Why Does God Ignore Merit? (Lent 26-2018)

If we can’t earn our salvation by our good works, frankly, why bother doing them?  Why not just eat, drink, and be merry?  Let Jesus be your insurance plan and open your Bible now and then to remind yourself that it’s God’s gift to you as you go on with your life?  Seems simple enough.

But then one day, something happens, and you ask yourself about meaning in life, about merit and things larger than yourself.  In our Lent 2018 devotional series Pi and Chi, asking 40 questions why, Pi speaks as a voice-over,

The world had lost some of its enchantment. School was a bore – nothing but facts, fractions and French. Words and patterns that went on and on. I grew restless, searching for something that would bring meaning into my life.”

Pi’s something was a girlfriend.  But I’ve been thinking about deeper meaning and merit, and I’ve been struck by one (now two) celebrity deaths.  There is the death of the Reverend Billy Graham who reached many millions of people with the Gospel.  I find myself feeling rather jealous on a visible merit basis.  He preached worldwide to millions of people.  I blog and deal with my hometown’s sewers.  On a merit-basis alone, I know I don’t measure up, like I’m eternally insignificant.  But hope rises as I think about Edward Kimball and the truth of the saying, 

You can count the number of apples on a tree and the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed. 


Had Edward Kimball not found meaning in his life by teaching the Gospel in Sunday school, who might have preached to the millions way down the line?  Merit is a funny thing–visible and hidden–it’s earthly but for the Christian, it’s eternal.

Then as I rewrite portions of my messages for you each day, I learned this morning that Stephen Hawking, renowned physicist and intellectual died.  He dismissed a need for God and asserted that “conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.” In the end, his children praised him saying, “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.” True, he beat the odds of his diagnosis and was a respected intellectual, but that’s not the same as the person living on.  Fairy tale or sad reality: you can’t take it with you and living on for many years isn’t the same as eternity.   

But then there’s Billy Graham whose work carried on until his death and now what he said earlier makes us smile, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” And I’m certain an obscure Edward Kimball was there in the huge crowd in heaven to greet him even as Graham’s earthly work and legacy live on.

Why Does God Ignore Merit?  He doesn’t.  Merit is both rewarded and multiplied by God like a seed.  Given only in service to this world, any merit just doesn’t seem to have the same significance, does it?

Food for thought: 

  • Compare and contrast the legacy and hope in the juxtaposed deaths of Graham and Hawking.  Read Mark 8:36 “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”  How does merit belong to the earth in a different way than its meaning in the hands of God? 
  • Read John 12:24 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  How does God reward self-sacrifice and multiply merit? 
  • Do you ever feel like you’re insignificant?  How does God’s multiplication and reward of merit help you to persevere in doing good (Galatians 6:9)?

Join me tomorrow for Why Won’t God Just Make Me Believe? 


For Lent 2018, we’ll explore the questions of Pi and Chi (the Greek letter beginning the word Christos, which means Christ, Messiah, the Anointed One). We’ll ask and answer the question “Why?” as we discover the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  Join me for the 40 days of Lent which began February 14, 2018 by liking Seminary Gal on Facebook or having these devotionals sent to your email box which you can do via the sign-up on my Home page.  Thank you for blessing me with this opportunity to study together the Word of God.


Acknowledging that former years’ devotional series remain popular:

  1. Lent 2013 looked at The Letter to the Romans: Paul’s Masterpiece to reclaim foundations of our Christian heritage and began February 13, 2013.
  2.  A very special and ever popular offering was Lent 2014’s Be Still and Know that I AM God  which can be obtained through the archives beginning in March 2014. 
  3. Lent 2015 began on February 18, 2015 with a series entitled With Christ in the Upper Room: Final Preparations.  We explored what is often called “The Upper Room Discourse” found in John chapters 13-17
  4. ReKindle, the Lent 2016 series, began on February 10, 2016 and encouraged us to rekindle our spiritual lives.
  5. Light: There’s Nothing Like It was the 2017 Lent series and explored this metaphor often used to portray Christ.  It is archived beginning March 1, 2017.

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on March 15, 2018

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