July 29, 2009

What is Grace? The Bible's Perspective on Painful Grace

When we talk about grace, what do we mean?

It often depends on the context of our conversation. If we are talking about music, grace means one thing, but when talking about how people interact in relationships, grace means something else.

What do we mean when we talk about God's grace?

Often, we guess at this, because our understanding of grace has been shaped, for the most part, by the culture we are brought up in.

At the church I participate in, we often talk about the grace of God in salvation. We speak of Ephesians chapter two, and how we are brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, and made heirs of the Kingdom of Christ by the Sovereign work of God's grace, given to us through the death and life of His dear Son.

But now, I want to take a look at a passage of Scripture that teaches me to think of grace in a way most of us are not familiar enough with. Which is that the worst pains in our lives, according to the Bible, are actually the grace of the our Lord Jesus Christ being worked out in our lives. Christians who experience hardship, are experiencing it for completely different reasons than unbelievers most of the time. What happens to you or to me is never an accident, but is part of the Sovereign grace of God.

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations [Paul had seen visions and received revelation in heaven from the Lord], for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!
Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (NASB)

That is not an unfamiliar passage to me. I've heard that last line quoted all my life, "for when I am weak, then am I strong." However the concept is what is radically contrary to our natural way of thinking, even if we've been familiar with it for a long time. The concept that grace gives us pain so that we may not glory in ourselves, but in the power of Christ.

For this reason, let us exalt in our lowly positions that we find ourselves in. Whether it is pain, persecution, distress, difficulties, insults, weakness, heartache or whatever situation you find yourself in by the Sovereign Providence of God.

What I say to you, I say to myself here: Be well content with it my friend. The power of Christ will dwell in you for the glory of God and for your joy in Him.

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