Do you know Grace?
Notice I didn’t ask: Have you heard of grace? Grace is a person. If you think you know God’s grace, but you don’t daily live in it (in whatever way God leads you), you don’t really know grace as a person. If you knew God’s grace, you would daily need it. What you may know is grace as a concept – you conceptually know grace. And that is okay for right now. I am convinced that God wants a continual relationship of spiritual discovery and growth, not a perfect realization. That’s not even possible before we live in Heaven, and God the omniscient knows it! What’s not permissible is to think “Yes, I know grace”, but not really know it. It’s okay to say, “God I know about grace, but I don’t yet know grace. Lord, introduce me to grace as a person. Help me to know Your grace – to really truly know grace.”
So again I ask: Do you know Grace?
Grace is the greatest of gifts…like a Corvette. If I gave you a Corvette absolutely free, would you hesitate to drive it every single day, even days you have nowhere to go? No! You would drive it all the time and never think about whatever car you drove earlier today. Well, if you don’t know grace and how (pardon the cliché, but) A-M-A-Z-I-N-G it is, you are going to keep driving that old busted up, 250K+ mile car, just putt-putting down the road with no A/C in the middle of August in the South. But if you know grace, you drive that Corvette everywhere, every day.
Now that I have talked around grace, let me dive into a more concrete definition of grace. While I hesitate to define grace, because I believe God’s grace so freely expresses itself in super-human terms, it is so important to put some concrete clues to what grace really is – again, not how it is expressed, but what it is.
After that lengthy disclaimer, let me continue. Grace, simply defined, is unmerited favor. God’s favor is so marvelous, we cannot merit it! Grace is ease of living, doing, and being obedient to God’s voice. Grace is like an oil when we are going through a sandpaper pipe – we can slide through rough situations with ease.
The really disconcerting thing about grace is that it’s JUST. NOT. FAIR. Grace cannot be earned or deserved. It’s not even logical. It cannot be reasoned, and there’s no formula. It’s not like a bonus question on a school exam: “If you will find the answer by extending all possible academic resources, you will earn two bonus points.” No, grace is when you’ve flunked the exam on your own merit, but somehow you receive an A+. If you didn’t do so hot in school, you’re probably thinking, “That’s perfect!” You are like my brother – my dear, sweet, talented brother. He never stressed about school. He was too smart to stress about school. He rarely completed his homework, and he still aced tests. One year in college, I remember Brother receiving a scholarship check from his school. He didn’t even use it to buy the schoolbooks; he purchased an Xbox instead. I used to think, “If I was half as smart as my brother, I would be an engineer.” Brother really relished living in his grace gift of intelligence. I, on the other hand, always completed my homework, even more than what was required. So to me, Brother’s naturally high intelligence was just…so…very…precious. Actually, it was annoying. I did not enjoy seeing him spend absolutely no time on schoolwork and still have a 3.5+ GPA. I did not enjoy spending a few hours every night on schoolwork only to earn the same grades. IT’S. JUST. NOT. FAIR. That’s why grace is disconcerting. It’s not an even playing field. Grace is like a one-up in life. The only thing that is fair about it is that God gives it to everyone freely. Nobody is God’s favorite, but everyone is God’s favorite. We all have access to God’s grace equally.
“For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
John 1:16 (ESV)
This is one of my favorite scriptures. I like to say, “From God’s fullness, we have all received grace upon grace upon grace upon grace…” One thing I really cherish about this verse is that “we have all received”. There is no distinguishing what level of grace is being received. We who are seeking God’s heart are all receiving grace upon grace. The old me would like to say: “From God’s fullness – and because I work so hard in school – I received grace upon grace, but people who work less hard received just one grace with no cherry on top.” Good thing I finally grew up in my faith, because (just between you and me) there are MORE THAN ENOUGH times I need grace to cover my weaknesses, faults, and mistakes. There are times when every effort I am making still isn’t enough to get me where I need to go. Let me share an example. When I first moved to Florida to step into the “Promise Land” of this new life, I had no money, no housing, and no way to pay for the pricey school I wanted to attend. I had every bit of faith I could possibly want – but not much of anything else. That’s where grace stepped in. I was funemployed for 5 months. No income, but plenty of expenses. I burned through my savings way too quickly and had no money. Grace came in the way of monetary gifts from friends and family. I didn’t beg for it; I just trusted God for grace upon grace. What I received was grace upon grace upon grace upon grace…
One of the things that can be confusing about grace (even for lifetime Christians) is where grace and mercy differ. While grace and mercy overlap quite a bit, mercy is basically not getting the punishment you deserve, whereas grace is getting the reward you don’t deserve. Back to my Florida move: I wasn’t doing anything “wrong” by moving to Florida. I didn’t need grace to dig me out of this deep pit of following sin. I followed God’s leading to move to Florida. Grace isn’t just for covering sin. Grace equips you for excelling in righteousness. Oftentimes we focus so much on asking for mercy for sin, when we should have previously asked for grace prior to sinning.
Is it a wonder why the world is confused by Christians? What they have seen are people who live between sinning and repenting, sinning and repenting. If we truly are full of God’s love and grace, why don’t we live mostly in obedience?
That’s where Jesus comes in, riding triumphantly on his white stallion, wearing a full suite of silver armor, ready to save the day. He brings grace. Grace to easily navigate situations which were previously difficult and uncomfortable. Grace to ease through unlikely favor with people.
My hope is that we all meet Grace as a person, because once we do life will never be the same.