By Tim Sullivan


The Bible makes known the heart of God to man. The Word of God bears witness to the pure and holy reasoning which governs his actions toward man. But the Bible is not entirely devoted to divulging the nature of God. The Bible also testifies of man’s nature, and man’s heart to God. These words, though they be God-inspired, betray feelings that are not born in heaven but in the nether regions of the human heart. Man’s deepest secrets, his frustrations and fears are all laid bare.

The Bible testifies of the enmity between the nature of God and the nature of sinful man.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)

Jesus Christ resolved this conflict on the cross.

And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: (Ephesians 2:16)

The contradiction between divinity and humanity was resolved by the greatest “contradiction” of all: Jesus, who is God “manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16), and the Word “made flesh” (Jn. 1:14).

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9)

Now, all that is true about God could never be contained in a book so small as the Bible. Consider the last verse of the gospel of John:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25)

If there is not enough room on this planet to house a complete volume of books describing the things that Jesus did in 3½ years, imagine the futility of trying to record all that God has done throughout eternity. Just the same, Jesus did not make manifest everything about God (for example, God is omnipresent and Jesus could only be in one place at a time). All that could be revealed about God in bodily form was made known by Jesus, the divine contradiction of flesh and spirit.

There is no greater example of this “holy contradiction” than when the Son of God struggled against the weakness of the flesh in the garden called Gethsemane.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. (Matthew 26:39-42)

Through his Son Jesus, God made known his compassion towards man.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

In Jesus, we see the triumph of the Spirit over the weakness of the flesh. Is this not the story of the Bible? Is this not the struggle that consumes so much of life?

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:23)

One of the things I love most about the Bible is God’s unwavering honesty with His creation. God has no interest in standing approved before men, therefore He makes no attempt to win our hearts with flattery. He loves His children because of who He is, not because of who we are. This truth is evidenced by the fact that Christ laid down His life for us when we were yet the enemies of God.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)

God’s honesty with us should compel us to be honest with Him. But as the Scriptures say, “all men are liars” (Ps.116:11). Our dishonesty with God is rooted in our dishonesty with ourselves. We refuse to see ourselves as we really are.

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (Revelations 3:17)

If religion is an opiate, then money must be a hallucinogen. It is so easy to think that all is well between you and God so long as you have a healthy bank account. But tribulation is a “truth-serum” without equal. Tribulation will tell you far more about yourself than you may want to know! Just as it takes fearful times to reveal men of courage, it takes troubled times to reveal men of faith.

* * * * *

There is a common complaint voiced by the children of men, whether verbalized openly or in the muted undertones of the heart: “LIFE IS NOT FAIR!” Now, I will be the first to recognize the truth of this saying, as testified to in the Scriptures:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

But it seems to me that when people complain that “life is not fair,” what they are really saying is “if life were fair, then my life would be better, because I deserve better!” And this is where I have a problem. You deserve what you’ve earned. What is the judicious reward for your behavior?

The soul that sinneth, it shall die... (Ezekiel 18:20A)

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23A)

Do you still want life to be fair? Do you really want to get what you deserve?

When the prophet Ezra led the Israelites back to Jerusalem after the days of the Babylonian captivity, he led the people in a heartfelt prayer of repentance. The reason for the captivity, he concluded, was not a heartless God or an unbeatable enemy. Ezra said:

And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; (Ezra 9:13)

Ezra thanked God that life was not fair, and that he did not get what he deserved. “Our God,” he said, “hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve.” You and I should thank God every waking moment that life is not fair, and that we are daily spared from getting what we truly deserve.

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.  (Psalm 130:3-4)

Life is not fair. God’s graciousness towards us is a gift. That is the essence of His grace and mercy.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. (Psalm 103:10,11)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

On my office bulletin board, I wrote this reminder to myself : “People say ‘life is unfair’ and I certainly agree. God is much better to us than we deserve and that is entirely unfair.”

What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? (Psalm 116:12)

You’ve probably heard it said that two people will look at the same glass of water and one will call it half-full and the other half-empty. But I’ve also met the kind of person who looks at that same glass with anger and resentment that it is not filled to overflowing! This kind of person is like a spoiled child on Christmas Day who peeks out from under a mountain of opened boxes and torn wrapping paper to protest, “IS THAT ALL?”

Thinking that you “deserve better” will blind your eyes to all you have and turn your attention to those things you lack. Before you know it, you’ll start making “deals” with God: I’ll start serving you as soon as you start serving me.”

Thinking that you “deserve better” will infuse your soul with ingratitude and eat out your heart like a cancer.

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)

But once your eyes have been opened to see that the good things in life are not deserved but rather are gifts from your gracious heavenly Father, your heart will abound in thanksgiving for all that you have been given.

If life were fair, all the love that God has shown us would be returned to him. If life were fair, we would get what we deserve for our iniquities. Thank God life is not fair! You and I get far better than we deserve.



From the January 2005 issue of The Vine & Branches