In my early days as a follower of Jesus, I cannot count the number of times I heard it preached, taught and shared. “We are saved only by the grace of God.”
It took me a while to grasp this concept of grace. Not easy. For I was raised to belief in karma. It is good deeds that merits God’s favour. It took time but I got it. Grace – undeserved favour offered by God. Undeserved favour freely given to the broken sinner.
Grace is not just an act of God. Grace is God’s nature.
God does not just show grace. God is grace.
“Grace is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.” -Jerry Bridges
We receive redemption by grace. We are being sanctified by grace. As grace sanctifies us day by day, grace transforms our desires, motivations and behaviour.
Grace – a word that covers us from the ends of the earth to the far reaches of heaven.
Sadly, in recent years I have heard grace being uttered loosely to encompass almost everything and anything. Despite its liberal application, its meaning now has been skewed. Instead of undeserved favour available to all, grace now implies exclusive favour reserved for some.
Apart from salvation, what then does grace embody?
John Piper sums it up neatly when he said,
“.. grace is a force or power of God that works in us to change our capacities for work and suffering and obedience.”
We learn best from stories. Here are true stories of grace in action.
Story from South Asia
Recently the mission fellowship I serve in received heart breaking news. One of our long-term team members, afflicted by Covid, had gone to be with the Lord. It was a double blow for the family. As his wife and daughters had lost their son and brother just 4 weeks prior.
I wrote to the national leader expressing my sympathy. In his response, he shared excerpt from an email written to him by the daughter of our departed team member.
The daughter expressed peace knowing that her father is with our Lord. She thanked the leader for making her father’s dreams come true – to serve in relief work. In the last months of his life, he was so filled with passion and joy as he travelled miles around the Himalayan terrain. She shared of her father’s deep love for Jesus that drove him to make the arduous journeys to deliver aid to settlers in remote villages. She had served alongside her father. She expressed gratitude for that experience and the memories she will hold forever. She conveyed her determination to carry on her late father’s work. To be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to those hidden in the nooks and crooks of the mountain range.
Such gratitude and commitment to serve in the midst of pain.
This is grace for work and suffering and obedience to Him in spite of circumstances.
Story from Southeast Asia
In my travelling ministry in recent years, KH was a country that was a frequent stop. On my first stay there I stayed with a newly married couple in the slum. We bonded quickly and their extended family soon was family to me. Anytime I was in KH, their home was open to me.
Grandma was a prisoner at the labour camp in the throes of the civil war. She lost her parents, siblings, husband and the child she was expecting. When war was over, she walked out with her young son and daughter. Forced to fend for themselves.
Her daughter grew up, fell in a love with a good man, settled down and bore three daughters. When the youngest was a year old, her son-in-law was killed in an accident. Two women and three young girls left to fend for themselves.
The young mother (Mai) secured a job far away from the city. Grandma was left to care for the three young girls. Life was tough in the slum. Mai’s earnings was not much but they stretched it as far as they could. Grandma supplemented it by preparing sweets for sale.
Yet, all through those years of little, this family fostered several young girls. Some of those girls were slum dwellers. Others they came to know about from relatives or friends. These girls were either orphans, abused or neglected. They took these girls in even if it meant surviving on rice, salt and water.
“Why did you do it?”, I asked.
“Because those girls needed a home, a family. They needed love and to be safe,” one of the daughters replied.
Those foster children are now adults, settled down with their own families in stable homes.
Had they not fostered these girls, they would have been trafficked or forced into prostitution.
Such immense love in their life which lacked much.
This is grace for serving and suffering and obeying Him despite circumstances.
Let’s not cheapen grace to mean the provision for our worldly passions and desires.
God’s grace is God’s heart of (underserved) love and compassion for us. That grace then becomes a living force and power in us. It transforms our capacity for love and compassion for others, regardless of our circumstances.