by Levi W. Graham
CGG Weekly, November 22, 2019
"The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own."
H.B. Charles, Jr.
Whenever a national holiday like Independence Day, Memorial Day, or Veterans Day comes around, we often see the familiar phrase, "Freedom isn't free" on bumper stickers or on signs along the roadway. It is a concise reminder that the freedom that we enjoy in the United States came not without cost: American lives were lost on many battlefields, the populace must work diligently to uphold the nation's principles, and our leaders must strive to ensure that this quality of life is not lost.
Sadly, time seems to be eroding this patriotic spirit. In our politics, where a generation ago, socialism was an errant idea to be driven out of American culture at all costs, it is now being lauded and pushed upon us from high places. Its supporters are seemingly ignorant of the horrible record of failure and destitution it has left in the nations where it has been implemented.
This is but one example of the law of futility. Paul writes more expansively in Romans 8:20-21 (The Amplified Bible):
For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who subjected it—[yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God's children.
Have we ever considered why creation is the way it is? Everywhere we look, we see this law of futility in action: weeds in our garden, soreness in our muscles, failure to master a skill, inability to change one hair from white to black by sheer force of will (Matthew 5:36). The more we consider most aspects of life, we find inadequacy present. Scientists developed a law to describe this reality: the Law of Entropy. It describes the fact that from the smallest atom to the most massive galaxy, matter is slowly marching toward a state of disorder.
However, when we consider this truth in the light of God's sovereignty, which is the ultimate reality, we can only conclude that there must be a purpose for all this overwhelming futility.
Jesus said, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5; emphasis ours). Consider this in tandem with Romans 8:20-21. Since the grass continues to grow, it must be cut. Our bellies grow hungry, so they must be fed. Food must be eaten before it spoils and goes to waste. In this physical life, we chase futility constantly, and it is a wearying task. Yet, Scripture says that God in His wisdom purposefully subjected us and all of creation to these things.
As this is true on the physical plane, it is also true for us in our spiritual activities. We cannot simply be baptized and become "once saved, always saved," as this world's Christianity champions. We must "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling" as God works in us (Philippians 2:12-13). We cannot pray once for all time and have it suffice; we must continually seek God, "praying always" (Ephesians 6:18). The same is true of Bible study, meditation, fasting, and obedience. Nor can we accomplish anything godly of our own will, by our own resources. The power to change and overcome belongs to God, who gives it through His Spirit (see Ephesians 1:19; 6:10; II Timothy 1:7; Luke 10:19).
At face value, this sounds harsh. However, if we could accomplish anything spiritually by our own strength, God would then technically owe us something, and we would have something to boast about (Romans 4:2). Recall that Christ said we cannot change our hair color by an act of will. If our human will cannot alter the most insignificant physical reality, how much less will it change a spiritual reality? Can we declare ourselves sinless? Can we, by strength and determination, earn anything from God? So, just as creation is subject to the futility of fighting against entropy, we find ourselves subject to futility when trying to overcome sin's curses through our own strength.
We can thank God that the story does not stop here. He has revealed a way!
When we are sick, we may seek out a doctor. When our pipes burst, we may call a plumber. Logic tells us that, when a problem confronts us that we are unequipped to resolve, we seek out someone who can. When we have a spiritual problem, our pride often rises to assume that we can force God to come to our aid, rewarding us for our supposed righteousness. But that is a losing strategy! Since we are bond-slaves redeemed from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ, can anything we do be credited to our account?
Only one thing: our faith in the Son of God. "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6; see Galatians 2:20). So, if the plumber can fix the pipes and the doctor can dress a wound, Jesus Christ, the Savior, can alone supply what we lack spiritually in the face of futility!
The things that seem impossible to us are indeed impossible for us. We cannot part seas, bring down high walls, clothe ourselves in the power of a whirlwind, and certainly not uphold all things by the word of our power! But we can have absolute faith in Christ to accomplish His will for us, and this trust in Him gives us the strength we need to face whatever Red Sea or wall of Jericho stands before us and to conform to His will. The Bible proves conclusively in hundreds of examples that He is powerful and capable to the highest degree!
Scripture frequently employs the phrase, "Then they shall know that I am God." Why? This realization is exactly what He is trying to get through our thick heads! He is God, and we should call for aid from no other power. Who made all things? Who halted the sun in the sky? Who rained fire on Sodom and Gomorrah? Who walked on water? Who passed through death? Who gave us life and all we have? Who called us and gave us gifts and understanding? Who carried us through a trial? Who has promised never to leave or forsake us?
From the slightest solicitations to sin to the monumental, life-changing moments, we can know that, even though we might not understand how victory will be accomplished, we can trust Christ to work our trials out for good (Romans 8:28), even if we will not see that good until the resurrection. We may literally die following through on our belief in Christ, as many of our spiritual forefathers have, leaving us an example. Yet even through death, in Christ, hope remains.
Freedom indeed is not free. Creation has paid a price, as have we. Our God had to give His life so that we and the creation might be set free. As we observe the pervasive futility around us, will we believe in Christ's great, once-for-all sacrifice and trust in God's power to pull us through? Or will we attempt to rely on our own puny strength?
The part we play in this is critical. God will not force anyone to choose to believe. He wants us—indeed commands us—to make the right choice. Choose wisely. Choose life. Creation is eagerly waiting for the glorious freedom of God's faithful children!