How To Receive Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  MT 5:7

Mercy is “compassion to one in need or helpless distress, or in debt and without claim to favourable treatment” (Trench).

Mercy is an attribute of God, as Jesus showed when questioned about eating with sinners:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13

Jesus viewed sinners with compassion as those who were suffering from sickness.

Not only should we view others with compassion, but should remember God’s incredible mercy to us as Jesus points out in MT 18:

“Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'” (32-33)

“[Mercy] is called into exercise when we contemplate the wondrous grace, pity, and long-suffering of God towards such unworthy wretches as ourselves.” – A W Pink

Joseph’s mercy

When their father died, Joseph’s brothers feared he’d take revenge on them for them selling him into slavery.

His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:18-21

Joseph was merciful to his brothers because he knew a sovereign God turned their sin to blessings. Rather than exacting justice, he comforted them and treated them kindly.

When we sow mercy we’ll reap it: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Once an irresponsible young guy scratched the top of my beautiful accoustic guitar. God gave me grace and I didn’t get angry. “That’s ok,” I said, “It’s only a piece of wood.” (A real expensive piece of wood, I thought, but didn’t say it). Anyway, I was merciful.

The next day, at the gas company where I worked as a draftsman, I dozed off and spilled India ink all over the only copy of a particular map. My boss, who was out of the office that day, was known for his angry outbursts and intolerance for mistakes. He’d kill me when I told him the next day. That night I prayed, “Lord, I showed mercy to that kid who scratched my guitar. You said if I showed mercy I’d receive it. PLEASE let me find mercy when I tell my boss. PLEASE have mercy on me.”

The next day I immediately told my boss what I’d done. I braced for his fury. “That’s ok,” he said, without a hint of anger. “We can piece together a new map from others.” I was stunned. I’d never seen him respond so kindly. “Thank you Jesus!” I prayed silently. “It worked! You gave me mercy!”

Puritan Thomas Watson said “Bishop Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1533-55, in case you’re ever on Jeopardy) was of a merciful disposition. If any who had wronged him came to desire a courtesy from him, he would do all that lay in his power for him, insomuch that it grew to a proverb: Do Cranmer an injury and He will be your friend as long as he lives.”

Lord Jesus, give us hearts of mercy.

When Pain Is Front And Center

When we are suffering it’s so tempting to focus on the pain, because the pain is front and center. It’s right in front of our eyes.  Intense. Grievous. 

Pain is like a smear of black paint across a painting.  At first it’s all we see.  But if we look closely, we can begin to see little dabs of color around the edges.  Little splashes of mercy shining through the black.  And when we begin to examine the canvas diligently, we’ll find hundreds of mercies dotting the landscape of our pain.

Even in the hurricane winds of affliction, mercies cling to us. There are new mercies to see every morning if we look for them or remember them. Mercies like God working all things together for our good.  Like our Father giving us comfort and strength. Mercies like our great high priest praying for us on throne of grace.  And his prayers are louder than any hurricane winds. 

In mercy God promises to be with us in the valley of the shadow of death. In mercy he counsels us with his eye upon us. He gives us his Word and promises to infuse us with strength and hope.  Glimpses of heavenly sunshine break through the clouds that overshadow us.

There are more mercies. God provides family,  friends, and Christian brothers and sisters to pray for us and care for us.  He gives medication, doctors and nurses.  And he gives merciful relief from each day’s suffering – sleep.  Very often God still gives us distracting moments of joy and laughter. Moments when we forget about the raging storm. 

Years ago I twisted my ankle really badly and to be on crutches for two months. Now I know that this is absolutely nothing compared to what so many suffer.  But I was tempted to self-pity at times, like one morning when I had to crawl and push my coffee across the floor because I couldn’t carry it on crutches.  Thinking back I am embarrassed at how easily I slid into self-pity at such a tiny trial.

One day God reminded me of his commands to rejoice always and in everything give thanks. So I decided to try. “Lord, thank you for this sprained ankle. Thank you that I didn’t have to go to Vietnam and get my legs blown off like many guys. Thank you that I sprained only one ankle instead of both. Thank you that I have a comfortable home to be in. Thank you for the wonderful medical care we have in this nation.  Thank you for my wife and kids. Thank you that I’m healthy in every other way. Thank you that I can think read and speak and see and hear…

God showed me I had thousands of mercies to praise him for. My salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, adoption into God’s family, etc.  The more I praised him for his mercies in my peewee little trial, the more joy I began to experience.

One day it struck me that only one person received no mercy in his affliction – Jesus.

As he hung on the cross, he received only the unmitigated wrath of God.  Jesus had no comfort from or fellowship with his father.  No sense of his Father’s love. For his Father had turned away from him. Jesus experienced not one drop of relief God’s wrath, no break in his agony, no letting up of the horrific torture his soul.

And he did all that so we could experience God’s mercies new every morning.  So if you are suffering today, I don’t minimize your pain. Some of you are suffering horrific pain and sadness.  But I would encourage you, even in your pain, to look for God’s mercies in the midst of it. As much as you can focus on those little dabs of color glistening around the edges of the blackness and glowing in the background.  The more you become aware of God’s mercies and praise him for them, the more joy you will experience.

They Are All Around Us – But Do We Notice Them?

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:21-23

God’s mercies are new every morning.

It’s God’s mercy you woke up today. God’s mercy you have a sound mind. His mercy if you woke up without being in serious pain. God’s mercy if you can breathe.  And God’s mercy if you have the strength to get out of bed by yourself.

It’s his mercy if you have eyes to see the sunshine, ears to hear the robins and taste buds to enjoy your coffee.

It’s God’s mercy this morning if you know Jesus Christ, the living God.  God’s mercy you have his Word.  There are multitudes who don’t.

It’s God’s mercy you didn’t wake up in a prison camp this morning because of your faith in Jesus.  Thousands of believers in North Korea did.

Do you have God’s joy today?  Any hope in your heart? If so, these are wonderful mercies from God.

The eggs and toast on your table are fresh mercies from God. And the children around the table screaming and spilling their Cheerios and milk? Mercies!

Do you have running water? A hot shower? Indoor plumbing? A job? A car? Money for gas? Are you able to drive?  Mercies!

Even in affliction there are mercies if we look for them.

There are respites from pain. Sleep. Distractions. Loving family members and friends. And in God’s mercy, our afflictions aren’t meaningless – he causes all of them to work for our good.

God’s mercies are all around us.  But do we notice them?

A good exercise is to write down God’s mercies.

Some folks write down something they’re thankful for every day. Before you start asking God for things, consider thanking him. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.

When we notice God’s mercies we become joyful and thankful. When we become joyful and thankful we bring God pleasure. When we bring God pleasure we glorify him. When we glorify him we fulfill his purpose for our lives. Notice God’s mercies.

The Rapture Didn’t Happen Because…

I’ve got to admit, I’m a little bit relieved that the rapture didn’t happen this past Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been incredible if Jesus had returned. I get pretty sick of this world sometimes, and I’m eager for the day that Jesus returns and undoes all the sadness and wrongness and this-is-totally-messed-up-ness of the world. I’m ready for disease, and tornadoes, and rape, and abortion to be swallowed up by the brilliant rule of King Jesus.

But I also have lots of friends and family members who don’t yet know Jesus. And to be honest, on Saturday I was thinking about them a lot. If Jesus came back before they repented of their sins…

But the rapture didn’t happen on Saturday, and the reason it didn’t happen was because of my unsaved friends and family members. And yours too. 2 Peter 3:9 says:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The rapture didn’t happen because the Lord is full of patience. He doesn’t want anyone to perish in their sins. God isn’t some sicko who delights in inflicting pain on people. Yes, he is full of justice and will bring wrath on those who reject him, but I also believe that his heart breaks when a person dies in their sins. So he gives them more time to hear the gospel, more time to turn from their sins, and more time see their desperate need for Jesus.

The delay of Jesus’ return also gives us more time to passionately pray for the salvation of those around us, and more time to tell them the good news of the gospel. In some ways I’m grateful for guys like Harold Camping. Does he give Christians a bad name? Yes. I couldn’t help but notice the number of rapture jokes being cracked on Facebook and Twitter on Saturday. But he also reminds us that someday Jesus really will return in all his glory and splendor and judgment. I need to be reminded of that fact because sometimes I get lulled to sleep by the world.

Jesus didn’t return on Saturday, but make no mistake, he is returning. May our prayers and our proclamation burn hot until he does.

Dear Tech Support

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a distinct slow down in overall system performance — particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.  In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5 and then installed undesirable programs such as NFL 5.0, NBA 3.0, and Golf Clubs 4.1.

Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and Housecleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system. I’ve tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail. What can I do?

Signed, Desperate


Dear Desperate:

First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an Operating System.

Please enter the command: ‘I Thought You Loved Me.exe’, try to download Tears 6.2 and don’t forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update. If that application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5. But remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0 or Beer 6.1. Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download the Snoring Loudly Beta.  Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law 1.0 It runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources. Also, do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0 program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.  In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Food 3.0…

Good Luck, Tech Support


My friend Dave Harvey used the above humor in his introduction to an incredible teaching he did called “God’s Mercy and My Marriage,” which is available here.  I recommend it for all believers, not just married couples.  The truths about the mercy of God in Dave’s message are life-changing and have application far beyond marriage.

photo by tim caynes