Meeting the Standard

Standard:  An acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value;  A degree or level of requirement, excellence, or attainment; A requirement of moral conduct (www.thefreedictionary.com).

Setting a standard.  A standard of measurement.  Standardized tests.  Certain standards have been around, it seems, forever.  In the Old Testament, God had given Moses the Ten Commandments to express to the Israelites His standards that they were to meet.  The Ten Commandments were God’s law that was to be obeyed in love and fear of Him.  As none could follow the law, the law pointed to something greater:  Grace given through Christ.

Because of our sinful nature, we have a tendency to want to live according to certain standards as well as to set standards for others.  Where did these standards come from?  These standards may be originally mentioned through Scripture, they can be the standards of others for us, like parents or other authority figures or loved ones; or they can be standards that we set up for ourselves.   When we fail to meet these standards, we will be punished by those who made those standards (whether ourselves or others).  If, as a child, my parents set the standard of me not painting the cat, blue, and I painted the cat, blue, then I would be punished (I should have painted the cat red, instead!  Just kidding, we never had a cat) for not meeting that standard.  If I failed to meet the standard of my own making, I would punish myself by sulking and getting down on myself (followed by comfort food).

We regularly make standards for ourselves and for others to meet.  We call them expectations.  These expectations vary depending on our mood, the time of day, the person, and the location.  For example, when some wives are upset, they may expect their husbands to talk to them, to cuddle, or to leave them alone to figure things out.  These are the expectations that vary according to moods and situations.  These are the standards.  These are the law.  When they are not met successfully by their husbands, there is disappointment, hurt, and possibly expressed anger for not meeting the expectations.

All of us have standards for others and ourselves.  The problem is, they are like God’s law (10 Commandments) in that they cannot be met all the time.  Sometimes, yes…but all the time, impossible.  Instead of them being God’s law, however, it is our law.  We have raised ourselves to like God (as king) who has the right to punish others and ourselves for not meeting the standards we have set.

In striving to become like Christ, we must recognize how God responds to us when we fail to meet His standards. What does He do but give us grace.  He does this through Christ who willingly took the punishment for our sins upon himself.  Now, when we fail to meet God’s standards, we seek His forgiveness and receive his forgiveness through Christ.

But when others fail to meet our standards and expectations, how do we respond?  Is it in recognizing Christ’s sacrifice for them, too, in the forgiveness of their sins against us?  Can we recognize the grace that we have received in failing to meet His laws and give that grace to others who have not met our standards and laws?

Think about your own standards and expectations of others.  What will you do when they fail to meet them? Ask yourself, what did Christ do for me that he hasn’t done for them?  Will you look to give punishment that you have not received from God or will you look to extend the grace that you have received through Christ?  Think about it.

Gameshows and Faith: Minute to Win It

There isn’t a whole lot on TV that you can watch as a family (especially with elementary age kids).  Most programs are either too childish for the adults, or too adult for the children (although, I must admit, Word Girl is pretty awesome).  So what can a family watch together that has entertainment, fun, and just tugs on the emotions?  Game shows!  This past summer my family enjoyed sitting and watching two gameshows in particular: Minute To Win It & WipeOut.   Of the two that we watched, Minute To Win It was our favorite. 

The object of Minute To Win It is for the contestants to win money by completing assigned tasks…and of course, they have a minute to win it (the task and the money).  If they complete the assigned task, they move up to the next level (the next task) and start the process over again, but with more money at stake…all the way to a million dollars.  Throughout their quest for a million, they are allowed to mess up three times and like baseball, at the third strike, their out.

So what does Minute To Win It have to do with faith?  Well, nothing really. It’s just fun.  Though in thinking a bit deeper (which is what we counselors do), I couldn’t help but notice how Minute To Win It (like all gameshows) is a works-based mentality, at best.  If you complete the task at hand to the level or expectation that has been set, then you receive the prize.  If not, you have failed and either have to start the level over for another chance, or leave the game with what you have earned / won.  Since you only get three chances, there is little room for error. 

Can you imagine if that was the same system that God set for us?  “OK, Fred.  You have three chances to get your life perfectly, at the expectation I have set.  If you fail in the first three tries, then you have to leave this life and go to Hades.”  It wouldn’t take long for me to flunk out of life.  If God measured us based on our ability to fulfill his expectations of righteousness by works, then we wouldn’t have a chance.  Isaiah said that even our best works are like “filthy rags” (equivalent to a used tampon – yucky thought, I know – but that’s what that means!) (64:6). 

Praise God that he does not measure us by our works, but by our faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus performed every expectation of righteousness set by God through the law, took our punishment for us on the cross (because we couldn’t meet the standard), and rose again on the third day, thus defeating death.  Therefore, by accepting Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are, by faith, believing that Jesus met the standard of perfection for us, that He paid the penalty for us (not meeting the standard of perfection), and overcame death (our punishment) for us.  He did all of this for us…and all we have to do is believe.  By our faith (which was given to us by Jesus – Heb 12:2) in Christ, we win!  By our works, we lose.  We will never be good enough to meet the standards of righteousness.

Some of those challenges in Minute to Win It seem pretty tough.  I’m not sure if I’d get that Million Dollar Challenge if I had a lifetime of trying.  But thank God that Jesus met every challenge given.  He had won the Million Dollar Challenge.  He had met every expectation of righteousness…and He had done it out of love for you and for me.  Now the choice is yours.   Will you stop trying to earn his favor by good works?  Will you accept what He has done for you by faith?  If you haven’t done so, do so today without delay…you will not regret it!