“So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.” 1 Cor. 4:16 MSG
How is that for a healthy perspective for this New Year? The only problem is that we have a hard time contextualizing and visualizing “grace”. It is one of those abstract concepts in the Bible that make us search for the right words to define its deeper meaning. Imagine you were given a sheet of paper and a pen and instructed to draw a picture of grace in ten minutes. I believe that, unless you are artistically blessed, most of us would have no clue how to do that.
If the same challenge was given to a 10-year old child in Bible times it would go right to work without a second thought. How so? Well, the Hebrew mind does not work with abstracts - that was passed down to us by the Greek thinkers and philosophers - the Hebrew mind and language are all about pictures from real life. So if we look at the root words for “grace” in the Old Testament we find that it literally means “in the camp”. So that Hebrew child would most likely draw us a picture of the Israelites camping in the desert. We would see the presence of God right in the center depicted as a pillar of smoke and fire. We would feel the sense of safety in the camp which is surrounded by row after row of tents keeping any intruder at a distance. And we would see the clear sense of direction portrayed every time the pillar of smoke and fire moved, indicating it was time to break camp and move on. And that is grace - the very thing we are looking for in our own lives.
In the New Testament the idea of “grace” is taken even a step further, by showing us that “grace" is a person and has a face. Consider these two examples:
“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” John 1:17
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” Titus 2:11
There we have it, the grace of God is Jesus!
But in order to make it real for us today we must ask this question: How we can experience God’s unfolding and abundant grace? Here is what I have learned about grace in over 45 years walking with God:
Pay attention to His presence in your life - both on the outside, and on the inside. He is not absent in any circumstance of life, and He is right by your side as you navigate the caverns of your soul in search of your true self.
Be courageous to step into the unknown - remember that is where grace is waiting for you. Do you remember doing something really crazy for God and watch him rescue and use you? No? You should try it sometime, because there you will have a front-row seat to the unfolding of grace.
Like water, grace flows to the lowest places - our relationships! We live in an age of diminishing commitment, and for some it has almost become a dirty word. The enemy wants us to think that individualism is God’s idea, but it never was - community is! I like this quote by Philip Yancey:
“I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else.”
Here is the bottom line: When we let grace unfold in our lives, then everything changes.
in our finances it releases generosity
in our homes it becomes hospitality
in our relationships it produces forgiveness
in our workplace it releases peace and light
in our society it produces tolerance, acceptance and justice
in our trials it produces patience
in our sorrows it brings joy and hope
when it touches our eyes we become compassionate and begin to see with the eyes of Jesus.
In God’s Garden of Grace even a broken tree can grow fruit.- Rick Warren