REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 77: Grace for all circumstances.
Of the large pots balanced upon the heads of African women I have heard it said: you only know what’s in the pot when it is bumped! In a similar way we find out what is in us when we face challenging bumps to our equilibrium, like the pandemic and other trials. Our reaction to these inevitable bumps reveal much about our character. Last week I reflected on the means of grace, through which God works to build our character. Wonderfully, His grace is available to us in every circumstance of our lives. The different forms of God’s grace help us in this regard.
We are all familiar with saving grace. This describes the work of Christ [2 Corinthians 8:9] and the work of the Holy Spirit in giving us the gift of faith enabling us to turn to God and receive Christ [Titus 3:4-6]. With its origin in the will and mind of God [Ephesians 1:3-6, 2:4-10], nothing is as necessary or assuring for believers. But saving grace is for a purpose [Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:11-14], that of doing His will in a whole range of good works. One of these works is whether we respond to the bumps in a Christlike manner or react as if we are not trusting our Saviour. Here are 12 ways grace can sustain us when we are bumped, keeping us on track, as disciples.
- The sin-cancelling grace of saving grace will lead us to what John Piper described in his book Future Grace  as sin-conquering grace. Made possible by the Holy Spirit [2 Cor 3:18] and our active keeping in step with the Spirit [Galatians 5:25], with a deliberate sowing to the Spirit, instead of to our sinful nature [6:7-10] will be a life-long choice to rely on God’s grace in every future event.
- This is very similar to what might be called ruling grace which Paul describes in Romans 5:21-6:23. Ruling and conquering grace does not mean sinless perfection, but describes a life-long progress of no longer being under sin’s dominion. This struggle and process is set forth by Paul in Romans 7, and flows from the freedom and joy of the no condemnation of chapter 8 and justification by faith of chapters 4 and 5.
- Peter exhorts and reminds us of growing grace [2 Peter 3:18]. To grow like our Saviour will be our heartbeat as believers. The reminder of God’s grace to us in Christ keeps this from being a burden.
- Working grace flows from the expectation that we are saved for works [Ephesians 2:10]. Saving grace is always for the purpose of sacrificial service. Coming to an end of our own resources and strength, we seek, and then experience God’s grace in all the works He has called us to do.
- Strengthening grace [2 Timothy 2:1, Hebrews 13:9] can be called upon and relied upon in the humdrum and unexpected hard circumstances of life. Indeed it can be expected from our loving Father since He wants to see us mature, rejoice and persevere [Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-4].
- Needful grace flows from the throne of our God who is exceedingly gracious [Hebrews 4:14-16]. Neither our failures nor weaknesses are a barrier into God’s presence. By humbling us, they are often the reminders we need to come to God, through Jesus, for much needed grace and understanding in our time of need.
- Sufficient grace [2 Corinthians 12:9] was the promise God gave to the apostle after he had prayed for the removal of the thorn in his flesh. And what a marvellous answer it was for the apostle and for us who would long for complete healing [if it was an illness] or for the removal of such things [the word used can refer to any disabling or slowing down obstacle] that might hamper us. Sufficient grace to meet our needs, will prove to be more precious than the removal of the obstacles we fear. We are content with His answer to our prayers.
- More grace [James 4:6] can be expected by believers who stand firm against conformity to the world. God gives it to us because He is jealous for our wholehearted devotion. Devotion that is distinctive maintains our relationship with God and sharpens our witness. Far from complaining about the virus we can embrace it.
- Gifting grace [Romans 12:6] enables us to serve the body of Christ, like and for Christ. What we cannot do gracefully by ourselves, He will strengthen us to do generously, diligently and cheerfully [12:1-8].
- Giving grace [2 Cor 8-9] where 8:9 is the key for our generosity [in context for disaster stricken believers]. Such generosity is always blessed [Acts 20:35, 2 Cor 9:12-14], multiplied and sustained by our Lord [2 Cor 9:6-11].
- Hard working grace [1 Corinthians 15:8-10] as exemplified by Paul will never be in vain [15:58] and stands as a corrective to safety-first and lazy discipleship. The harder we work the more grace we can expect to receive.
- Greeting and parting grace [2 Corinthians 1:2, 13:14]. We meet as people saved by grace in order to build each other up by serving grace, and when we scatter to serve God in the world, we expectantly pray: may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all [13:14].
Grace is never given so we have more time for pleasures. Accepting the pandemic and its challenges as opportunity for schooling, will see grace abounding in us and through us, assuring us of lasting joy and pleasures [Psalm 16:11].
Peter Brain 25th May, 2021