Christian Living · Salvation and Justification

Frustrations Everywhere

One of the best definitions I have heard concerning the word “frustration” is that it is “the blockage of one’s objective.” I like that. We can all appreciate that feeling of frustration when a desired objective is not realized. Certainly we see it in others. In today’s politics, news commentators express their frustration that the President of the United States will not call the Islamic Terrorists by that proper name. The argument is advanced that a nation cannot defeat an enemy it cannot name.

The feeling of frustration many people experience based on the coyness of the White House – or the outright fabrications of administration officials when speaking about the conduct of the war in the Middle East, or Benghazi, the IRS scandal, or Operation Fast and Furious – finds a parallel in the church.

On a personal level, I admit to being a little frustrated when I listen to Christians refusing to give God the glory He so richly deserves for their salvation. Free grace is opposed and denigrated by the exaltation of an alleged free will, which is declared to be autonomous since God is a “gentleman” and would never “force” someone to be “saved”. The rhetorical question is asked, “Who would want to be loved by someone who had to be dragged into the relationship?”

Such a view of God and salvation is, “frustrating” since the Bible clearly teaches that God must “drag” individuals to safety, and breathe into them the breath of spiritual life, or leave them to remain dead in trespasses and sin.

The clearest verse on the extreme measures to which God will go to save a soul is found in John 6:44. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The word for “draw” is helkuo, and means “to drag” (literally or figurative). The soul that will be saved is the product of a divine initiative. God does the drawing to salvation because no one would ever choose to have fellowship with God apart from the Lord seeking to save the lost. No one. The heart is drawn to the gospel, to salvation, and to the Saviour, but the drawing itself is all on the part of God.

In John 21:6 the word “helkuo” is used to describe a net full of fish being dragged to the shore. “And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”

In John 18:10 Peter drew his (passive) sword in an effectual way to slice off the ear of the servant of the high priest. “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

In Acts 16:19 helkuo is used to tell of Paul and Silas being dragged into the market place in order to appear before the local magistrates.

The point is established that the word helkuo is consistently used in such a way that, when used in theological terms, the word gives God the glory of rescuing those who were spiritually helpless, hopeless, dead. God must do this great work of grace or we would never come to Christ out of shame, or pride, or the desire for autonomy without accountability. Jesus put it plainly when He said that no man can come to Him, and thus to salvation, unless the Father draws him. “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65).

Personally, I am grateful for the divine certainty that souls shall definitely be saved. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:27).

However, I do feel frustration because so many Christians just do not comprehend the gospel message that salvation is of the Lord.

Even when the Scriptures plainly refer to a person being saved because they are a chosen vessel, such as Saul of Tarsus who became the apostle Paul (Acts 9:15), there is a little twist of the Scriptures and the argument is advanced that because God knew Paul would be saved, He then chose Paul for service. The frustration rises at such a terrible misunderstanding of how and why Paul came to faith on the Damascus road.

Later, by divine revelation, Paul would say that he, with others, had been chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), not on foreseen merit, but on God’s foreseen grace (Rom. 8:29). God foreknew whom He would have mercy on, and Saul of Tarsus was one object of countless who was to know great grace. In the day of salvation Saul of Tarsus was made willing, not against his will, but because the Creator knows how to persuade and change the will of His creation. Nothing less will do.

Another source of frustration in life comes when I cannot persuade individuals to be kind to one another. People are often unnecessarily cruel and rude to others in moments of social engagement. Sometimes a person, trying to be clever, will make a comment that is not really humorous, in fact it is crude. Sometimes a person will make a critical comment that does nothing to advance the conversation. Sometimes a person will bring up an issue to deliberately provoke another person to engage in a verbal battle. My frustration is that I cannot get individuals to stop hurting others in these ways.

The gospel antidote to frustration is found in part in the words of Jesus to Martha when she was upset that her sister. Mary was not helping as Martha thought she should. The text reads: “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:” (Luke 10:40-41).

First, realize the state of frustration. Just being in touch with one’s mental state of mind is helpful. Be aware of the emotion that is surging in the soul.

Second, focus on the real issue. It is possible to have misplaced concern. What is frustrating in a moment of time may be a covering for anxiety elsewhere. When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary, the Lord responded by saying, “Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:40). Mary’s lack of help was an immediate, but not the real issue. The real problem was that Martha had many issues on her mind causing her to be impatient and demanding, despite having an honored guest in her home.

Third, chose to be occupied with the Lord in that moment when you need Him the most. That is always the right choice (Luke 10:41). For example, if someone says something, or does something that you cannot change, and that frustrates you, use the gospel provision of 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” Frustration will subside, you will not feel compelled to try to change, or persuade anyone, and you will not have to remain upset or disturbed. To this add 1 Thessalonians 5:14: “be patient toward all men.” Then, “forget those things that are behind” (Philippians 3:13).

When thoughts are changed, emotions are changed and so is behavior. The moment Jesus told Martha that Mary had made the right choice in being occupied with Himself, the dynamics of the moment changed.

With her heart illuminated by the Holy Spirit, Martha understood. Jesus was right. She had frustrations everywhere, only one of which was her sister. But now, Mary’s lack of doing what Martha wanted her to do did not matter. She was with Jesus, and Martha could pause and be with Jesus too. What seemed important just a moment ago was suddenly not so important.

If you struggle with desired objectives being blocked, such as trying to make someone say the right thing, or think the right way, or do what you want, then refocus. Remember the Lord, and remember His Word. Use gospel principles and promises to ease, and then remove your many frustrations.

It is said of one of the famous composers that he had a rebellious son who used to come in late at night after his father and mother had gone to bed. And before going to his own room, he would go to his father’s piano and slowly, as well as loudly, play a simple scale, all but the final note. Then leaving the scale uncompleted, he would retire to his room. Meanwhile the father, hearing the scale minus the final note, would writhe on his bed, his mind unable to relax because the scale was unresolved. Finally, in consternation, he would stumble down the stairs and hit the previously unstruck note. Only then would his mind surrender to sleep once again (George MacDonald, Restoring Your Spiritual Passion).

The lesson to learn is that while you cannot get other people to do what is right, you can do what is right yourself.

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