“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 145:8
There are a number of scriptures that describe God. I found this one a few weeks ago and I think if we start here you will get an idea on how to start imitating God. I will be practicing right along with you. Let’s get started.
The Lord is gracious. That is the first part. What does it mean to be gracious? My Thesaurus uses these words: kind, generous, compassionate and lenient. I have seen God show kindness in my life when I didn’t deserve it. The blessings He has poured out on me and my family goes beyond being generous. In some of our churches we talk about extravagant giving; that most certainly describes God. He pours His blessings out on us. If I want to imitate God then I must learn to be gracious towards others. I have to be kind when I would rather strike back using harsh words. I have to be generous in my giving. That doesn’t mean in tithing alone. That means when someone is in need and I have more than enough of something I need to bless others. I go back to the clothes thing. Most of us have so many clothes in our closet we don’t get around to wearing everything in one year. Yet, when there is a clothing drive how many of us pull out something we have and share it with others? For years after my mom died I had her London Fog rain coat. It had a couple of layers and a hood. It was really nice. I brought it to Texas with me. It was a dressy coat. First of all Texas doesn’t get that much rain. Second, I don’t dress up all the time and third it was way too long for me. But, because it was my mom’s and I didn’t want to give it up; it hung in the closet for years. My mom was a very gracious, giving woman. One day I got in the closet and I swear Mom was talking to me. She was scolding me as she sometimes did when I was a kid. I knew in my heart my mom would much rather have me give the coat to someone who could really use it instead of hanging it in the closet and not wearing it. So guess what I donated it. That’s what God wants from us to give to others in need.
Along with gracious Jesus was merciful. Back to the Thesaurus; we find the words compassionate, lenient and forgiving. We still find the words kind and kindhearted. I also see in the list generous and sympathetic. Kind and kindhearted is used in both definitions of gracious and merciful. I think that just tells me how important God thought it was to be kind and kindhearted. We find the words compassionate lenient. I can’t begin to tell you how many times God has been lenient on me when I have messed up. I beat myself up when I know I have done wrong. I am embarrassed and ashamed. I think to myself God surely cannot love me this time because I really messed up. I have found over the years I beat myself up much more that God ever did or would do. God is lenient when it comes to correcting us. Jesus walked this earth. He knows the temptations and the trials of this world. I believe that makes Him sympathetic to our sometimes messed up life. As I strive to imitate God how compassionate am I? Do I look at the circumstances and am I sympathetic when others mess up around me or do I look for ways to get even or to get back at them? If God is willing to be merciful to me when I least deserve it I must be willing to show mercy toward others.
Slow to anger is the next part of all of this. Slow to anger means exactly what it says God is slow to get angry with us. I am finding in this day and age people have a real problem with their anger and letting their emotions get out of control. Just recently angry words were spoken between two people. Instead of leaving the scene and calming down one went to get a gun and the other person got his gun. When it was all said and done one man was shot and rushed to the hospital. All over angry words and emotions getting out of control. God is a God who is slow to get angry. When my husband doesn’t do what I want him to when I think he should I get angry. I get upset with him. I know there are times I haven’t done what God has called me to do in a timely manner, but does He get angry with me? No, he just keeps gently reminding me I haven’t done what He’s asked me to do. That’s not to say God doesn’t get angry. He does. He is just slow about it. If I am going to imitate God I need to be slower about getting angry with my husband or anyone who does not do what I want them to do when I think they should do it. If you find yourself getting angry I suggest you go somewhere and cool down and ask God to take over your emotions. Also, remember God is slow to get angry with us even when there are times I think He should get angry over some of the things we do, but because He is gracious and merciful and slow to get angry we get by with a lot.
Abound in steadfast love. God abounds in steadfast love. Abound means plentiful, thrive and flourish. God has plenty of love for all of us. His love thrives in me when I am not even aware of His love for me. He loves everyone and looks beyond their color, race, their dress, their style, and their circumstance. God is love. Steadfast means persistent, committed, firm and dedicated. So to abound in steadfast love means to be thrive and flourish in a love that is committed to love others, to dedicate love in someone and to stand firm in that love. He looks past all those things I look at and loves people. When I look at people I often look at their circumstances, or I look at their clothing style or I look at the tattoos or piercings and I judge and often hold back my love for them. That is not what we are to do if we are to imitate God. We are not only to love those folks we find hard to love, but we are to love them in a thriving and flourishing love; a love that is committed and firm and dedicated to loving them just as they are. I need a whole lot more practice in this area. My love is not an imitation of God’s love all the time. I pick and choose who I want to love and if we are going to imitate God we have to abound in steadfast love for all peoples not just who we pick and choose.
So we have come full circle. “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 145:8 If we want to imitate God then we will be gracious to others, merciful to those who have done us wrong, we will not get angry as often and we will abound in steadfast love. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? I am here to share a bit of information. You and I can’t imitate God without the help of the Holy Spirit. This is not something we can do on our own. It takes practice, it takes commitment, and it takes taking steps forward and then sliding back and trying again. God knows how hard it is for us to imitate Him in this world, but He is kind and merciful towards us. He says, “”It’s okay, just keep trying. One of these days you will be better at accomplishing these things.” Just about the time I think I am gracious to someone God shows me an area where I have failed. Just about the time I think I will forgive someone and be merciful to them I fail miserably. I am doing better with my anger, but I could do even better. Abound in steadfast love? I have a long ways to go. God doesn’t expect perfection He expects us to try. He knows we will fail, but as long as we try to imitate Him, as long as we have some degree of success He will never be angry with us.
I have experienced God’s graciousness in my life. I have seen Him be merciful to me. I have seen Him hold His anger towards me and I have felt that steadfast abounding love. If I have experienced all of these areas in my life from God then shouldn’t I share all of these with others around me? We are all work in process we won’t be perfect until we are called home. The next step for us is to take the first part and practice being gracious. We will never get it down to perfection, but we can all be better than we are. Once we work on that area we can begin the practice of being merciful. Don’t get upset if it takes you several months or years to get this. Not a one of us has accomplished this. God doesn’t call us to accomplish this; He calls us to practice it. He knows we will fail but the great thing about this is:
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 145:8
I have taken this scripture and tore it apart. This is just one scripture that defines God. If you are up to the challenge take your Bible and find other scriptures that define God or Jesus. Study them and then start applying them to your life. Start small. If you try to do too much you will fail and get discouraged. I John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God is described as a loving God. Take the time and study just who God loves and then follow His example.
Imitating God is not easy and it’s a lifetime commitment, but it is worth the time and effort. The closer we imitate God the more at peace we will find ourselves and the less chaotic our life becomes.
Are you up for the challenge? I know I have more work to do and I am taking on the challenge of imitating God more in my life.
Dear God, I am called to imitate you. I am a child of yours. I know when I was young I wanted to imitate my mom and dad. They are gone, but you are still in my life. Help me to imitate you more in my daily life. Help me as I seek your words that describe you. Let them not just be words, but let them become a way of life to me. I am so much better than I was a few years ago, but I still have a long way to go. Help me not to try to reach for perfection. Help me to practice putting these truths in my life. May others begin to get a glimpse of you in my life and see less of me. Amen.