God has truly been merciful to our family for another year and poured out his grace to us in so many ways that we surely do not deserve, with our health and with a new homestead, farm life, bountiful harvests, and family time.
When I look at the difficult things, which included a situation that was hard to understand. People have been hard for me to understand all along, but this situation was especially difficult to understand. It happens often to me that I get close to people to only have it end with rejection. I was not without fault, and I was humbled by it. I even learned a lot about what things are an offense to others as well as proper etiquette. This particular situation was so grievous to our entire family that I even became bitter over it because it effected my children so seriously in their faith. But that bitterness became like a cancer around my heart. I just let it eat away at my heart until I had a hard time trusting or even liking people very much after that. The Lord knows I love people, but I was just very disappointed, and surely because I put my hope in my fellow man instead of in God. God is the only one that will be true and faithful.
One morning as I laid in bed, I wept for my own bitterness because it was only destroying me. After all that God has done for me, I admit, I was acting ungrateful. There is so much more to be thankful for that when we are hurting in our ignorance, we let situations overshadow the joy that we have in Christ. And I never want to go there again. I cried out to God to change my heart and to lead me into a renewed love for others beyond what is humanly possible. It is Grace. And I found it interesting as I heard a sermon on grace that the final verse in the entire bible was about grace...
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Grace is God's unmerited favor. We did nothing to deserve God's unmerited favor.
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for
a good man some would even dare to die.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that,
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,
much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
Romans 5:6-8, 10
Heroic grace is when we lay our life down to save a friend. In war, you hear of noble men laying down their lives to save the men in their fleet. I met a retired soldier who won all kinds of purple hearts for saving other men and he spoke of one friend that took the bullet for him and died. This is heroic, yet still a form of ordinary grace (a grace that we can understand and relate to as humans). The verse says scarcely, meaning this is rare to die for your friend.
Extraordinary grace... would be the same soldier laying on a bomb to save the enemy. He lays down his life to save the lives of the people he is fighting against. That is what God is to us. He did not die for us when we were his friend, He died for us when we were his enemy! This is something HARD to understand or comprehend. It is not normal and it is also beyond rare. It is extraordinary!
He gives us...
- Forgiveness—when we sin
- Strength—when we are weak
- Power to heal—when we are sick
- Mercy—when we fail
God's Grace is BIG. His grace is BIG enough to cover the worst sins of the most corrupt person.
"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the whole world."
1 John 2:2
"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:"
God's grace is NOT Fair!
It is not fair because it is beyond normal human justice that cries out for recompense. If we only got what we deserved, we would be in hell paying for our sins.
If someone wrongs you, which has happened to all of us, the human reaction is to become bitter and want that person to get their just reward for the offense. If they hurt you, you want them to feel bad about it. You surely do not want to spend more time with them, nor do you feel like you can fully trust them. It is normal and fair to feel that way.
If a person wrecks something you own and you require them to pay for the damages, it is right to require that. It will teach them a lesson. If they steal from you, and you call the law and they get a punishment for it, this is also good in the world's eyes.
That is Justice!
In fact, many of us burn bridges and cut people off when they offend us. That is also normal. If someone does something we feel is a threat to our family or they do not live up to the standards we uphold, it is normal and just to stay away from them. Lots of conservative Christians, people who strive to live like Jesus, display this normal and fair behavior. I see this all too often within the church. But this is NOT living as Jesus!
Jesus builds bridges and stands in the gap. He gives us a reward in place of the filthy rags we come in. None of us is good- no not one! I have lived long enough to find enough bad in all humans. It comes as a disappointment when you trust people to be like Christ in their actions when they call themselves a Christian, to find them behave like everyone else in the world including the heathen, in how they execute judgment and justice.
If someone offends you and you still smile and acknowledge them, you continue to forbear them with kindness, giving them a little less than the cold shoulder of rejection, you are showing them something else.
That is Mercy!
When someone steals from you, and you decide not to call the law but you ask for them to return that which was stolen--that is mercy. Or if they happen to break something, you do not make them pay for it, you kindly ask them to help you fix it--that is mercy. When someone hurts you and you decide to not let it bother you as you overlook the offense and still remain friends--that is also mercy.
Mercy is giving someone a little less than what they deserve. And this is a step above normal human behavior. While the world makes sure others get what they deserve, a merciful person will be more forgiving.
Grace is completely different. If someone stole from you, and you decide not to call the law, but not only that, grace would be handing them more money besides. It would be buying a person supper if they broke something and not require them to repair the damages. And if someone offended you, it would be grace to build a bridge, invite them over for a home cooked meal and pray with them. It would be going the extra mile for them when the world would cry for justice. If your neighbor always leaves trash in your yard and cusses you out, grace would be to bake a loaf of bread and bring it to their doorstep. And in this world, there are few people that exercise real grace.
Grace is not fair—it is getting something that you do not deserve, and sometimes that works out to not giving you something that you do deserve.
When we stand before God one day with all our shortcomings as well as all justice we served others. We maybe even have a pinch of mercy in there to show off along with some good works—we all can account for both, some more than others. Nothing we did that was great in the world's eyes would ever impress God anyway. After all, God created the world, so you small token of goodness could not stand up against and all powerful, creative God.
We sure do not want God to be just, knowing that we did sin and do things the wrong way many times in our life. If God would show justice, he would look at the long list of offenses and he would blot your name out and throw you as fast as he could into the depths of hell.
We may want some mercy. Just a little less then what we deserve. Maybe a cool place in hell. But what we all want at the end of our days is GRACE. Because grace covers our sin, it does not hold us accountable. We ought to pay for what we have done, but God saw fit to make that payment for us, even while we were his enemy.
Grace is FREE but we could never afford it.
Salvation is FREE but not without a cost. Christ took our shame upon himself as well as the punishment we deserved to give us eternal life through Him. All we have to do is ask for grace.
When we ask for grace, true grace, one that we could not afford, we are also admitting that we are guilty. We are also admitting that without it, there is no hope.
Now, as we start our new year like opening a fresh new chapter to the story of our life, with the pages yet unwritten, may we strive to show grace and mercy more each day. Since we have accepted the grace of God, we should exercise it as well.
- I choose to love because I am loved
- I choose to forgive because God forgave me
- I choose to be merciful because His mercies are new each morning, great is His Faithfulness towards me!
- I will show grace because His unmerited grace has been showered over me
- May my life be a life that is full of grace!
And when I looked back at my bitterness and the way it was corrupting my heart, after studying about God's grace, I chose to forgive and pray for others that have hurt me in the past. And when we loose someone, we loose ourselves from the slavery of bitterness. It is a rotten thing and one that can creep in because we are human and we tend to behave like humans. It is nice to know that we can rise above because greater is He that is within me than He that is in the world. We are more than conquerers. I am glad that God gives us the tools to overcome our own sins by showing us His amazing Grace toward us.
There is so much to be thankful for now as my heart was washed clean. I have a renewed hope and gratitude. Of all the the things that I look back upon, I see God's unfailing love for me and his grace. It is remarkable that I can act foolishly, yet God still pours out blessings to me amidst it all. I choose to love others with the love of Christ. And that makes my heart merry. To God be all the Glory. And Grace be unto all of you!
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones."