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Column Dr. John Wesley Bressler
Remember that God never quits on us
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    Many years ago, while serving a wonderful congregation, I met an interesting couple. The husband was a professional and enjoyed a thriving practice. He also enjoyed the stock market, a lot. His wife was a very creative and industrious lady who knew the value of a dollar and saved what she could, invested as much as possible and had a pretty sizable nest egg for retirement and those rainy days we all have to endure.
    One day, her husband found this exciting and guaranteed stock that would make money overnight and turn a few paltry dollars into a pile of currency. It was an opportunity too good to be true and it had to be acquired right away because it was a first in, get it while it is good, and first out, before the panic selling began.
    Since the husband was somewhat strapped for money — as he liked to party in Vegas and parts of the Caribbean — he began to look for investors. The bank decided, for some reason, not to lend money on speculation even though it was a sure thing, and most friends didn’t have any more money than he had and not even the corner store lenders would give him a dime without some collateral. He figured he had best get serious if he were to make his overnight fortune.
    Since he knew his wife was just too stubborn to float him a loan, he borrowed money from her accounts without her knowledge. Actually, he borrowed all of her money from her accounts by fudging her signature. It was no big deal as she would get a healthy return on her investment. He also made a pact with God. He prayed earnestly and told God that if He would just let him hit it big, this one time only, then he would build God a bigger and better church with part of his vast winnings. How could God refuse such a good deal?
    Unfortunately for Him and for God — because God wasn’t listening, I guess — he lost his wife’s money and God didn’t get His better church. I remember listening to his story one evening and that is when he told me how he no longer trusted God, had quit the church for good and if I thought I was going to get a contribution for Stewardship, I had another think coming.
    His wife, who had a limited sense of humor, failed to see his side of the story and told him she would one day dance on his grave. I can’t tell you some of the lurid details — and they are a book in themselves. She did dance a jig, the flamenco and a quick salsa on his remains. I remember her smile and faraway look as described her final choice, the Baltimore Shuffle.
    She was hurt, damaged and taken advantage of by the one who should have been her most loyal friend and companion. We are not to judge or condone, but we might be prompted to ask, “Would God ever get even with me?” After all, doesn’t God love me beyond measure and isn’t it true He asks very little and gives so much?
    However, we do give unfulfilled promises and make bargains impossible to realize to God, with good intentions and feel sorry when we fall short. Because of human carelessness, innocents may die, property is destroyed, nature put at risk and valuable resources decimated. Could God, humanly speaking, sit by our failures and ask, “What have I done to make my creations cause me such pain? I speak but they do not listen. I ask but they do not answer. Perhaps I should punish them beyond measure. Will they return to me?”
    Fortunately, God answers His own questions and responds in His way. “I will show them mercy and not retaliation. I will show them forgiveness not persecution. I will show them love and not hate. I will send my Son. There can be no greater gift. Perhaps they will one day completely understand.”
    It has taken many many lifetimes for the world to begin to understand such a gift. At times, some seem to grasp the depth of God’s sacrifice and others still choose to ignore His unmerited grace. Amazingly, God never quits on us and He never will. We have His promise. Because we are unable to voice the words of complete thanksgiving for such undeserved forgiveness, God does it for us.
    The only son of God, Jesus Christ, has spoken, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” And God does forgive. God does forgive.
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