Napoleon’s latest campaigns, in Russia, Germany and France, had all been complete failures. On April 6, 1814 he was forced to abdicate the throne, and he was given the sovereignty instead of a tiny little island called Elba.
When Louis XVIII took the throne from Napoleon, he set to work re-establishing the borders of France to what they had been back in 1791. The restoration period had finally begun.
But Napoleon wasn’t satisfied with the new kingdom of France. “What a mockery,” He thought. He decided to take his fate into his own hands, and he escaped from his tiny little island, landing in the Gulf of Juan, near Saint-Raphael. And somehow he ended up with 1000 troops!
On March 20, 1815 he marched on Paris, and as he met no resistance, he had no difficulties overtaking the throne. After all, wasn’t he meant to rule?
Like any of us, Napoleon had a hard time giving up his ambitions, but sooner or later, he would face his end. In this case it was sooner, for 100 days after his escape, Napoleon lost everything. He lost the men in his troops, and he lost his throne. Napoleon’s defeat came about just outside a town in modern-day Belgium known as “Waterloo”, and this event has so gone down in history that the British have coined the expression, “Meet your Waterloo” to mean “meet your defeat”.
Why are we so geared to want to be in control over all aspects of our lives? What do we gain by it? Headaches, anxiety, worrying and restless nights? Is it worth even pursuing?
Even in the case of salvation, many of us insist we have our part to play. Again, we try to be in control of our very own destiny! We truly believe salvation can be obtained by our meager efforts, that God is obliged to give it to us! “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.” (Romans 4:4, NIV2)
Have you noticed that those who don’t know love personally tend to depend on personal achievements to reach heaven? The Pharisees in Jesus’ days were certainly specialists in this, and this attitude continues to exist even today.
Salvation is not an obligation, it is a free “gift” from above (see verse 4), a gift that cost God a great deal. Remember that it was not us who initiated reconciliation with God, but God Himself who reached out to us, providing salvation through the sacrifice of His very own son Jesus the Christ. Imagine the pain God endured while His son was hanging on that despicable cross! How much pain it must have brought upon God! But at the same time God wanted all of His children, even those who had wandered away, to have the opportunity to experience His grace fully.
Any effort to justify our own salvation is a mockery to the One who sacrificed Himself for us. It is God who provided us salvation, after all, not the other way around. We are the ones who erred and got lost, and we are still lost if we persist on obtaining grace through our own efforts!
“However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5, NIV2)
Grace is not deserved, and it God isn’t obliged to give it to us. It is a gift from above, demonstrating that God is pure love. There is thus no other way to obtain salvation. Anyone who takes his salvation into his own hands will certainly “meet his Waterloo”. Grace is a gift from the Most High Himself (See Romans 6:23)! Like any gift we receive, we either accept it, ignore it, or reject it. The unaccepted gift can never be opened.
Today is your opportunity to open that gift from above and realize that you are not all alone. God loves you dearly, and He genuinely wants you to be reconciled with Him. He wants to be able to call us His sons and daughters (See 2 Cor 6:18). Open it now. It’s a gift unlike any other, precious beyond bounds, promising a glorious hereafter! And all that for free!
(To access the entire “Radical Grace From the Book of Romans” devotional series, please click here.)