#RealTalk Underestimating God’s Grace
Father, thank You for who You are. Thank You for sharing with us Your wisdom, mercy, compassion, grace, faith, love, and everything else that encompasses Your character! How amazing that You, the almighty Creator of the universe, pursue such an intimate relationship with us?! Father, in Jesus’ name I pray for the following words to touch at least one person’s heart and that You would work a miracle through this ministry as only You can. May our words and actions be a reflection of who You are and how You love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
So, when did God become “real” to us? In the past few weeks, #RealTalk has focused on aspects of life like finding peace in the midst of crisis. We’ve read about the beauty of grace and how to let go of anger, bitterness, resentment, etc.
I appreciate those perspectives so much. It’s funny, though. I appreciate them not because I can relate to them. I appreciate them because I cannot. They teach me to see people in a new light, truly through the eyes of compassion since we rarely know exactly what someone is experiencing or has experienced.
What I want to share, though, is my greatest experience underestimating the power of God’s grace.
I believe it’s imperative to define God’s grace. That means digging down to the simplest form possible. I treat that like I’m explaining it to someone who’s never heard of the Bible, God, Jesus, any of it. They’re brand spanking new.
Since I became a Christian whenever I was 7, I’ve heard many people define “grace” as “God’s unmerited favor.” That’s accurate, but not necessarily the best way to get to its roots.
I recently had exactly this conversation with my wife and we were throwing Scripture at each trying to define it. We were giving examples of it, but not defining it. Then I felt the Holy Spirit put a thought in my head:
“Grace is getting what you don’t deserve!” How much simpler can you get?! But something’s missing… mercy! Mercy is “not getting what you do deserve!” Ah, now we’re getting somewhere!
In lieu of eternity, they cannot be separated. In God’s infinite wisdom and love, His mercy and grace are readily available to us through His son Jesus, no one else.
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through me.”
(John 14:6 NASB)
Have you ever received something you didn’t deserve? I do every single day. So do you. You have breath right now. What did we do to deserve that breath? Nothing. It’s God’s gift to us because He has a plan for each of us.
“’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you future and a hope.’”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NASB)
It’s easy to take this verse out of context, but the point remains. He created us to thrive for His glory!
Ok, now that we really know what “grace” is, I’ll tell you one of the biggest mistakes of my life, but how God’s power was completely unaffected!
Despite our circumstances and perspectives, we know that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)
He didn’t say some things. He didn’t say few things. He said “… all things…”! Wait, you mean like when we found out my dad had cancer? Yep. You mean like when he coded at home, which was 50 miles away from the hospital? Yep. You mean like when he died six days later at 54 years old? Yep! You mean like when ((insert your struggles and pain))? Yep!
Let’s back up just a little bit.
I had an amazing childhood. Sure, there are some memories I wish I could erase, but everyone has those. The relationship I had with my dad was the kind every little boy AND every dad dreamt of! We eventually grew into best friends. We confided in each other. We trusted each other. He was my mentor. I was the Timothy to his Paul; the Isaac to his Abraham; the… OK, you get the point.
At the mere thought of losing a parent, it shook me to my core. They were my rocks. I always assumed that whenever I did lose a parent, especially my dad, I would have to take a timeout from life. I saw myself taking a year-long hiatus from work and curling up into the fetal position of wherever I was living. I was much weaker than I thought. I severely underestimated the power of God’s grace.
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NASB)
My dad was battling an extremely rare form of cancer known as “adenoid cystic carcinoma” and had a tumor in one of his cheeks. The radiation for the tumor dismantled the skin in his mouth and he couldn’t speak without pain. And it was unclear. It also created a hole in his palate, where he was supposed to be swashing around lidocaine for pain relief. He had no idea about the hole, so that fluid was going into his lungs. Because of the unknown case of pneumonia, he coded one Saturday, so my mom rushed him to the hospital that was about 50 miles away.
My brother and I lived out of town but got there as quickly as we could. Mom and Dad made the decision long ago that neither of them would live on a machine. They agreed that “if we can’t live life, I don’t want to be alive.”
There we were, standing around the hospital bed, talking about those options. Here’s a man who’s got this insanely rare form of cancer, a severe case of pneumonia, and is too weak from the chemo to do anything about it.
Option 1: Drain the fluid from his lung — doctors were afraid his lungs would collapse
Option 2: Cough it up — Chemo made him too weak to do that
Option 3: Drain it via a bronchoscope — doctors were afraid he wouldn’t survive that because of his physical condition
As we were holding hands around his bed, he made it clear that he wanted one thing: I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to hurt.” Ironic that eliminating his burden increased ours.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you!”
(1 Peter 5:7 NASB)
There are so, so many others that reiterate this, but we have only so much time.
Then, through his raw, tattered, radiation-inflicted mouth, he boldly said one of the most powerful sentences I will ever hear in my life.
“Listen, I love you guys, but I love Jesus more.”
It wasn’t just that he said it. It was when, where, how, why. Considering the circumstances, I’d say that’s miraculous. And I severely underestimated the power of God’s grace.
So, he was moved into a room. Because of the medicine, he was completely unconscious for three days. One of his best friends, a local pastor and the fella who married my wife and me, came to visit. When the visit ended, my mom walked him out of the hospital room, walked back in, and saw my dad pop up. Dad looked at her and said “Thank You Jesus,” then went right back down into that bed. He then met that same Jesus face-to-face three days later.
We were there when Jesus called Him home. For Dad, it was a painless process. For us, through the much and mire, God used it to show us how He designed the human body to fight for life.
Dad’s vitals would slowly start to dip, then escalate, fighting for life. They continued to do that for a little while until each “peak” started getting lower and lower each time. But there was always that fight for life.
In what I thought was going to be the darkest moment of my family’s life, God revealed Himself in a way I have never experienced. In a moment where I thought my heart would be shattered into utter oblivion, I felt God’s hands around my heart. I don’t mean in an emotional or figurative sense. I mean I literally felt God’s hands around my heart holding it together. I had no idea how I would have handled the moment my dad died. I had no idea God was going to overwhelm my family like He did. I thought, even for just a moment, my problems were going to be just a little bit too big this time. But I severely underestimated the power of God’s grace. And I won’t do it again.
Whoever and wherever you are. Whatever you’ve said and done… You’re not outside of His grace. You’re not outside of His forgiveness. You’re not too far gone.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:38-39 NASB)
We have a choice. You have a choice.
Father, in the name of Jesus, thank You.