The Picture of Grace
How do you define grace? I don’t even try. Jesus talked a lot about grace, but mainly through stories. I remember once getting stuck in Los Angeles traffic and arriving 58 minutes late at the Hertz rental desk. I walked up in kind of a bad mood, put the keys down and said, “How much do I owe?”
The woman says, “Nothing. You’re all clear.”
I said I was late, and she smiled. “Yes, but there’s a one-hour grace period.”
So I asked, “Oh, really? What is grace?”
And she said, “I don’t know.” [They must not cover that in Hertz training classes.] She continued, “I guess what it means is that even though you’re supposed to pay, you don’t have to.”
That’s a good start to a definition.
Ahmed Shah was a famous ruler of Afghanistan.
The nation had been wracked by conflict among tribal leaders, but Shah brought peace. Legend has it Shah led the people to a secret valley that he had discovered on his travels, a vast plain, bordered on all sides by sheer cliff faces. To protect their new peaceful way of life, it was imperative that no one reveal the hidden passageway into the plain.
One day, Ahmed Shah was approached by a very nervous lieutenant. “Emir, we caught someone revealing the location of the secret passageway.” The traitor was Ahmed Shah’s mother!
Ahmed Shah was distraught. He could release his mother, kill the soldiers who captured her, and hush the whole matter up by killing the guards who had discovered her. But all chaos would break loose once word of this got out. Shah decided he would think it over during the night and announce his decision in the morning.
When morning arrived, everyone gathered in the square. Ahmed announced his mother must receive a hundred lashes, which would almost certainly mean her death. Ahmed’s mother was marched into the square and bound.
The first two lashes already saw her bloodied and buckled. Ahmed could bear it no longer. He halted proceedings, untied his mother, and carried her to his room and laid her on his bed.
Then, emerging from his hut, he demanded that no one move. He had something to say. He then addressed the crowd, “The penalty for my mother’s crime was one hundred lashes. She has paid two of them. I will pay the other ninety-eight.”
By the end Ahmed was at death’s door, beaten, bloodied and bruised. For some weeks it was unclear if he would survive. He did survive, and his people never forgot this act of loving grace.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” In other words, you’re a sinner; you’re going to die and go to hell if you don’t have Jesus. But God loved you so much, He gave Jesus to die in your place, to take your punishment for you.
Here is a little illustration that I used with my children when they were small: “God is our Father in heaven and Jesus is our big brother, God’s Son, and we are God’s children. But we’ve all been naughty at some time. You’ve been bad, right?” Everybody knows they’ve been bad sometimes. “Okay, so you deserve punishment, right? You deserve a spanking. But God loves you so much that He doesn’t want to spank you and punish you for your sins, so He lets Jesus take your punishment for you, so that all you have to do is believe in Jesus and thank Him for it. All you have to do is believe it and receive Him personally.”
—David Brandt Berg
God’s grace is amazing! We’re saved by grace—God’s undeserved favor—and we live by grace, which is also God’s power in our lives to do what we could never do in our own strength. And it’s all because God is love, and He loves us unconditionally, constantly, and completely.
This is a wonder of His grace: He came to take our burdens on Himself. He came to get involved in our lives, to be our strength. It is not when we are strong that we discover His power; it is when we are weak, when we are insufficient. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV)
I have personally been in many unbearable circumstances. When I came face to face with the possibility of losing my husband to cancer, my fears as a young wife and mother of four children were overwhelming. When I battled with cancer myself, the physical pain I experienced would definitely fit into the “unbearable” category. Afterwards I developed fibromyalgia and have on many occasions felt that the pain and fatigue, coupled with the mental and emotional stress, were more than I could bear.
But never once has Jesus failed me. Never once has He left me alone. There has never been a time when His grace was not sufficient for me. I have leaned on Him, depended on Him, and when all else failed, fell helpless in His strong arms. He is strong enough. He does care. He can work miracles today.
Put Him to the test. Take that burden you are carrying, that weight that crushes down on your shoulders, and give it to Him. He will take it for you. It is at that moment that you will find His strength. It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we truly discover the sufficiency of Christ. It is in this dependency on Him that we truly know Him, Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
This is our hope and strength, the same hope and strength that saw the apostle Paul through terrible troubles and suffering and inspired him to say, “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV) We are weak, but He is strong. We are insufficient, but His grace is sufficient. Our troubles are unbearable, but He will bear them for us. “Surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrow.” (Isaiah 53:4) “I will put my trust in Him.” (Hebrews 2:13)
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