Grace; unmerited favor, unearned benefits, unfounded blessings, undeserved gifts always is too good to be true. Grace can be experienced in ways like a free gift card to your favorite restaurant from a friend whom you hurt. Or forgiving your spouse without ever mentioning the infraction to anyone. Ever. And then giving them a footrub or a backrub without expecting one in return.
Quite often grace is God's amazing presence in overwhelming or difficult circumstances. Grace is not God waving His magic wand over our problem to solve it or take the suffering away. It is always the gift of His presence as we go through this particular pain or challenge.
Listen to Paul describe how he received grace from God.
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Listen to St Augustine describe his experience with grace.
"What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds its strength in faith." St Augustine, City of God
Right now, in your circumstances can you see God's gift of grace for you? Do you see His outstretched hand through the mist of the challenge you are facing? Are you sensing His strength through something you wish was over or that God would take away? Are you peacefully singing in your heart, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." Is He bringing you the comfort, endurance and hope you need?
My prayer for you is one of my favorite Bible passages.
"May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
Receiving Grace together,
Matt 14:22-25 "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake."
The experience of hiking up the mountain. Finding a spot to be alone with a beautiful lookout over the lake. Quiet. Still. He had just finished feeding thousands. No more neediness. No constant noise of those thousands. Solitude. Alone. Peaceful.
Yet, His heart and soul were still racing. Still rewinding the look of each face. The pain. The worry. The fear. The insecurity. The loneliness. Jesus knowing each person, each story, each need must have been overwhelmed as He was in this physical, temporal human body. He needed to process all of this with His Heavenly Father in order to refresh and satisfy his soul.
The gift of hiking mountains. Mount Elbert (elev. 14,433 ft) in the Colorado Rockies was a mountain Jude and I had the privilege to hike many years ago, pre-children. I can still see the paths, the trees, the change from being hidden and engulfed in the forest until we got high enough to where trees no longer grew. I can still see the never ending sights of other mountains upon snow-capped mountains spilling into the horizon. It seemed like the scene had no end; like it went on into eternity. The massiveness of God's creation did something to our hearts and souls; it was a refreshing gift.
When was the last time you took a hike in a beautiful setting to appreciate our Maker's creation? Have you stepped outside lately to gaze at the bright stars or stopped to listen to the trickle of melting snow in a stream?
What daily, weekly, monthly and annual soul refreshing experience do you have scheduled into your life?
Paul powerfully expressed his love for the Christians in Thessolonica by writing, "We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us." 1 Thess 2:7-8 (NASB)
They not only gave the best gift in the world, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, they also gave their "own lives." This literally means, their souls. They became soul friends. What a powerful relationship!
"A person without a soul friend is like a body without a head." St Brigid of Kildare (an early Irish Christian Nun)
An Anglican Priest, Patrick Thomas, explained this quote, "Without a soul friend, a person can not rightly see, hear, perceive, discern, discover or know. With out a soul friend a person can not tell if a context 'smells' awry. A person can not 'taste' goodness."
A soul friend, do you have one? Who is this person or persons in your life? How would you describe this friend? Is this person so deeply in love with Jesus and His Word that they naturally care about the condition of your soul? Does this person honor, respect and nurture your soul? Do they take the time to truly listen to you as a whole person to assist you in seeking the condition, acceptance, healing and restoration of your soul?
I have discovered that my soul friends are like beautiful cabins in the woods. They are friends who provide a place of belonging and rest. They are friends who provide safety and warmth. They are friends who listen and accept the good and not so good condition of my soul. They are friends who help re-kindle the divine fire within my soul.
I am fortunate to have a few in my life. God has provided a handful of them through out my life in which I am deeply grateful. How about you? Can you imagine if every person had one or two of these soul friends? How would our lives be enhanced? How would our families be beautified with the presence of Christ? How would the communities we are part of change? How could the world be infected with healthy, beautiful, strong souls grown by Jesus?
Praying for each of you to have a few soul friends.
Pastor Chris Reinertson enjoys all sports, especially those involving a ball. He loves to hang out with people and challenge them to be Jesus REVolutionizers.