As a young Christian, I was familiar with the word “grace.” It was one of the first Bible terms I learned. I heard of it in songs, and it was at the center of some of my first memory verses. A short definition gave me an understanding of the virtue. I heard a preacher say that grace was God’s “unmerited favor.” I could repeat this description quickly, if discussions about the subject took place in a Bible study.
Despite my understanding of grace, I made a mistake which many make in relation to the virtue. It was one which many believers make. I assumed that grace was something relegated to the realms of salvation. I wasn’t aware of the way in which it has impact on the entirety of the Christian life. In time I discovered, as Charles Spurgeon once noted, that the totality of one’s spiritual journey is “all of grace.” Indeed, the Lord’s underserved kindness is the basis of salvation (see Ephesians 2:8), but it has made other aspects of Christian living possible as well.
In my office, I have a sign which displays my life verse — the passage of Scripture which serves as a personal theme and anthem. It shows 2 Peter 3:8 — “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In the apostle’s words, grace is shown to be something which has a continual, progressive impact in our lives. Through the Holy Spirit which inhabits us at salvation (see Ephesians 1:13 and John 3:3), believers receive an inner-energizer which empowers them to live differently from the world. Grace isn’t a salvation only type of thing. We aren’t saved by God’s goodness and expected to live good lives through our own strength. God’s grace is an ever-present help throughout our faith journeys.
In my years as a minister, I have known of several people who have quit on church. Oftentimes, I hear of burnout and fatigue. Some feel as if church made their lives too busy. They enjoy sleeping in on Sundays, and they rationalize that they can worship God in their own way, from any location. There are numerous reasons which contribute to such a condition. Some are bad at prioritizing their personal lives; thus, church becomes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Others struggle with people pleasing, so they do too much. Finally they give up in exasperation. A great number serve and work out of their own abilities. They never learn the secret of grace. Through His inner-presence, the Lord has given each a special spiritual ability (see Romans 12:6-8). When we learn to appropriately prioritize our lives, and to serve through the gifts which God’s grace has given us, we can have power to serve efficiently and effectively for His Kingdom.
Life often seems like an unending pattern of trials, temptations, and testings. Sure there are seasons of relative ease and enjoyment, but life on a fallen planet can be difficult. I once heard one say, “At best, life is tough.” Fortunately, believers have grace to help them thrive. In the midst of all of his troubles, Paul said, “By God’s grace I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). During your darkest seasons of life, God’s personal presence in your life can give you the strength to endure.
Dr. Patrick Latham