Dogs are having their day.
As Americans shelter in place, pets have become even more beloved and essential for many. But not all pets are beloved in the same way.
The American Kennel Club is announcing today that for the record-extending twenty-ninth year, Labrador retrievers remain our most popular purebreds. Golden retrievers came in second, followed by French bulldogs.
What makes labs so special?
One article offers seventeen reasons, topped by the facts that they are “intelligent and highly trainable” and they “love children.” The last reason listed might actually be first: “Labrador retrievers are adorable.”
Learning to live by grace
As with our pets, our society rewards performance and appearance. We read reviews of the latest phones and buy the one that seems to do what we want it to do. Employers hire people who possess the skills to do the job they are needed to fill. It’s a system that motivates hard work and ingenuity to the advancement of all. A rising tide lifts all boats.
It’s natural to bring this same mindset into our relationship with our Lord. For years after my salvation, I assumed that the more I did “for” God, the more he could bless my life.
In our church, there were many such opportunities: worship on Sunday morning after Sunday school; choir practice and Bible study that afternoon followed by evening worship; visiting church prospects on Tuesday night; gathering for Bible study and prayer on Wednesday night; working in our outreach ministry and another Bible study on Saturday morning.
To be clear, no one ever stated specifically that the more we did for God, the more he would bless us. But I made this implicit assumption. And when bad things happened despite my religious activism, it seemed that God didn’t keep up his end of the arrangement.
I now know that this isn’t the arrangement at all.
Scripture declares: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Don’t miss the phrase “while we were still sinners.”
God loved us passionately before we took our first step to love him in return. He loved us enough to send his Son to die for us twenty centuries before you and I were even born. There was obviously nothing we could do to earn his love before the cross, just as there is nothing we can do to earn his love today.
We serve God not so he will love us but because he already does. We worship not so he will bless us but because he already has. His word teaches, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
By definition, grace cannot be earned but only received. Our faith does not earn his grace—it positions us to receive it. That’s why our salvation is “the gift of God, not a result of works.”
We need to settle once and for all this fact: there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less than he already does. This is because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is his very nature to love. He loves us not because we are worthy but because he is love.
In these days of unprecedented challenges, let’s remember that our Father loves us no matter what the world says of us or does to us. Let’s remember that we are his children and that the worst that can happen to us will lead to the best that can happen to us.
Serve Jesus today because he loves you, not so he will, and invite someone else to do the same. This is the amazing, life-changing invitation of God.