In John 5:17, Jesus tells us that “My Father is always at his work, to this very day…” In Philippians 2:13, the Apostle Paul reminds us that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” In our "Stories of Grace" feature, members are invited to share a particular instance of how God has been at work in their lives.
This month, our contributor is Anna Wang.
"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)
An area where I have seen God at work in my life is in my own heart. I grew up going to Sunday school and then youth group, and church every Sunday. But I do not think I truly understood the gospel and God’s character and grace until much later in life. To me, God was another authority figure to be placated and to seek approval from. I thought being a Christian and pleasing God meant following all the rules–you know, reading the Bible, going to church, tithing, and just generally being a nice person. And nothing more. Nothing about finding your joy in God or tasting the sweetness of His companionship and mercy. I saw my relationship with Him as almost like a partnership or quid pro quo thing where He did His part by sending Jesus and I kept up my end of the deal by being a “good Christian.”
I remember a summer retreat when I was in high school, where the guest pastor gave a sermon about wanting more of God and wanting to know Him more and wanting to love Him more. And I just remember thinking, “Wow, that sounds nothing like how I currently relate to God. But I want to want that.” And I remember praying, “God, I don’t want more of You right now, and I don’t even know what that would look like. But help me want to want that.” About five or six years later, after not having been in fellowship regularly, or reading the Word, or praying, or having anything like a real relationship with our Father, but still calling myself a Christian and carrying around this guilt all the time about not doing any of the above, I started attending a small home church in New York where I think I truly heard and understood the gospel for the first time.
Something the pastor, there, used to say that really stuck with me was this: “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more—or less.” That just blew me away. You mean God is not sitting up there like a stern judge marking up my permanent record and just waiting for me to run afoul of the law? You mean Christ not only died to wipe my slate clean (though it is on me to keep it clean and not mess up), but to actually give me a righteousness that can never be removed, such that no matter how many times I fail, God’s grace remains greater than my sin? As the Holy Spirit slowly imprints that truth onto my heart, I have seen a real change in myself, over the past year or so in particular. I cannot pinpoint when or how it started, but now I genuinely want to pray and spend time in the Word. It is no longer an obligation or a chore, or something to be done so God does not get angry, but something that brings me true peace, comfort, and joy.
So after 20 years, God answered my prayer from back in high school. I can honestly say that I want more of God now, and can understand what the psalmist meant by fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in God’s presence.