As I watched my bird feeder at breakfast, I saw three chickadees trying to get some seed, which they were sure was inside the feeder. They went all around the tray on the outside but to no avail. Then two of them even pecked at the plastic sides of the feeder. They could see the seeds inside, but they would not come out. Why not?
Although I was sorry the seed didn’t cooperate, I was also amused at them pecking on the feeder and realized that tiny drops of the rain from the night before must have invaded the seeds just before they escaped from the feeder. Deciding I’d need to tend to it after breakfast, my thoughts turned to the plight of the chickadees and how much they reminded me of so many Christians in their prayer efforts.
Their prayer answers remain with God, whom they know has all the food they want and need. As were the chickadees, they are mystified why their prayers are not answered. They know Psalm 66:18 (NKJV) “If I regard iniquity [bad choices I’ve made] in my heart, The Lord will not hear” and have made sure there is no unconfessed sin in their lives. Therefore, they obey Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly [with confidence – NIV] to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” So they humbly but boldly (because Jesus Christ their Savior is their Great High Priest – verse 15) go into the throne room of Almighty God and request for their needs to be met.
These believers may do everything they know to do, seeking the answers so desperately needed, just like the chickadees resorting to pecking on the plastic holder trying to get the seeds. Our friends, or maybe we ourselves, know verses 19 and 20 of Psalm 66: “But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!” Knowing God’s love is infinite and never-ending, we’re assured that whether or not our prayer is answered, God still loves us. But that isn’t our specific quest, is it?
Remembering the story of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8, we return repeatedly to God’s throne of grace to meet our needs. One time, however, we read Hebrews 4:16 again, and realize that it does not say that we can go to our High Priest and get our needs met. The verse clearly states that we can go boldly in our time of need and that we will find grace and mercy. Oh, that’s different than the way we usually think of that verse, isn’t it. You are probably like I am and learned that verse so long ago that you can quote it, but somewhat miss it’s wording. We focus on that word “need” and understand, mistakenly, that our needs are met. While the verse certainly does not say they won’t be provided for, it doesn’t guarantee them either. Hebrews 4:16 guarantees mercy and grace.
Wow, that’s different, isn’t it? Or is it? God’s mercy and love for us through Jesus is the only way we can come into His throne room in the first place. That is the first and greatest need. What better place can we run to in our time of need? There is none! I suddenly recall the words of a plaque my mother had: “His hand will not take you where His grace cannot keep you.” In other words, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we can be assured that God’s grace is walking those same steps right beside us.
I checked the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as well as Nelson’s*, given below, to see how they define grace and mercy:
GRACE: Favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves. Grace is one of the key attributes of God. The Lord God is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6). Therefore, grace is almost always associated with mercy, love, compassion, and patience as the source of help and with deliverance from distress.
MERCY: The aspect of God’s love that causes Him to help the miserable, just as grace is the aspect of His love that moves Him to forgive the guilty. Those who are miserable may be so either because of breaking God’s law or because of circumstances beyond their control [as when Jesus healed people]. Finally, because God is merciful, He expects His children to be merciful (Matthew 5:7; James 1:27).
Obviously, at this point I truly wish I had two or three simple rules that guaranteed that if you were a chickadee, every time you went to this bird feeder you would definitely get all the seeds you wanted. Equally obviously, I don’t. But one thing I do know is that every time we approach God’s throne room, we are definitely rewarded. His very presence is that reward. So never be discouraged, keep on always seeking God’s mercy and grace in your time of need.
* Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers