The grace of God requires us to take pleasure in the things we have learnt to hate in the world.
A boy wanted a new pair of shoes. His mother told him to ask his father for the money. So he approached him cagily. “Daddy, I need a new pair of shoes,” he said. “Could you please give me the money to get them?”
Moments later, he came back to see his mother. “How much did he give you?” she asked him. “Daddy did not give me any money,” he replied frowning. “What did he say?” the mother enquired. “Instead of money, he gave me grace.” “Grace? What the dickens is that?” “He gave me the grace to do without a new pair of shoes.”
If the truth were told, many Christians don’t like the grace of God. Hebrews says Jesus died by the grace of God. (Hebrews 2:9). That indicates God’s grace can be deadly. Indeed, the grace of God gets people killed. “By the grace of God, the man broke his neck while attempting to rescue a cat stuck in a tree.” What kind of grace is that? The kind that God dispenses.
In order to bless Josiah for being repentant, God decided to kill him by his grace. He said to him: “Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.” (2 Kings 22:19-20).
As a result, by the grace of God, blessed Josiah died prematurely at the tender age of thirty-nine years. Did God fulfil the number of his days? Of course he did. Did John the Baptist die before his time? Of course not. He fought the good fight, proclaimed the Messiah and God called him home. Yes, God called him home by allowing Herod to chop off his head. That is the grace of God.
The grace of God often deals us seemingly bad hands in the poker game of life. It means while God saves some in life, he saves others in death. For example, in the scriptures, the centurion’s servant was saved in life: whereas Lazarus was saved in death. It also means God delivers not only from death but also from life.
Isaiah says: “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.” (Isaiah 57:1-2).
Since God has no regard for human distinctions, his grace often the unqualified. It makes the first to be last and the last to be first. It makes the wise to be foolish and the foolish to be wise. The grace of God puts the treasures of his kingdom in fragile earthen vessels. It ordains strength out of the mouths of babes and suckling infants. This makes his grace unacceptable to men because his thoughts are not our thoughts; neither are his ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8).
How many people would like to be shot by armed robbers? How many would like to be in a ghastly car accident? How many would like to fail their exams? And yet all these things simply make us eligible for the grace of God.
By the grace of God, armed robbers shot me, and it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Because armed robbers attacked me Jesus rescued me; prompting me to give my life to Christ. Because I was shot, Jesus healed me miraculously of bullet wounds. Nobody had to remove the bullet from my body. And so today I can tell others experientially that Jesus is a healer indeed. That is the grace of God.
Would Lazarus have believed Jesus is the resurrection and the life if he did not die and experience the benefit of Jesus raising him from the dead? Probably not! To know what we believe, we need to experience what we believe. The scriptures say faith is foundational. (Hebrews 6:1). Therefore, add to your faith. Add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge. (2 Peter 1:5). Don’t just believe that Jesus is the resurrection; know the power of his resurrection.
Peter counsels: “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18). For this reason, the Lord does not ask if we would like to suffer affliction in order to grow in the knowledge of him. He just puts us in the wringer and expects us to ask for the grace to bear it.
Thus, the grace of God requires us to take pleasure in the things we have learnt to hate in the world. When God’s grace is sufficient for us, we take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions and in distresses. The world teaches that these things are bad and should be avoided at all costs. But the world is a lousy teacher. There is nothing bad about these things. It all depends how we regard them.
Suffering only inflict flesh wounds; it cannot kill him. No man ever died because he suffered. Lazarus suffered and lived. The rich man lived in pleasure and died. It is sin that kills and not suffering. And yet we are taught in the world to love and enjoy sin, and to hate and avoid suffering.
Paul warned Timothy that in the last days perilous times would come, not because men would suffer, but because they would be lovers of pleasure. Sin is the real enemy. The battle of sin is the battle for the soul. It is the battle where, if we are not careful, Satan might prevail over us. But our suffering provides no triumph to Satan.
Forced to choose between sin and suffering, most of us gladly choose sin. But Jesus teaches that certain sufferings are instruments of God’s blessings. (Matthew 5:10-12). The value of grace therefore is that it addresses the real danger, which is sin. The grace of God ensures we are patient in tribulation and don’t give up. Jesus told Peter that Satan had determined to sift him like wheat, but that he had already provided the grace to ensure that his faith would not fail.
Therefore, the grace of God offers the real protection. What does it profit a man if he never suffers but at the end of it all he misses the fellowship of God? What does it matter how much we suffer as long as we have the grace to endure it?
These are the assurances of the grace of God: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2).