Let us make crystal clear at the beginning of 2002, all we will get from God this year as believers in Jesus is mercy. Whatever pleasures or pains come our way will all be mercy. This is why Christ came into the world – "in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15:9). We were born again "according to his great mercy" (1 Peter 1:3); we pray daily "that we may receive mercy" (Hebrews 4:16); and we are now "waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life" (Jude 1:21). If any Christian proves trustworthy, it is "by the Lord's mercy [he] is trustworthy" (1 Corinthians 7:25). In the end, when all is said and done, we will confess, "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (Romans 9:16).
So as we enter the new year, let us humble ourselves and take the position of the blind man, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Luke 18:38). Or the position of the leper, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (Luke 17:13). And let us take heart that we will never obey enough to put God in debt to us. He will never owe us. And let us take heart that the smallest seed of true faith in Christ taps all the divine power of mercy – as the slightest touch of an electrical plug to the socket gets all the electricity. Really? Did Jesus say that? He did. Consider.
In Luke 17:5, the apostles pleaded with the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said (v. 6), "If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you." In other words, the issue in your Christian life and ministry is not the strength or quantity of your faith, because that is not what uproots trees. God does. Therefore, the smallest faith that truly connects you with Christ will engage enough of his power for all you need. Moving trees is a small thing for Christ. The issue is not perfection for Christ, but connection to Christ. So take heart, the smallest seed of faith connects with all of Christ's mercy.
But what about your successes? Does your obedience move you out of the category of supplicant of mercy? Jesus gives the answer in the following verses of Luke 17:7-10.
Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, "Come at once and sit down at table"? Will he not rather say to him, "Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink"? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, "We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty."
What does he mean that after doing all his commands we should still say, "We are unworthy servants"? He means, you never cease to be dependent on mercy.
Therefore, I conclude, the fullest obedience and the smallest faith obtain the same thing from God: mercy. A mere mustard seed of faith taps into the mercy of tree-moving power. And flawless obedience leaves us utterly dependent on mercy. God may withhold some blessings of mercy for our good if we stray from the path of growing faith. But even this withholding is another form of mercy. The point is: whatever the timing or form of God's mercy, we never rise above the status of beneficiaries of mercy. We are always utterly dependent on the undeserved. God never owes us anything in ourselves. The smallest faith and the fullest obedience receive one thing: almighty mercy.
Therefore let us humble ourselves and rejoice and "glorify God for his mercy"!