May 9, 2018 • Life for Leaders
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Have you ever needed mercy? I expect you have. Maybe you needed mercy when you were pulled over for speeding but hoped to avoid a traffic ticket. Perhaps you made a terrible mistake at work, one worthy of being fired, but wanted to stay on anyway. You needed mercy from your boss. If you’re old enough to read this paragraph, I’m sure you can remember at least one time when you needed mercy. I can quickly think of several times when I’ve needed mercy.
Mercy is not getting what we deserve. It’s getting what we do not deserve. It’s being in the wrong, yet not getting the punishment you deserve. Mercy is when someone forgives you even though you had no claim on that person’s forgiveness. Mercy is something we all need from other people from time to time. Mercy is something we desperately need from God or we are utterly without hope.
As we have seen, the first three verses of Ephesians 2 lay out the bad news of our living death as we are in bondage to sin and Satan, standing under God’s judgment. But verse 4 makes a sharp U-turn: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy…” This is an acceptable rendering of the Greek, though a more literal translation would be: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…”
Notice that God doesn’t merely have mercy. He is “rich in mercy.” The word translated here as “rich” is used elsewhere in the New Testament in reference to those who were financially wealthy (for example, Mark 12:41). It is related to the Greek word for “much.” One who is rich has a whole lot of something. A rich person has a whole lot of money. In God’s case, he has a whole lot of mercy. He is merciful, literally, “mercy-full.”
This means that when you’re in a desperate situation, such as the one described in the first three verses of Ephesians 2, God has more than enough mercy for you. When you need God’s help because you have utterly messed up your life, God has the resources to help, more than you will ever need. This is good news, extraordinary good news. And it’s just the beginning.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of a time in your life when you experienced mercy from someone? What happened? How did you respond?
Have you ever shown someone else mercy? When? How? Why?
When you think of how God regards you and your sin, are you convinced that he is rich in mercy?
If you really believed that God is rich in mercy, how might you relate differently to God?
Something to Do:
Is there an area of your life in which you need God’s mercy? Sometimes, where we most need God’s help is also where we feel great shame. Perhaps you are struggling with addictive behavior or with a particular sin that just won’t seem to let go of your heart. You’ve prayed, but you’re still struggling. Because you feel ashamed before God, you stop asking for help. Take time to reflect on the fact that God is rich in mercy. Then pray, asking specifically for the mercy you need most today.
Gracious God, I praise you because you are rich in mercy. You show mercy generously, consistently, and joyfully. Your mercy claims and transforms me. It gives me hope. It gives me confidence to press on when I have made a mess of my life. It encourages me to pray when I am tempted to lose hope. How I thank and praise you today for your mercy! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.