God Believes in You!

ShelbyLast night I caught my five-year-old son reading in bed when he should’ve been sleeping. I asked him to give me the book and he did, albeit reluctantly. I reminded him that it was late and he needed to go to sleep because he had school in the morning. Then I put his book at the end of his bed and turned to leave.

Luke couldn’t believe his luck. “Haha – I can get that book when you go!” he said with a wicked grin.

“I know you can, but I hope you won’t. It’s time to sleep. Good night, son.”

I closed the door and waited outside for a minute. Then I opened the door a crack to see if he had caved into temptation. He hadn’t. His head was still on the pillow and the book was untouched.

“Attaboy,” I said to myself.

The single most astonishing discovery in the gospel is that Almighty God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, has faith in us. He trusts us. He gives us the freedom to choose, encourages us to “Choose life,” and then lets us decide.

This explains the tree.

Faith and love in the Garden of Eden

The forbidden tree was not an obedience test, as in, fail the test and God will punish you. The forbidden tree was an opportunity to trust God. Tragically, we didn’t and we paid a price.

But God, good Father that he is, didn’t wash his hands of us. He didn’t say, “What a bunch of screw-ups. They’re no kids of mine.” Instead, he made things right, indeed, even better than before, because he still believes in us, he still thinks the best of us, and he longs for us to trust him back.

Is this not the greatest untold story of human history?

Think about it. In the beginning God makes a planet – perfect in every way – and then he gives his beautiful, shiny planet to us to look after:

The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man. (Psalms 115:16)

You might say it was a reckless gamble, but I say it was an audacious act of love and trust, like when a father hands his daughter the keys to his Shelby Mustang and says, “Go have some fun!”

What is man that you are mindful of him? … You made him ruler over the works of your hands. (Psalms 8:4,6)

God gave us the car-keys to planet earth and said, “Go have fun!” True, we responded by crashing the car. But don’t miss the bigger point, which is this: Knowing what we would do, and knowing how much it would cost him to repair the damage, God went ahead and did it anyway. Why? Because he loves us and believes in us and hopes that one day we will stop running and come home.

“God believes in you!”

You won’t hear this message from manmade religion. Instead you will be asked, “Do you believe in God?” And if you hesitate to answer, religion will try to manipulate you with carrots and sticks. “If you believe, you’ll be blessed. If you don’t, you’ll burn!”

But this is not love. Love makes no threats. “Love doesn’t force itself on others” (1 Cor. 13:5, MSG). And this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16).

A back-to-front gospel says, “Believe in God or pay the price.” But the gospel of grace declares, “God believes in you.” This is the stunning revelation that sets us free from the prison of loneliness and distrust.

Last night it would’ve been the easiest thing for me to take my boy’s book by force and put it where he couldn’t reach it. I could coerce him into doing the right thing because I’m stronger than him. And if he were a strapping teenager I could control him through carrots and sticks. I could make him do what I wanted by making threats and saying things like, “Under my roof, you’ll do what I say!”

But what kind of father would I be if I did that? And what kind of son would he be? He wouldn’t be a son but a slave. And since we were not made to be slaves he’d eventually run away.

I don’t want to relate to my son through power or the fear of punishment. I want to relate to him through love. And how do I do that? By giving him freedom to resist me, and then loving him no matter what.

It’s the same with our heavenly Father.

God is stronger than you or I and it would be the easiest thing in the world for him to make us do whatever he liked. It would be no trouble at all. But that’s not how love works. Love doesn’t seek to control or coerce. Love yields, and the greater the Yielder, the greater the love.

“God longs for you!”

This is the surprising announcement of the gospel. Despite all our mistakes and foolishness, our Father holds nothing against us but waits by the gate for us to come home so he can clothe us and throw a party that is so outrageously good fun that religious kill-joys are scandalized by it.

Perhaps you’ve heard the old joke about the nun and the atheist. The atheist says, “I don’t believe in God,” and the nun replies, “But God believes in you.” This is no joke! This is the gospel truth that penetrates the unbelieving heart. God isn’t shaking his fist at you. He loves you and wants to be with you.

As a parent, my greatest joy comes from experiencing the fearless and trusting love of my children. When Luke gave me his book last night, he was saying, “Daddy, I love reading, but I love you more and I trust your judgment.” It melted my heart! But here’s the thing: Luke would never trust me if I didn’t trust him first.

Again, it’s the same with our heavenly Father. We love because he first loved us, and we trust because he first trusted us. See the sequence? God acts; we respond.

The reason some people have trouble trusting is because they don’t see God with outstretched arms but with clenched fists. Religion has taught them to fear his punishment. Such folk need to hear the good news of his grace. They need to hear how much their Daddy loves them and wants nothing but the best for them.

Everything that God has ever done testifies to his love for us. The Garden, the tree, the cross – he did it all because he loves us and believes in us and is not willing that any of us should perish. His enduring hope is that we will stop doubting his intentions and trust him back.

And when that happens – when we stand firm in the confidence of our Father’s love – life will really begin!

___________

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50 Comments on God Believes in You!

  1. I love rhis article, however I dont think i understand this para. “But what kind of father would I be if I did that? And what kind of son would he be? He wouldn’t be a son but a slave. And since we were made to be slaves he’d eventually run away.”
    Did you mean “since we were made “or should it be “since we werent made”! Help???

    • Sometimes, Barry, I make these deliberate mistakes just to see who’s paying attention and the good news is – you are! I added that last sentence as an after-thought and in my haste left out the word not. We were NOT made to be slaves. It’s fixed now. Thanks.

  2. Great stuff!! ….one thing… we were made to be slaves? Please explain.

  3. Great post Paul. Always re-shaping and balancing our views on the difference between law and grace. Thank You!

  4. Our whole life is an opportunity to trust God.
    I love that. And I love that as I trust He gives me His Grace to extend His love to others thus giving them the opportunity to respond in trust to Him.
    I will sing of His love forever!
    Keep burning Paul.
    Grace & peace.

  5. beautifully written!
    while reading, it struck me how much coercion and control there really is in man-made religion – whether its subtle or blatantly obvious… it flows over into the way people relate to God and other people, the way they evangelize, do business, run governments… without God’s love, we could never experience what it is to be truly free!😉

  6. Isaac Pedroza // June 25, 2014 at 1:27 am // Reply

    Thank You JESUS for your beautiful Gospel of Grace:-) !!!

  7. well put bro,as I was reading,it came back to me how important this message is,by seeing how hard the enemy pushes in the other direction,and then if you do catch it,he pushes in the opposite direction. plays both ends against the middle,

  8. Paul, I enjoyed your post, as always.

    I agree with you that there is a way to try to manipulate people into “believing” God – which of course doesn’t work, since faith is at its core an unforced human response to one’s good intentions towards that person from someone who has their best interests at heart.

    Also, there are bona fide propositional truths in the Bible about God’s gracious offer of salvation, healing for the body, escaping poverty of this world’s system, etc. We can choose to put out trust into those, and reap the benefits. If we haven’t developed trust (which really is not much more than a childlike response of choice of trusting a more capable and caring father figure) in those areas – we are simply left to our own devices there, which will be sub-par.

    Thank you for sharing a personal story. Now, this is real parenting! And if I may offer a couple of observations on that. The main one is – you trusted Luke, and he trusted you back! He knew that you are a well-intentioned, loving father (relational truth), and that you would like for him to stop reading for the night (propositional truth), and the relational aspect equipped him with trusting your proposal, and enabled him (“gave him the grace/enablement” to “resist the temptation”). Had he kept reading for another hour or two, there would be consequences (being sleepy the next day, which is no fun for any kid), but those would be entirely self-inflicted. Your part in the story consisted of instructing him and enabling him to avoid those. Now, that reads like a Gospel story🙂

    • And the interesting thing is I don’t think – not for a second – that I’m the only parent who knows this. Every loving parent does. Therefore, every parent has some glimpse, some insight into the Father’s heart, even if they haven’t been to church. Love reveals the gospel.

  9. Good perspective, Paul–thanks!

  10. Hi Paul

    Loved this one. And I just wanted you to know that I have been deeply blessed by your words over the past one year, and that the amazing, outrageous grace of God you have helped reveal to me, I will help others to see in turn.

    (By the way, one small typo… “And since we were (NOT) made to be slaves he’d eventually run away.”)

    Not too much to be said. Thank you for helping me fall in love with Jesus all over again. And again. And again. Nothing else that can be left to say.

    Bless you.

  11. Ron La Fitte // June 25, 2014 at 4:05 am // Reply

    Excellent !!
    Thanks Paul!

  12. Even if your son had picked up that book again, he still would have been sleeping in the comfort of his Father’s house that night. This is beautiful. Thank you

  13. One of the best posts from PE yet!

  14. the simplicity within it. explains the fathers love.

  15. Aburime Orlando Ben. // June 25, 2014 at 11:02 am // Reply

    Thank God for the grace and privilege to see and read this post. Fact is, it exposes our human frailty and failings in our dealings with God and man. But, truth also is that it has helped to remove us from the bondage of ignorance and constant self-condemnation. What a great eye opener for me, especially.

  16. Hi Paul,
    Am interested in your thoughts re our ability to bring God pleasure. I get that we cannot earn our salvation and that everything was accomplished through the cross, but do you think that God still has “attaboy moments” when he see us allowing His grace to flow into our lives and making right decisions. I know that my works are not what get me acceptd by God and that my identity is not attached to what I do, but is their still a place for us doing things which please God? As a child brings pleasure to his parents

  17. Kyle Barlow // June 25, 2014 at 5:24 pm // Reply

    Paul,
    Great article and refreshing as usual. As a parent and a believer, I do have a question. What if your son had picked the book back up? Now – imagine he is 15 and not 5. And the issue isn’t picking up a book but something harmful like drugs or porn or whatever damaging sin. Does the illustration hold? it’s your illustration so I’m holding you to it. lol.
    I ask because I see parents who try to parent like God loves. A parent may love his child like God loves, but not parent like God parents. I feel Iike there is a disconnect at some point. they are different relationships with some similarities. Protecting your child from damaging sin is desirable but not completely possible I know. However, there is an environment we should give that is separate from the free will of God. Agree?

    • That’s a good question, but one I may not be able to answer for 10 years! Maybe there are some experienced parents who would like to weigh in on this, but my inexperienced thoughts are as follows. If my 15 year son does something harmful or sinful, I can address the behavior (eg: with carrots and sticks) or I can address the heart behind it. You know drugs and porn are harmful. If your son doesn’t know, he’s been deceived. Someone has lied to him. The best antidote to a lie is the truth.

      • Kyle Barlow // June 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm //

        It wasnt so much a parenting question as a God question. a break down of the illustration. I have trouble with “God has faith in us”. The scripture is clear that Jesus trusted or had faith in no man bc he knew what was in man. Free will has less to do about God trusting or having faith in us and more about a) God’s confidence in His gospel and plan and b) a spiritual battle from Genesis on to today – where free will must be present in this spiritual battle. To equate parenting and allowing free will for a five year old to decisions about life and death isn’t the same. To my point, if it was a book of matches or a lighter your son had as opposed to a book – would you walk away? Fearing the devastating consequences I doubt it. Yet God does the same for us – if we believe in a literal hell. He let’s us play with the matches. why? Because He has faith in us? If that’s the case God is foolish at best as evidenced by the mass amounts of people that prove untrustworthy (narrow road). If the illustration is for believers only it still doesn’t measure up. We trust God bc he first trusted us? I don’t get it. substitute the word love for trust as you did and I’m with you but God doesn’t trust us He loves us. He trusts His plan. it may provide a false sense of self to imagine God believes in You but the focus of all that is YOU or ME. not God.

      • Would you agree that God is love – he is the very definition and source of all love (1 Jn 4:8)? Would you agree that we love because he first loved us (1 Jn 4:19)? Would you agree that God’s kind of love always trusts (1 Cor 13:7)? There is no love without trust. If God is the source of all love, he is the source of all trust.

        Hypotheticals about matches, porn and hell must be grounded in the reality of his love for us – a love which is 100% characterized by trust.

    • my children are grown and out on there own 2 girls,1 boy ,all I can say is there all different and I dealt with them in that manner,the funny thing YOU learn also,there were times I had to put my foot down,1 time I had to kick a boy,friend out of the house,it gets interesting….Love them,discipline them, they always knew they were still part of the family and loved,and sometimes all you can do,is hope you taught them well,and turn them loose, and what ever you do,you will have screw ups, and I have had them come back and like Mark Twain said ” when I was 14 my father was a dumbest jackass around ,and when I became 21, I was surprised at what he learn in 7 yrs.”

  18. “Not in my house, not under my roof. My roof, my rules.” I had bought into the lie that this was an ok thing to tell your child. My daughter is one but I was already dreading the day I would have to use it. It’s so true that coming into grace has more to do with deleting stuff and unlearning lies than learning new stuff. Beautifully written. Thanks, again.

  19. Actually Paul was right the first time. “Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become SLAVES to righteous living.” Romans 6:18

  20. Tanks so much for dis.

  21. I so appreciate all the great stuff that comes to my inbox from you. Thankyou!🙂 Are you able to recommend any book/video/cd etc. specific to parenting in a more grace-ful way? Thanks heaps.
    Ps. I just received our copy of the Jesus Story Book Bible. My boys love it, and I love it…I often need tissues when reading it (sniff!), lol. A great recommendation.❤

  22. awesome article made me really think how i am relating with my own kids.How great Paul that your 5 year old son wants to stay up and read!Keep up the great work.A verse that came to mind as i was reading all the discussion was Eph.5:10…”and find out what pleases the Lord”.I love the freedom and latitude and i am sure acting as you did with your boy must have pleased Him.

  23. Did you mean to say “we were NOT made to be slaves” instead of “we were made to be slaves” ?

  24. Dear Paul,
    Thank you for your excellent post! It brought to mind a time when my daughter, who at 16, having just returned from a fortnight in Spain with her best friend and her parents, wanted to return to Spain, unaccompanied by an adult. She finished her petition by saying, “Before you answer, please pray about it!” As I hadn’t even allowed her to date until her 16th birthday, I was surprised by this constraint.
    To my great surprise, when I prayed about it, the Father of fathers disagreed with my perspective. “What could she do that she couldn’t do here in England if she were determined?” “You have an opportunity to trust her, don’t waste it.”
    So, on the understanding that she phone every evening at midnight, we agreed. She did so religiously, but after four nights we did away with the call.
    When she returned, she was a transformed! Earlier that year she decided not to pursue her obvious academic gifting, opting for a course at a local college that was more about who she would be with than making the most of her talents. When she came in through the door she declared that she wanted to return to her studies, go to university and give it her very best. She was true to her word, becoming Deputy Head girl and blazing a trail! She always points back to that point of trust and how much it meant to her. Praise God for His trust in us!

    • That’s a great story, Peter! I just hope my daughter doesn’t read it. I’m not ready for her to go overseas. Haha!

      Seriously, as your story shows, we are not changed by who we trust in, but by who trusts in us. You empowered your daughter to become the young lady God always meant her to be. Well done.

  25. Paul,

    Thank you for reminding us of Grace.

  26. Paul,

    It’s so natural for us to taste in every scripture a sort of poorly defined fear, an unspoken feeling of ought and all of those are somehow always in a framework of good/evil, rather than in and of Love, in and of the Joy of a Beloved. You stated in a link: “The forbidden Tree was not an obedience test, as in, fail the test and God will punish you. The forbidden Tree was an opportunity to trust God.” How backwards of you Paul, and yet that very taste of backwards in my mouth is itself – I am finding – the product of how far our vision of God, of Immutable Love, has actually fallen into a metaphysics built atop good/evil rather than atop Life. God speaks of wide open spaces: “Of All/Every Tree you may eat…….” Every Door is wide open. Only one door is a “Negative/Not”. And somehow all our theology is built atop that one “Not” while the God Who lavishes wide open spaces sounds strange and even dangerous and on some level un-Christian. How would we as Christians even think about ourselves, about God, about reality if we were to remove the entire paradigm of good/evil? I’m afraid we would be both speechless and unable to function. How sad that is for it is from such a vantage point which we have fallen, and it is into such wide open spaces that Grace Himself leads us – free of charge. Thank you Paul for re-calibrating our lens.

  27. I’m expecting my first child and have been thinking for awhile what’s the best way to raise my children, now that I know the gospel of grace. I prayed and asked God to show me a few months ago, and here is my answer!🙂 It’s tempting to raise my children the same way I was raised and the way I see everyone around me raising their kids, with rules and yelling and punishment. But instead, I think I want to raise my children with love and trust. After all, God is the ultimate parent and He should be our role model right?

  28. Blessed Collins Apamo // June 30, 2014 at 7:44 pm // Reply

    These are quality and glorious words, from the post itself to comments.

    This is my conclusio: THERE IS A HIGHER LIFE IN CHRIST. And that is the life my children will experience, when they come to the scene.

    Thanks, Paul for allowing yourself to be used of God that we may experience this divine life.

  29. Michael Jenkins // July 10, 2014 at 7:27 am // Reply

    This was the most wonderful post I read in awhile. God loves us and we simply trust Him. He is such a faithful God. He does not force anything on us but gives us the freedom to choose.

  30. I don’t think it’s true to say that God believes in us. God cannot have faith. As the incarnated Son, can Jesus have faith? I think, yes. But, it isn’t that God believes in us, it’s that he has made us what He wants us to be, in Christ.

    • It’s hard to believe that God believes in us! I’m torn! However those In Christ this would make sense. Another parenting book I recommend is “Love Our Kids On Purpose” by Danny Silk.

  31. This may be a poor comparison, but I had a similar moment with my daughter, a couple of weeks ago. Her school was showing the mini-series “Roots” in class and she was staunchly opposed to it. She is highly sensitive to people’s suffering and didn’t see the purpose in watching it. We discussed it and through tears, she expressed her reservations and the alternative, which was to complete a very big assignment on slavery. I told her that I’d sign the waiver and that I trusted that she’d do her best on the assignment. I could feel her spirit lift, when I said that and the result was that she wanted to live up to the level of trust I had in her. In the end, she went over and above what I ever expected of her. Had I forced her to watch the movie, she would have gotten little out of it, but because I respected her and trusted her, she poured her heart into it and gained knowledge and understanding that she didn’t have, before.

    Trust is a beautiful and life giving thing, but as in the case of mankind, a lack of trust is a life consuming fire that destroys.

  32. If I would have realized this earlier I would have been a better dad. God sets us free to be a father after His own heart

  33. One of the most beautiful reads I’ve had in a long time.

  34. Warren (South Carolina, USA) // January 28, 2016 at 8:55 am // Reply

    This one is another Home Run Saint Paul.
    I really like your ‘surprising announcement of the Gospel’ of the Kingdom:

    “Despite all our mistakes and foolishness, our Father holds nothing against us but waits by the gate for us to come home so he can clothe us and throw a party that is so outrageously good fun that religious kill-joys are scandalized by it.”

    Blessings!!!
    Warren (South Carolina, USA)

  35. I most certainly needed to hear this truth. Been feeling like such a failure. But God in His love supernaturally brought me to this article to let me know that He believes in me. Thanks Paul. The truth you share has set a soul free🙂 God bless you

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