Varieties of Mercy

Varieties of Mercy

God’s mercy is not general, but specific and varied. Throughout our days God is pouring out mercies seen and unseen. Consider the great many ways God is good to his people.

Preventing MercyGod constantly prevents calamity, evil, and suffering from touching you or having their full effect (Ps. 32:7). However many ills have befallen you, it could always have been worse, and only what serves God’s good purposes for you is allowed to afflict you. His preventing mercies also sometimes keep you from doing the foolish or sinful things you want to do. 

Sparing Mercy. Your sins have consequences. But because of his mercy God sometimes spares you from experiencing the full consequences of your foolishness. He does not deal with us as our sins deserve (Ps. 103:10).

Supplying Mercy. God promises to supply the needs of his people. It is one of the great moments in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus calls us to faith and not worry (Mt. 6:31-33). God knows your needs and will supply according to the riches of his mercy and wisdom (Phil. 4:19). 

Guiding Mercy. God guides you in the way we should go and away from the paths you should not take. Frequently he makes this known by simply shutting doors that you would have gone through, or not allowing your plans to come to fruition. God’s word directing us in decisions is a great mercy. He gives wisdom not only for salvation, but for each day’s needs.

Forgiving Mercy. Forgiveness is a disappearing value in the world, but God’s mercies are new every day. For those in Christ, you are justified before God and have forgiveness for each and every sin. Not according to your worthiness, but according to God’s mercy. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps. 130:3-4).

Accepting Mercy. God welcomes us as children despite our constant errors. You might even call this his welcoming mercy. It never fails. Your sins are great, but God’s mercies are greater.  “All the Father has given to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

Healing Mercy. God is your healer not only spiritually but physically. Jesus restored the sight of the blind, the lame’s ability to walk, freedom to the demon-possessed, and many other ailments. Even to this day, he often hears the prayer of his people and brings healing to serious or even grave sickness or injury. He will not heal every disease this side of glory, but he will heal much and prevent us from more. No physical ailment will survive past this lifetime, as the Lord Jesus will wipe away every disease when he gives you a resurrection body.

Delivering Mercy. God also delivers you from times of deep trouble. Your life or the lives of others may be in danger, or you may face some other serious trial where you need help right away. It is often in these times that God intervenes before some great tragedy can befall you. 

Supporting Mercy. According to his wisdom and plan, God does not always heal this side of heaven, or deliver from harm, danger, sorrow, or pain. You should never assume that God’s mercy has failed, for he has only chosen to give one kind of mercy in place of another: supporting mercy. Sometimes God leaves thorns in our side, as he did for Paul. To those with an affliction that God allows to remain, he says, “my grace is sufficient for you and my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9). 

Comforting Mercy. Life in Christ is full of hardship and sacrifice in this world. It is a narrow road and hedged in darkness and danger, with many ways to fall and turn aside. You are called to run the race of faith with endurance. However, you do not run alone. The God of all comfort has given you his Holy Spirit, the Comforter. He is the Spirit of encouragement, of peace, of hope, of joy. He is the one who is constantly applying the comforting reminders of your salvation in Christ. 

Quickening Mercy. Quickening is an archaic word, but it means to stir to action or bring to life. The easiest thing in the world to do is to drift into sin, even for the Christian. In order to fall away from the Lord, forsake his fellowship, and even apostatize from the faith, you do not have to commit some world-shaking evil. You just have to do nothing. Just stop praying, stop reading, stop singing, stop meditating, stop repenting, stop caring, stop hoping, stop watching, stop fellowshipping. There is a constant call in the New Testament to watch yourself, to guard your heart, to ponder the path of your feet, to watch your life and doctrine. Sin is deceptive, and it is easy to drift away. Know, therefore, that it is because of the mercies of God that you desire him at all. If you ever feel a need or desire for prayer, for the Word, for worship, for obedience… it is because the Spirit of mercy is quickening you, stirring your faith and good works. It is God who keeps you from drifting. Respond when he does. 

Correcting Mercy. Sadly, Christians don’t always respond as we should to God’s quickening mercies, and instead drift into patterns of sin and even long seasons of sin. If you are there too long, you will languish and God’s voice becomes quiet. If left alone you would never repent or return to God.  But it is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance (Rom 2:4). In his mercy, God corrects and restores. His correcting mercy makes you see your faults, your sins, your foolishness, so that you might turn away from them and be healed (2 Cor. 7:10). It is God’s mercy to bring conviction into your lives. We love our sins, so it is God’s mercy to bring sorrow to our heart over our sins.

Crowning Mercy. Finally, God’s mercy will bring you home and bring you to glory. Though you are the least Christian in the world, you will nevertheless receive a crown and a place in God’s kingdom. Do not wonder why it is often believers who struggle to make ends meet and are low in the world, while the wicked prosper. God saves the best wine for last. You have treasures in heaven by the mercies of God.

Consider how God is showing you mercy in a variety of ways today, no matter your situation, and rejoice that he gives generously.

A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson