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Grace: God’s Ability

By Pastor Mitch Horton | November 2000 | Posted in • Archives | (0) Comments

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:7)

The Lord sees us so differently than the way we see ourselves. Too often we focus solely on our failures and mistakes, or on our weakness and inability. How we need to realize that God doesn’t consider our human family and calls us to service for Him! His thoughts toward us are so much greater than ourselves. We see this in Isaiah 55:8-9, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher that the earth, So are My ways higher than yours ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

In Ephesians 4:7, quoted above, notice that we are given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift, that is, according to God’s call upon our lives.

A popular definition for the word grace is “unmerited favor.” Grace includes all that Jesus did for us on Calvary. A handy acronym for G.R.A.C.E. is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Nothing I personally do could ever merit God’s grace and favor.

“For by grace we have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Most of us have heard this truth about grace and have come to embrace it in our daily lives. But let’s broaden our understanding of grace.

Several years ago I came across another definition that has really ministered to me. Not only is grace “unmerited favor,” but it can also be defined as “God’s ability working in us, to help us do what we can’t do ourselves.” We all need this GRACE every day!

Grace is for our weak places. Apparently, the apostle Paul understood this concept. In 2 Corinthians 12, he describes a season in his life during which he cried out for the grace of God.

The first few verses of the chapter recount Paul’s experience of going to heaven ad seeing things not possible to be explained in human language. He went on to explain that a thorn in the flesh was given to him because of the abundance of the revelation that he received through this experience.

Contrary to what is often thought and taught, rather than a sickness, this thorn in the flesh was “the messenger of Satan” sent to buffet him. The Greek word for “messenger” in this passage is angelos translated as “angel” elsewhere in scripture. A demon spirit had been assigned to oppose Paul at every turn! In 2 Corinthians 11, he shares some of the difficulties he faces in ministry because of this demon stirring up trouble.

Of this thorn in the flesh, he said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’

Jesus was simply saying to Paul, “I have given you the ability, Paul, to deal with this thing. My strength, My Divine ability, is made perfect in your seeming weakness. When you are weak, it’s an opportunity for My strength to manifest in your life!”

Notice Paul’s attitude in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should no be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

Paul was one of the most educated men of his day, scholarly, impressive, and eloquent as a speaker. But here he is saying that he had to lay aside his natural ability in order for the power of God, God’s grace or ability, to work in his life!

Notice again what he wrote about his own ability in Philippians 3:3-10:“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, (4) though I also might have confidence in the flesh If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: (5) circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; (6) concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (7)But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (8) Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith: (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Because he was willing to lay aside his human ability, Paul could experience the power of Christ in his life. The power is the GRACE of God.

In this area, there are two extremes to be avoided. And we need to remain continually aware of both of them. The first is that of self-confidence, the mind set in which we are so sure of our own ability that we don’t think we need any help. The other extreme is that of self-abasement, or thinking so little of ourselves that we don’t really believe it’s possible for God to use us for His glory.

Remember that both of these extremes are prideful. (isn’t it interesting that each term begins with “self”?) And either one will block GRACE, or God’s ability, from working in our lives!

This grace, the ability of God, is available when we humble ourselves before him. 1 Peter 5:5 reads, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Isaiah 57:15 confirms that humility is prerequisite to receiving God’s ability: “for thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

True humility looks AWAY from us! It focuses neither on our accomplishments and strengths, NOR on our inability’s and weakness. Humility looks at God and God alone. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”(Proverbs 3:5)

The Lord has Grace for every weak area in our lives. Instead of being dominated by our weakness and inadequacies, He wants us to see them, as opportunities for His ability to be released in our lives.

God promised Abraham and Sarah a child. At the time this promise was given to them, Abraham was already 75 years old, and Sarah 65. As long as they looked only at their ability, the promise was not fulfilled. They even compromised God’s plan by having a son by proxy through through one of the household servants. Ishmael was a product of their unbelief.

But the moment that Abraham and Sarah looked away from themselves and their human inability and trusted God, the promised child Isaac was conceived and born!

Perhaps you have trusted yourself up until now. And maybe you have produced lots of little “Ishmaels;” you may even be surrounded by them! There is still hope that the Lord can work in your life. And that hope is found in His abundant GRACE.

Moses whose name literally means “Deliverer,” tried in his own ability to deliver his Jewish brothers from the bondage of Egypt. He eventually became one of the meekest men on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3), but not until he learned to walk in true humility, with his focus on God.

The book of Acts tells us that Moses as a young man was learned in all the skill and wisdom of Egypt, and was mighty in word and deed. He was a man of great natural ability, probably being trained for leadership in Egypt.

Then at 40 years of age, he came upon an Egyptian treating a fellow Hebrew harshly. In a blaze of anger, he killed the Egyptian and buried his body. He was consequently forced to flee for his life to the desert. There he stayed for another 40 years, tending the sheep of his father-in-law, until he had learned the lessons of humility and confidence in God’s ability, rather than his own.

At the burning bush, we find Moses at the other extreme, that of utter self-worthlessness: he felt as though God could never use him. But when he finally focused on God and found the power of God’s ability that would work so mightily through him to set a nation free.

In the same way, our burning bush experience will come when we turn away from focusing on self and learn to depend on God’s ability, or GRACE, that is available to us.

Twelve spies were sent to the land of promise to bring back to Moses a report about the condition of the land (Numbers 13). Ten of the spies looked only at themselves and their human ability. From that perspective, they seemed like grasshoppers in comparison to the giants they found in the promised land. Because of their unbelief in considering only their human weakness, they were not allowed to enter the promised land. In fact, they had to wander in the desert until they died!

On the other hand, Joshua and Caleb deliberately focused away from their human inability and saw that the giants in the land were no match for the awesome God they served. Because they were willing to see their lives through God’s ability instead of their own, of the twelve spies they alone were allowed to enter the land of promise.

Canaan, the Old Testament’s land of promise, is a type of the victorious life available to us today. As we look away from ourselves, away from our own thoughts, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses, and see the GRACE available to us in Christ Jesus, we too will be able to conquer the giants that life brings to defeat us and keep us from God’s best!

Grace is available to us through prayer. We are to come boldly to the throne of GRACE, so that we can obtain mercy and find ability to help us in our times of need!(Hebrews 4:16)

Hebrews 2:9 reveals that Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for every man. Where did Jesus get the ability to endure becoming the sin of mankind? He received it in the garden of Gethsemane, the place of prayer.

As we humble ourselves before God in believing prayer, as we look away from ourselves, and place our confidence in the one who “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask of think,”(Ephesians 3:20) like Jesus, we too will find GRACE, or God’s ability to help is in the difficult places of life.

Begin today to bathe everything you encounter with prayer, and expect the grace of God to cover the weak places in your life!

 


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