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Bread Enough and to Spare, Part 2

What does today's returning prodigal find at the Father's house?

"GRACE enough and to spare" (continued):

Saul of Tarsus, who was public enemy #1 in the kingdom of heaven at the time, tested the "bread-enough-and-to-spare principle" as perhaps no other individual has. He was a blasphemer of God and murderer of innocent Christians. He organized and supervised the mob killing of Stephen, for instance, who left a wife and child on earth' when the fatal rock prematurely sent him into eternity (Acts 7). Surely, Saul would find that grace could cover only so much-and that he had long ago crossed that line. No, he too found "bread enough and to spare." Years later he wrote of himself (interestingly, still calling himself the "chief of sinners") as one "...who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy ... And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant ..." (I Tim. 1: 13, 14). Is it any wonder that Paul wrote more of grace than any other New Testament writer-in fact, more than all the others combined?

"HELP enough and to spare." A woman of Canaan came to Jesus with a simple request: "Lord, help me" (Mt. 15:25). How many times a day do we utter the same prayer? Her need was a demonpossessed daughter; ours may be a wayward teen. Both parents find that Jesus cares enough to help (I Pet. 5:7). Another father came to Jesus with two "help" requests. The first was for his son who "had a dumb spirit." The other was to help the father's unbelief (Mk. 9:22, 24). Ours might be a retarded child and our doubts that God is good. Again, Jesus can help in both situations. Whatever our need, we can find God can help. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). Through the ages, righteous people have found: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psa. 46: 1).

"JOY enough and to spare." It didn't take long for the "welcome home party" to start when the prodigal got back. The house was more filled with joy that night than it had been since the fading figure of the boy was last glimpsed on the horizon those many months before.

It did not take long for joy to crop up when Jesus came to earth, either. Long before resurrection morning (at thirty-three), long before the amazing miracles, long before the captivating sermons, long before John dipped Him under Jordan's swift current (at thirty), long before His bar mitzvah (at twelve), long before He read His Father's Word the first time in synagogue, long before His tongue uttered its first bedtime prayer, Jesus brought joy into the world. When He was born, Matthew records that there was "exceeding great joy" (2: 10). But even before that, when He was but a baby in His first trimester He caused baby John to leap in Elizabeth's womb for joy (Lk. 1:44). And even before that "...father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (Jn. 8:56).

Although Jesus was the "man of sorrows" (Isa. 53:3), the Bible also records that He "rejoiced in spirit" (Lk. 10:21). In fact, Jesus often talked of joy in sermons and personal conversations. (His biographers record Him using the words joy and rejoice twenty nine times-more than church and baptism combined. ) He not only spoke it, He spread it wherever He went. For instance, "...when he had said these things ... all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him" (Lk. 13:17; 24:52).

Matthew records the climax to the highpoint of His most famous sermon as: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad 6: for great is your reward in heaven..." (5:12). Three times Luke reports that He commanded someone to "weep not" (7:13; 8:52; 23:28). John recorded His promises of "abundant" life (10:10) and "full joy" (16:24) to His followers and explained that He spoke that His "...joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (15: 11). He compared the reaction of those who learned of His kingdom to the delight of a man who found hidden treasure in a field (Mt. 13:44) and to the elation of a shepherd who found a lost sheep unharmed (Lk. 15:5). He later had His apostle sum up "the kingdom of God" with the three words "righteousness, and peace, and joy" (Rm. 14:17). We get the impression that Jesus has "joy enough and to spare."

When we begin the journey on the "strait and narrow" path (Mt. 7:13, 14) that counts down the miles to Canaan's Land, we don't forsake life's "joy ride" for a miserable trip. Sure, we give up the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb. 11:25), but we gain "joy unspeakable" (I Pet. 1:8). And, yes, we "enter the kingdom of heaven through much tribulation" (Acts 14:22), but few Christians would trade places with sinners whose way is truly "hard"' (Prov. 13:15)-and will get harder. Jesus proclaims that those who mourn over their sins will be made happy ("blessed") (Mt. 5:4) and promises to turn sorrow into joy (Jn. 16:20).

God gives us a new lease on life-and it is the most satisfying, purposeful, joyful life to be experienced on this spinning globe. It lacks the shallow, short-term gratification of fleshly lusts that the world offers (Heb. 11:25; 1 Jn. 2:15), but it gives a deeply satisfying, long-lasting, self-respecting fulfillment. The eternal Being promised, "...your joy no man taketh from you" (Jn. 16:22).

And this doesn't even touch the greater joy that awaits us after this life. Jesus used "joy" as a synonym for "heaven" (Mt. 25:21). Jude said that his half-brother would present us "...faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy"' (Jude 24; cf. I Pet. 4:13). Yes, there is "bread enough and to spare" at the Father's table.

"PEACE enough and to spare." The young man did not get a tonguelashing from an angry father on the front porch of the family home. He found a peaceful, loving environment. That's what returning prodigals find today, too, The Prince of Peace promised, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you..." What kind of peace, Jesus? "...not as the world giveth, give I unto you..." (Jn. 14:27; cf. Isa. 9:6). Yes, but how can it be described? "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isa. 26:3). What more can be said of it? It "passeth understanding" (Phil. 4:7)! That's "peace enough and to spare!"

If we starve, we starve because we want to starve; for in the Father's house there is "bread enough and to spare."

Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Vol. 8/April 10, 2003
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