Grace is more than something that we receive or extend – it’s a perspective. While attending a discipleship conference this year, founder Dave Buehring presented a simple yet profound illustration of grace that really stirred my heart. If you’ve been around church, you’ve probably heard of grace. Yet as often as we hear it, it seems to me that it’s expression doesn’t materialize often enough in our everyday experiences. My heart was challenged to really get this and apply it. Dave has often said that:
“the image of God that you keep in your heart and mind affects your everyday life.”
Which is to say that the perspective that I hold about God literally affects everything that I do and therefore also has the ability to greatly affect the outcome of all that I do.
The bible first talks about grace in Genesis 6:8 when it says that Noah found “favor” with God in the midst of things going downhill. Although that’s the first time it’s mentioned, we see it even earlier on when Adam and Eve committed the first sin and God extended His grace to still cover and provide for them. The remarkable thing about grace is that it is extended to us in spite of what the contrary says or what we deserve. Grace can simply be defined as:
.: 1 God’s unmerited (unearned) favor towards his creation (us).
.: 2 God stepping into our circumstance to intervene on our behalf. (A Discipleship Journey)
.: 3 Unmerited divine assistance given (to) humans for their regeneration or sanctification. (Merriam-Webster)
These definitions of grace can help us to cultivate a perspective that naturally outflows to a grateful heart. There is always a giver and receiver of grace, never one way. As freely as we’ve received grace (from Christ), we should also freely extend it – especially in the moments that we don’t really want to or when some wrong has been committed. As I know I have, often times we reject God’s grace by rejecting His way, His timing, His calls to obedience and ultimately His help and strength.
I’ve grown to accept that there are certain things that I cannot do on my own strength. And even the things that I am able to do, God allows me to do that. I’ve accepted that doing things on my own, my own way and my own timing, often isn’t pretty or peaceful. Life is never perfect, but what I’ve gleaned from all of this is that God’s way just works! Even His timing is right which is more often an issue than not in my “go get it” thinking. A true follower of Jesus submits all his rights and understands that the grace extended to us by God is never something that we can earn or even deserve. Nothing that I have do I deserve, so I’m grateful for everything. Here is the illustration… Imagine that you were speeding and got pulled over by the police, knowing that you were in the wrong and what would happen. Imagine if you lost something so valuable that it devastated you. Or maybe you didn’t study for an exam knowing that you would probably fail the course. Maybe your life was in danger and you knew without a doubt that you should’ve died or been robbed. Perhaps you were on warning at work and knew that the next time you were reprimanded, you’d lose your job.
In each case, whether right or wrong, you would be sure of the outcome to not be in your favor, dreading it along the way in the final moments leading up. Now imagine the police letting you go with a warning, you finding that lost valuable only partially damaged, the professor allowing you to retake the exam or you having your life spared when you should’ve lost it; keeping your job or getting off with another chance when you’ve should’ve been fired… Imagine the feeling that you would have that we’ve all experienced at some point. That feeling of gratefulness because you got what you didn’t deserve. Imagine that feeling in the moment of being so grateful of what you have knowing that you didn’t have to have it, you’re happy with whatever it is – you are grateful! This was my first goal leaving the conference, living with an attitude of gratefulness. It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to sadden, anger or guilt a person with a grateful heart that is appreciating every minute of what they know that they don’t deserve. I can’t help but be happy knowing that everything that I have is a plus because I don’t deserve any of it. My life as sinner, the things I’ve done, the things and loved ones I’ve been blessed with… I don’t deserve any of it. People with near death experiences often finds themselves with a renewed and a grateful heart like described here, knowing that every minute since their near death, they didn’t deserve, but are grateful to have anyway. I don’t want things and loved ones to have to be taken away from me to remind me about grace and gratefulness. Although challenging at times, I’ve purposed in my heart to live gratefully in all that I do. Therein lies a source of happiness that no one can steal – from a truly grateful heart!