First posted to: https://surehopecounseling.com/the-gift-of-grace-part-2/
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I find myself getting caught up in the pressure to attain, to strive, to achieve in the different areas of my life. Even my spiritual journey can begin to feel like it’s all up to me. Am I doing enough? What if I don’t measure up? What if I don’t get this right? What if I let someone down? Even in my efforts to do good, my motivation for doing so can become misplaced in trying to earn approval from God for the things I do. I seem to think that it’s still up to me and in my power to control. Maybe you recognize the journey. You’ve asked Jesus to be Lord of your life, but you continue to fight Him for the throne! Jared Wilson in his book The Imperfect Disciple (2017) describes it this way: “Even after many of us are saved, we run ahead of the gospel into the field of the law, in our own power, trying to do great things for God or even earn favor with him.” We tend to forget that it is God who supplies the power for obedience through His gospel and “it is actually grace that teaches us how to repent and obey” (p. 225). It is grace that comes in to rescue us from ourselves and our striving. We don’t have to figure it all out. We don’t have to have it all together. God doesn’t expect us to. Our weakness is not a hindrance to Him. As a matter of fact, we often become more teachable and open to His work in our lives when we don’t think we have it all together! According to McMinn in his book The Science of Virtue (2017), God actually “invites me, and self-sufficient people like me, to be needy. As much as I resist this invitation, it is the only pathway to grace” (p. 147). The apostle Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” not meaning that His grace is good enough, but that it is more than enough! Paul goes on to say in this verse, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). Because of God’s grace to me, I can accept that I am way more sinful than I realized, but so much more loved than I ever knew (Wilson, 2017). The spirit helps me to accept my weakened condition, but it also shows me how strong my Savior is and how His grace completely covers me—the sins I’ve committed and ever will commit! Grace enables me to uncover those areas I naturally want to hide–that pain I want to protect, those flaws I’m trying to correct–and to humbly ask Jesus to help me. Those things about myself that I try so hard to hide are the very things Jesus wants to cover with his grace (Wilson, 2017)!
What is Grace? It is often defined as unmerited favor, and in a more expanded definition, as “the gift of acceptance given unconditionally and voluntarily to an underserving person by an unobligated giver.” (Hodge et al., 2022, p. 376). In recent years, grace has become a topic of interest for researchers in wondering how it impacts mental health as well as our relationships. Some studies are finding that experiencing or believing in grace is possibly related to spiritual well-being, positive mental health outcomes, adaptive interpersonal functioning, and virtues such as forgiveness and humility. Further studies have shown that specific grace interventions have yielded positive results such as improvements in mental health and relationship satisfaction (Hodge et al., 2022). As I read some of these studies, it seems that researchers are discovering what many followers of Christ have known and have personally experienced: Grace changes us!
So, where does grace come from? Grace is God’s gift to us. God determined from the beginning to give us this gift. He demonstrated throughout the Old Testament how badly we needed this gift. How we cannot, no matter how hard we may try, become whole without it. What is this gift? Author Max Lucado says in his book Grace: More than we deserve, greater than we imagine (2014) that this gift of grace is Jesus. “He is the treasure. Grace is precious because He is. Grace changes lives because He does. Grace secures us because He will. The gift is the giver…to discover grace is to discover God’s utter devotion to you, his stubborn resolve to give you a cleansing, a healing, a purging love that lifts the wounded back to their feet” (p. 150). As His gift of grace sanctifies us, His love has the power to grow within us and to be reflected to those around us through our regard for others, our hearts of forgiveness, our willingness to extend mercy, and through our attitudes of humility. This is the transforming work of grace. It is Jesus who both authors our faith and perfects it (Heb 12:2). It is God alone who is faithful both to start the work in us and to complete it (Phil 1:6). Pressure to attain, to strive, to achieve stops with Jesus’s invitation to, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28 & 29, MSG).
Adam S. Hodge, Joshua N. Hook, Don E. Davis, Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Rodger K. Bufford, Rodney L. Bassett & Mark R. McMinn (2022) Experiencing Grace: A Review of the Empirical Literature, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 17:3, 375-388, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2020.1858943
(n.d.). BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages. https://www.biblegateway.com/
Lucado, M. (2014). Grace: More than we deserve, greater than we imagine. Thomas Nelson.
McMinn, M. R. (2017). The science of virtue: Why positive psychology matters to the Church. Brazos Press.
Wilson, J. C. (2017). The imperfect disciple: Grace for people who can’t get their act together. Baker Books.
-Mickey Jensen – Learn about working with Mickey here!