Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Gift of Grace

What does grace mean to you? Have you ever stopped to consider how much grace God has shown you? “Most of us believe in God’s grace – in theory,” says author Brennan Manning, “But somehow we can’t seem to apply it in our daily lives.” I will be the first to admit that I have questioned God’s grace for me and for those around me. Whether it is the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the disgrace of a spiritual letdown, we find ourselves questioning God’s grace. These are the moments we seem to be as far from God’s grace as possible.

If there was ever a place where you felt a million miles from grace it would have to be an orphanage. Most of these children were abandoned at a young age. They have grown-up in a competitive world full of hate, abuse, and anger. I cannot remember the number of times I have heard “If God loved me, then why did He put me in an orphanage?” Oswald Chambers says, “We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God through our own efforts.” However, I still find it difficult to convince an orphan that in all likelihood they did nothing to put themselves in this position.

I, too, have often asked God the question, “If you love these children as much as you do me, why do you allow them to be raised in such a difficult environment while you allow me to live in such comfort?” My search for answers immediately led me to the Apostle Paul and his letter to the church in Ephesus. “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV, emphasis mine). I think about the numerous gifts I have received in my life and how few I actually deserve (if any). I guess the best thing about a gift is that we do not always get what we deserve (otherwise I would probably get a sack of coal).

But, like this newly wrapped Christmas present, we undeservingly receive the gift of grace from God. Author Philip Yancey, best known for his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, penned, “We receive grace as a gift from God, not as something we toil to earn. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell.” Oswald Chambers further clarifies, “We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God through our own efforts.”

I have often reflected upon the words of these great authors. During our stint in Romania I became obsessed with grace. This obsession was a direct result of countless hours with children that had little, if any, hope in their lives. Though I found comfort in the following words of Os Guinness, “Christ does not choose us because we are worth choosing, but simply because in his grace he loves us and chooses us,” I still had my hang-ups. How COULD I not? How CAN I not? You try observing the conditions an orphan lives in knowing what is waiting for you at home! Somehow the words of Yancey (“God loves people because of who He is, not because of who we are. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more...And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”) resolved with me but they did nothing to resolve my issues.

Today, I find myself still struggling with this notion that there are 150 million orphans in the world, all of whom could be living the same life I’m living had God blessed them with an adoptive family like he did me. In the end I realize I cannot do anything about that which I received that I did not deserve, but what I can do is take that gift of grace and pass it on to those just as deserving. More on this later in the week. Until then, be blessed with God’s gift of grace to you.

Aspire to new heights.


Alan Paul said...

The hardest thing for me about grace is that I can't control it. And I think therein lies the issue we as humans, who like to be in control, have with grace. Grace is kind of like seeing a big cat such as a black panther. Animals of great grace in the way the move, act, etc. But try to control one and what do you get? You get mauled. Same with the grace of God. Try to control it, and you get spiritually and emotionally mauled - chewed up, spit out and left for dead - in your guilt, grief, frustration, and depression of not knowing how to get God to give the same kind of grace to those orphans that you have/had. Yet that panther is still one of the most beautiful and mysterious creatures - much like it's Creator.

Grace is hands down, one of the most difficult things to grasp about God and the way He works.

Jon Hogg said...

Alan I appreciate your honesty. You are exactly right, control is a hard thing to give up. We like to be in control and we like to have answers. Grace is one of those areas we just can't have either. Guess that is why so many of us are obsessed with learning more about it!