Last year, an elderly neighbour of ours had to downsize his life and sold his home. The new owner of the property was going to have the home demolished to build something bigger. Before that happened, I was given permission to save some blueberry bushes from the yard. In the spring, while they were still dormant, I took several neglected bushes and transplanted them into our yard where there was great sun exposure. I ordered a high-acid fertilizer made especially for blueberries and established them in new soil and peat-moss mix that suited them perfectly. I pruned the bushes and watered them regularly. In just the first season, the crop came in really nicely–much to my children’s delight. Usually, they devour any near-ripe berry before I can get to them, but one day, before taking any for themselves, my two oldest kids [Margot and Lawrence] brought a handful of the blueberries to me with their eyes glowing, saying, “Papa, we picked these for you!” Genuinely touched that they brought me some before eating any themselves, I knelt down and scooped them up in a big hug and said something along the lines of, “Margot! Lawrence! You brought those for me!? Thank you! I love you!”
Afterwards, my wife, Kat, pointed out the parallel to our relationship with God and His goodness to us. She had laughed, thinking that my reaction could have been, “Do you know how tenderly, thoughtfully, and purposefully I worked on those blueberry bushes? Thanks, I guess, but I actually deserve ALL of the blueberries.” My reaction, rather, was one of sincere joy and affection—glad to have a chance to embrace my kids. Our Father calls us out of destruction, establishes us in a better place, works in our lives for our flourishing, and then when we bring Him His fruit—as if it’s ‘ours’ to bring—His reaction is to scoop us up in joy, that we might rest in His love.
Consider how much God loves you. Count the ways that He has been good to you. His goodness towards you. His common, gracious gifts towards all people who enjoy His creation are nothing short of amazing. The fact that blueberries exist at all—especially in the context of whipped cream and waffles—is an unmerited gift! In His sovereignty, we see His favour in gifts of dear relationships, material provision, physical protection, passions rightly expressed in work and pleasure, etc. Every good and perfect gift is truly from above (James 1:17). It is good to dwell on these things, and yet, there are certain moments and seasons when the sharpest pains in life will seem to eclipse the best of these things that He has provided.
And especially in those times, we look to more than just good things, but a good God. Better than good things, is our God and His good news. He Himself is love [i] and I hope that when we look to account for God’s love in our lives, our hearts more quickly lock onto the only, unfading bullseye of His goodness: He Himself and His gospel. I hope that we habitually taste the very best and greatest of His goodness, that we meditate on it, and that we preach it to our own hearts and minds (and then naturally to others).
Consider, again, His good love towards us in His gospel: that in His power, He does for us what we could not do for ourselves [ii]. That He does this amazing work of salvation [iii] and when we receive Christ, in repentance as a sacrifice for our sins, that we receive His salvation [iv] as a free gift [v]; that He delivered us from our sin [vi] and that we are credited with His righteousness through faith [vii]. That He called us to Himself [viii] to participate in His work [ix] according to the purpose of His will and His plans [x]. That He is keeping us right now [xi] as His grace struggles through us [xii] with all His energy—that He powerfully works within us [xiii] through His strength that He supplies [xiv] —to the praise of His glorious grace [xv]; that He has qualified us to share in His eternal inheritance [xvi] because He has adopted us as His children, through His Spirit [xvii], so that we might speak of nothing except what He has accomplished through us. [xviii]
If this gospel appears as true and beautiful to you, if it stirs your heart to worship, then you are the recipient of unfathomable grace. You have received something that was hard-won before you came to be. Moreover, your ability to see the gospel, as gospel, is very sweet evidence of His favour and His Spirit’s good work within you. [xix] Nothing breaks me more than this truth.
Our receipt of this gift is as ‘fair’ as God’s choice to call Israel to be His people and treasured possession, rather than the nations that He would drive out before them.[xx] We ‘deserve’ this gift about as much as Paul—who participated in Stephen’s stoning and imprisoned Christians [xxi]—deserved to be set apart as a worthy apostle for the gospel, with good works prepared for him beforehand.[xxii] Yet, despite the separation from God and punishment that we deserve for our sin, He works with gracious sovereignty for our salvation and, even before we came to be, He began doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. [xxiii]
What does it look like to “continue in His kindness”? I would like to end by answering that and dwelling on one important part of the gospel that can take hold of our lives: rest.
Although we are truly as undeserving of the King’s blessing as the Unworthy Servant in Luke 17:7-10, the amazing truth of the gospel is that we are more than servants: we are adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters, with Christ as the firstborn among [us] many brothers [xxiv] under the new covenant. As children of God, co-heirs with Christ, and inheritors of His kingdom, we get to work differently than servants, on different terms. Our Father is perfect in love, and we work knowing that there is nothing more we could do to earn His love or our inheritance. We are bond-servants with Paul, but our bond is no longer law and earning, but unmerited love and blood-bought inheritance.
As His children, we are sent into all the world as ambassadors [xxv] and are commanded to work hard in the ‘family business’—our Father’s kingdom. There is much work to do, but Paul sharply notes in Galatians 5:1-6, that if we attempt to justify ourselves by our good works, we are “obliged to keep the whole law”, have “fallen away from grace”, and are “severed from Christ”... Strong language… He “worked harder than any” for the gospel [xxvi] but, recognizing the fullness of God's role in salvation, knew that there is no longer room for God’s children to earn; our inheritance has already been earned by Christ.
In verse 6, following his admonishment, Paul offers the only path forward: “Faith, working through love”—the new heartbeat of our life with the Lord. Not earning, but a love relationship. When the Lord, by His Holy Spirit, produces fruit in our lives, we offer it to Him not as a means of meriting justification or our Father’s affection, but simply as kids who are seeking more moments to share in the joy of our Father’s kingdom—knowing that we already have His full affection.
Even when we are most burdened and working hard for the Lord, it can be light.[xxvii] We can and ought to rest, even as we work, knowing that He will accomplish His “plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Knowing that he already “put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
When we bring the Lord ‘His blueberries’, we’re not striving, but are simply delighted that we get to bring a gift to the King—to walk boldly into the presence of our good and loving Father.
[i] 1 John 4:8
[ii] Romans 8:1-4
[iii] Titus 3:3-6
[iv] Psalm 3:8
[v] Ephesian 2:5-8
[vi] 1 John 2:1-2
[vii] Romans 4:22-24
[viii] Ephesians 4:1-4
[ix] 1 Corinthians 3:9
[x] Ephesians 1:5,11
[xi] John 17:9-19
[xii] 1 Corinthians 15:10
[xiii] Colossians 1:29
[xiv] 1 Peter 4:11
[xv] Ephesians 1:6
[xvi] Colossians 1:12; Hebrews 9:15
[xvii] Romans 8:14-16
[xviii] Romans 15:18
[xix] Romans 9:15-18; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 6:6; Galatians 4:1-8; Philippians 1:29; Romans 8:7
[xx] Deuteronomy 7:6; Exodus 23:30,31
[xxi] Acts 7:54-60; 8:3; Romans 1:1; 9:22-24; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 15:10
[xxii] Romans 8:29
[xxiii] 2 Corinthians 5:20
[xxiv] 1 Corinthians 15:10
[xxv] Matthew 11:28-30
[xxvi] Ephesians 1:10
[xxvii] Ephesians 1:22-23