Last June my son checked in for summer football conditioning spry, agile, and ready to go, weighing in at all of 149 pounds. Although not a ton by any means, he still rocked the world of 95 opponents and brought home the Pride, Hustle, Desire Award at the end of the season. But an odd thing occurred en route. Around about October, he started complaining of running out of gas midway through practice. He just couldn’t finish hard. Didn’t know if he was getting sick. Wasn’t sure what was wrong. In due course, he also shared that he weighed-in at 146. My “aha” moment! Armed with the knowledge that he was losing weight, I understood that he didn’t have enough fuel in his tank. He could not give out what he did not have.
This premise holds true for all of us on so many levels, but today I want to talk about grace.
Grace serves as the foundation–the cornerstone–of the Christian faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). God lovingly and freely gives us His grace. No holds barred. Ours for the receiving. Done.
But then God turns right around and says, “Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Oops. What a minute. What does that mean?
Let me put it to you in a real-life, how-you-live, kind of way. (I get things better when they are simple and straight to the point.) If you hold on to bitterness and forgiveness, you cannot dispense His grace.
When God shows you His grace, He demonstrates it through His forgiveness and lack of bitterness. He holds nothing against you. Then if you receive this loving grace, He expects you to express the same attitude toward others.
How do you know if it’s there? In your heart?
Easy self-check: Think for a few moments of the person whom you perceive has wounded you. What do you feel inside? Do you feel angered? A little knotted up? Like a wealth of ugly emotions wants to run amok in your heart and mind? Or do your feel compassion? Grieved by the pain he/she must live with?
If you feel compassion and mercy, then you truly are a dispenser of God’s richest gift. If, however, you feel anger or knotted up, then you simply cannot offer what you do not have. You cannot work that way. You can pretend to work that way, but, by God’s design, you do not. You can preach or minister, but without the fullness of God’s grace expressed lovingly through your own life, your words serve as “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1).
And then like begets like.
Let’s go back to my son for a moment. On his first day of practice, he could probably have worked it hard powered only by Twinkies and chocolate milk. Such is the joy of new beginnings. Likewise, when we first get saved we feel so much joy that we could forgive anyone of anything at that moment. As the season starts to get long though, that initial component of new joy wears thin and we find out what we’re really made of.
For my son, it meant recognizing the problem and making the necessary changes to accommodate the daily challenges football requires of a body. We started hammering him with food, and his body eagerly responded. He finished strong.
For the human soul, it means essentially the same thing. We have to acknowledge that we have issues with letting go of bitterness while extending grace. We don’t have enough grace to go down the hard road. Our spirits are underfed. Much like my son couldn’t survive on his weekly team dinner (monstrous as it was), neither can we if we rely merely on a weekly feeding at the neighborhood church. We need daily, meaty spiritual meals which nourish our souls and provide rich doses of grace upon grace.
Please understand that as I write this, my heart extends toward you. I treasure the joy I get from living unencumbered in God’s grace. I love the freedom of walking out from under the burden of bitterness and unforgiveness. Do I march on perfectly? No! But I beg you, if you struggle with this, please ask God for help. Confess these attitudes as the sins they are. Lay them down at His feet, and don’t allow yourself to pick them up again.
Remember, Christian, the greatest gift you possess to share with the world is grace. God’s grace. Lived out in you through forgiveness as a sweet aroma.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
PS. If you struggle with this, I would like to recommend “Why Grace Changes Everything” by Chuck Smith. -brenda-