers from then until now to rely not on smarts … not on hard work … not on legalism and judgment … but on the power of God to save our souls.

This covenant in Christ means that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. There is nothing we can work at, no list we can click off. No physical control we can exert and no financial might we can throw God’s way. We do get a choice, though. We can accept or not.

Of course for some, God’s grace through Christ feels cheap because it all seems too easy. We might hear that voice.

There are other kinds of voices, too. The one that is mentioned in the text, the one some of you want to be sure I acknowledge. The presence of evil that I think is completely real, and that will speak into our living as often as we give it the chance.

But, there are other voices that compete for our attention and would guide our living. The voice that tells us that we are not enough, and that we are not good enough. The voice that tells us we aren’t worthy of God’s mercy. The voice that is angry. That is still upset about that thing that happened, those things that happened, a long time ago. Life isn’t fair, and it’s stacked against us. The voice that compares us to other people — other churches — and thinks they are prettier, smarter, more talented, more desirable than we could ever be.

When are we going to begin to look at the grace and mercy of God, that made salvation in Jesus Christ possible as a gift? A gift that only God could bestow. A gift that you couldn’t do enough to earn or to lose.

When will you believe that accepting the gift is worthy of you? In fact the faith to believe is a gift, Paul says.

Oh, Jesus may meet us where we are, but let’s acknowledge that Jesus also never leaves us where He found us. So, we are saved to begin to do the kinds of good works we usually think of.

But, we stood no chance. No matter how rich or poor, no matter how pretty or plain you feel. No matter how smart or average and no matter how much of an over or underachiever you are used to being, we stood no chance, Paul says, to get the gift. Only God could do that. Thanks be to God.

CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.