Wrestling With Grace

And second, grace gives significance to our lives (vs. 4-5).

We will be his “witness to the peoples.” Nations and people we do not know will be affected by our faith and faithfulness. People will want what we have, when our lives are transformed by the grace of God.

He will “endow you with splendor,” with his joy and peace, the fruit of his Spirit, the power of his might in your life.

But only when you are humbled before him, submitted to his will as your King. When you try to achieve eternal purpose and spiritual significance through your own work and self-reliant initiative, you cannot be used by God to fulfill his eternal purpose through your life. We cannot earn what he can only give.

An apprentice carpenter does not know how to build a mansion. If he will not listen to the architect and his supervisor, his efforts will more likely ruin the house than construct it.

A beginning chemistry student does not know how to perform advanced laboratory experiments. If he will not listen to his professor, he will more than likely blow up the lab than advance science.

I do not know how to speak words which will change your soul and accomplish eternal good. If I will not listen to God, yielded to the grace gift of a message from his word and Spirit, but rely on my own study and education and ability, I will fail. I cannot earn what he can only give.

You do not know how to use your work, your relationships, your church ministry to accomplish eternal or spiritual significance. If you will not listen to God, yielding to the grace gift of his leading and empowering, but rely on your own abilities and resources, you will fail. You cannot earn what he can only give.

So what do we do?

Seek the Lord—go to him by faith; “call on him.”

Do it now, “while he may be found, while he is near.” We have only this moment to receive his grace.

Forsake your “wicked” ways; the Hebrew refers to sins of character. Refuse “evil” thoughts which result from wicked character.

Instead, turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on you. Your God will “freely” pardon you; the Hebrew means to give in abundance, over and beyond all we might expect. He will “pardon” you—the word means to refuse to punish. Biblical forgiveness does not pretend we did not sin, or excuse our behavior, but chooses not to punish it. This is the gracious act and love of our Lord.

Such a life of broken humility and yielded obedience positions us to be used by God for significant purpose, to be empowered by his Spirit, to accomplish that which eternal. Salvation and significance come only when we yield to his grace.

Conclusion

We respond to such grace in worship by praise and adoration. Not to receive his favor, but because we already have. Not to earn his love, but because he already loves us. Not to be people of worth, but because we already are. Out of gratitude for his grace.

And we respond to such grace through the week by staying submitted to him as our King. By admitting that we must have his guidance, direction, and power for our every word and step.

I have learned this week that preaching is more about listening than it is speaking. More about seeking his word and obeying his prompting than it is about my study and preparation.

A young pastor’s sermons began to glow with a kind of fire and power which became the talk of the community. Someone asked him where he got his messages. He pointed to a worn-out patch of carpet beside his desk and said, “There.”

When we remember the grace of God in our salvation, we will respond with adoration and worship, trusting him for our salvation and significance. How can we do otherwise?

Father Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest sent by the Nazis to Auschwitz. In July of 1941, a man escaped from his Barracks 14. As punishment, ten prisoners were chosen to die in the starvation bunker. They would receive no food or water. Their throats would turn to paper, their brains to fire, until finally their suffering ended in a horrible death.

One of the ten began grieving loudly for his wife and children. Suddenly there was a commotion in the ranks. A prisoner had broken out of line, calling for the commandant—cause for execution.

The prisoners gasped. It was their beloved Father Kolbe, the priest who shared his last crust of bread, who comforted the dying, who heard their confessions and fed their souls. The frail priest spoke softly and calmly to Nazi Camp Commandant Fritsch: “I would like to die in place of one of the men you condemned.” He pointed to the weeping prisoner grieving for his wife and children.

Fritsch compared the two; this priest indeed looked weaker than the man he had condemned to death. He looked at his assistant and nodded. Father Kolbe’s place on the death ledger was set. The men were made to remove their clothes, then herded into a dark, windowless cell. “You will dry up like tulips,” sneered one of their jailers. Then he swung the heavy door shut.

As the hours and days passed, the camp became aware of something extraordinary happening in the death cell. Past prisoners had spent their dying days screaming, attacking each other, clawing at the walls. But now, coming from the death box, they heard the faint sounds of singing.

On August 14, 1941, there were four prisoners still alive in the bunker, and it was needed for new occupants. In the light of their flashlight, the Nazi soldiers saw Father Maximilian Kolbe, a living skeleton, propped against one wall. His head was inclined a bit to the left. He had a smile on his lips, his eyes wide open, fixed on some faraway vision. He did not move. The Nazi doctor gave lethal injections to the first three prisoners, then to Father Kolbe. In a moment, he was dead.