February 23, 2013

The manifold grace of God

I needed grace this week.  I need it always I suppose, the need is just more evident at some times than others. And God’s grace picked me up and carried me through another week of homeschooling.  Perhaps someone prayed, I know I did.  I had been reading of Moses, and was envying him, not because of his oh-so-difficult-job but because it seemed so simple for him to just ‘cry out to the Lord’ for help and then hear some specific instruction from Him.

Like the time the Israelites are all cornered at the Red Sea and God says: ‘Lift up your staff; stretch out your hand.’  (Ex.14) and voila, the sea parts. 

Or, the time when the water’s undrinkably bitter and everyone’s thirsty--‘look there’s a tree’ and Moses throws it into the bitter water and it is made sweet. (Ex.15)

Then there’s the time when the people are about to stone Moses, again, because they’re thirsty. And the Lord says: “strike the rock, and water shall come out of it.”(Ex.17)

The contingencies keep coming.  Moses keeps calling out for help. God keeps instructing him in what to do.  I felt a little envious of Moses, (though I think I’m changing my mind, having taken a second look at the miserable job he had!) because it seems God answered him so clearly, with such specific instructions.  And I was wishing I would get such detailed lesson plans.  Then I had to wonder, is it that God’s not instructing?  Or that I’m not listening well?   I read somewhere once that the prerequisite for hearing from God, is a heart ready to do whatever He says. Moses was known as the meekest man that ever lived for a reason.  He was ready and listening for every drop of counsel God would give, glad to comply!

But in retrospect, though I did not get an audible response to my pleas for guidance—little germs of wisdom did begin to gel in my mind. Insights, ideas, new ways of doing things presented themselves.  And fresh determination and renewed hope seemed to spring up overnight. I didn’t have to raise a staff, or toss a tree, or strike a rock but grace did flow and it was enough for one more week in our journey.  God’s manifold grace was evident.

God always makes a  way, still.  In temptation he promises a ‘way of escape’. In weakness he promises ‘sufficient grace’. In times of plenty he instructs us to maintain thankful hearts.  His grace is always there though at times we may miss seeing it or experiencing it…  

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled’ (Heb.12:15)

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (Gal.2:21 NLT)

The stories of the children of Israel illustrate this so well.  There they were on the verge of entering the Land of Canaan at last—the spies go in and find it ‘’an exceedingly good land” (Numb.14:7ff) Joshua and Caleb try to persuade the people that “if the Lord delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us…” But all the other spies can talk about are the giants and the insurmountable difficulties they will have to face. They fail to obtain the grace of God.  This grace is contingent on faith in God’s ability, not our own.  It requires confidence that what we are too weak to tackle, He is well able to take care of.

Fear led the people to rebel against God’s direction. They missed out on what His grace would have provided.  And the Lord took them to task:How long will this people despise me?  And how long will they not believe in me? in spite of all the signs I have done among them?” (Num.14:11)  GULP.  God’s grace is always there for every task He sets before us.  We can access it by faith, or brush it aside in fear and obstinacy to ‘do it my way’. Wow.    The verdict was not good for these folks.  They would traipse about in the wilderness for another 40 years till the whole adult population had died.  The children would suffer for their parents’ faithlessness. (Num.14:33)

Wow (again).  A pertinent object lesson for me.  I am so grateful for grace, the grace I’ve been shown this week, the multi-faceted graces of God scattered through all my days.

As we receive God’s grace, we become stewards of it to others “…as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  (I Pet.4:10) This concept was brought home to me this week in the reading of Joni’s memoir: The God I Love, her story of a lifetime of walking with Jesus  through a degree of  disappointment, suffering and loss few of us will ever know.  It is a joyful testimony to God’s incredible grace as she embraced her lot (quadriplegia) and found God to be more real than she had ever imagined. It is God’s story of using Joni in her weakness to encourage innumerable others and to offer a perspective of eternity not easily come by in times of health and plenty.  Her story, her faithfulness to walk with Jesus in joy, is a gift of God’s grace that extends to me.

I have to take these things by faith. I have not known much suffering.  I sometimes fear because I’ve been given so much. Not just material goods, but faith, family, health, friendships, marriage, freedom, wisdom, the very Word of God!…so many good things.  So much to lose. (And so much to use. ‘To whom much is given much will be required’ is a haunting concept! But that’s another issue.)

Being one who fears suffering, I admire Job, who wouldn’t? Even Satan knew he was an amazing tribute to the grace of God—in the loss of everything but life itself he submitted to God his rights: The Lord gives and He  takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21) What does any of us possess that is not a gift anyway?  When did it become an inalienable right?

It occurs to me that noone likes suffering, anymore than our kids enjoyed being disciplined. But we do fall down and scrape our knees. Bad dogs do bite. Pets do die, and people too. And we do get spankings. As children of God, we will suffer for one reason or another.  But by faith, I can hear such testimonies and know that there will be grace, because we will never lose Jesus.

I bumped into these words today, written more than a century ago: “The only inalienable gift I have, is a Divine Savior. He never will be taken away from me. He is mine--mine forever.” –Stephen Tyng

And right along these lines is a new ‘hymn’ I also met this week, another testimony to God’s sufficient grace in every circumstance.  With it I close:

I Run to Christ
[Click here to listen in]

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.

I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.


I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.

I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.


I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.

by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger
with Gregg Howlett at the piano

The testimonies of ones who have walked with God and found Him good, these too are God’s gifts of grace to us--whether a beautifully penned memoir, or Christ-exalting lyrics, or  the tinkling of fingers on a keyboard… Whether a smile or a FB note or a warm hug,  all are gifts of God’s grace-- the wonderful manifold grace of God dished out by His stewards, tokens of His delight in His children. 

May we all have eyes to see and hearts to embrace
His all-sufficient manifold grace.


“The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land.  If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey.” Numbers 14:7,8

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”
II Tim.2:1

If you enjoyed Gregg Howlett at the piano, consider
No More Night, a spine tingling reminder of the good land yet to come!

For my review of Joni’s THE GOD I LOVE, go here.

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