Grace. This word carries with it many different emotions. It has even in the church become somewhat of a swearword. People have heard too much about how grace covers sin and then seen people mistreat it by living however they want and then saying, “It’s ok because I’m covered by grace.” Even pastors say it from the pulpit, usually in conjunction with a topic of sin that many people probably struggle with, so to make people not feel “condemned” they follow it up by saying, “but for those who have ________ (you name it, had sex before marriage, had an affair, have a problem with drinking, gambling) it’s ok because God’s grace is enough.” True, God’s grace covers our sin, yet we, yes WE have taken grace and abused it. Grace doesn't say, “I've covered your sin, so you’re cool to keep on sinning all you want.” No, it says, “I have covered your sins, so you are free of the chains that sin places on you, now go and walk in freedom from that sin.”
Grace says, “I have covered your sins, so you are free of the chains that sin places on you, now go walk in freedom from that sin.”
When we read accounts of people in Scripture who encounter and understand grace, it causes a change in them. They don’t continue to act in the same way. They are compelled and strengthened by God’s grace to walk uprightly and to follow after God with all that they are.
Isn’t that cool to think that God’s grace strengthens us? At the end of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, we learn that Paul has what he calls a thorn in his flesh. It was so bad that he begged God three times to take it away from him, but we read on that God’s response isn’t to take the pain of whatever his thorn was away, no, he says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” It is in those moments of weakness when we feel like giving up and caving in that we can rely on God’s strength to get us through.
Grace allows us to no longer have to walk in fear, but in freedom. Freedom to boast in our weakness, so that God’s strength is what other’s see. Freedom to not have to give in to our flesh, but to walk in the Spirit. Freedom to do the things God has called us to, despite our inadequacies because He will give us all we need to accomplish his goals.
We all have a past, and we’ve all made mistakes, but it is by God’s grace that those things can be turned around for His good and perfect will. Just think about the story of Jonah. Jonah was completely off the grid when it came to following God’s direction. Instead of doing what God wanted him to, he ran in the opposite direction. God used Jonah’s disobedience for His glory. It says that after the whale swallowed Jonah and the storm ceased the sailors that were on the ship with Jonah vowed to serve God. Even though Jonah was completely going against God’s will, God used it for His glory. And in the end, I think Jonah learned that disobeying God isn’t a great idea and stinks a little ;).
So like in the story of Jonah, God’s grace allows for mistakes and for us to make dumb decisions, but then He comes in and redirects us and puts us back on the right path. I think we can also learn that it would probably have been a lot better for Jonah if he had obeyed God the first time, but that’s grace in action. And finally, with grace active in our lives helping us to grow and learn, we get to be used as vessels by God to do some pretty amazing things, like turn a whole city back to God! Just read Jonah’s story and see what God did through Jonah, it’s only a couple pages long, so it only take 10 minutes tops.