Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Grace You Need

"And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.  And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us"  (II Corinthians 8:1-6 NIV)

A lot of times we think that if we just try harder, we can achieve what God wants us to do.  Guys know they are not supposed to lust, so they try harder to avert their eyes.  Girls know they are not supposed to find their self-worth in the way they look, so they try hard to convince themselves they are okay just the way they are.  But the reality is we live in a culture rampant with pornography addiction and eating disorders, and this not just limited to unbelievers. 

Trying harder, relying on our own strengths and abilities, is not a good strategy, but it is the one on which most of us depend.  Whether it be doing better at controlling our anger, avoiding the gossipping tongue, or desiring to be more kind, we tend to rely on ourselves to achieve it.  Typically, that doesn't work out so well.  So perhaps we should try something different.

The Macedonian churches did something extraordinary in the 1st Century: they were generous beyond any reasonable, including Paul's, expectation.  They were being severely persecuted and were very poor as a result.  Yet, they wanted to help the poor in Jerusalem.  I doubt this generosity came automatically.  I can imagine their struggle with figuring out how, while being so poor, they could be generous.  And Paul doesn't indicate anywhere they worked hard to achieve it.  Instead, He said God gave them grace. 

Grace, by definition, is a free gift.  It is not something we earn or try hard to get.  In this case, God gave the Macedonians a heart of generosity.  What preceded it was a willingness to accept it.  They knew it was beyond them to be so generous, but the desire was there.  Rather than trying harder to figure out a way, they opened their hearts to God's grace.

There is a lesson here for us.  Instead of trying harder to achieve what we know is right, we acknowledge our inability on our own to achieve anything truly good.  By doing so, we open ourselves up to the opportunity of receiving God's grace to accomplish it.  If you want to be generous, then acknowledge your need of God to do it.  If you want to be more compassionate, the same.  Whatever it is that you desire to do or overcome, you will need God's grace to do it.

Today, recognize your need for God to become who He wants you to be.  This will open the way for you to receive the grace you need. 

© Jim Musser 2013

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