“…the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8)
Consider the three following scenarios.
Scenario #1 – A Friend Pays the Bill
You’re finishing up a meal at a restaurant with a friend. Then the bill comes. And the thought passes your mind: Are we splitting it? Do I offer to pay? Before you finish your thought, your friend takes the bill and says, “I got it.” You refuse and offer to split the check but your friend says, “Don’t worry about it. It’s my pleasure.” Reluctantly, you agree. But you feel a little guilty. I should pay something, you think. So you say, “I’ll pay next time.” And with that statement, you feel a little more at ease, knowing that you’ll be able to pay your friend back someday.
Scenario #2 – A Friend Compliments You
A friend compliments you. It could be something as simple as “You look beautiful” or “Great job on that project.” And you respond by brushing it off, minimizing it, disagreeing with it, or feeling the need to immediately compliment them back.
Scenario #3 – A Friend Helps You
During a busy season of life, a friend offers some practical help – to run errands for you, drop by with a meal, help out around the house, or babysit your kids for the night. Although you recognize that you need help, you decline and say, “It’s okay. I can handle it. It’s just a little hectic right now.”
Have you been here before? A friend offers to pay for you, or you are complimented, or someone offers you some practical help, yet you feel that you just can’t accept it? You feel uncomfortable or like you need to contribute something. And in one way or another, you decline it. Or accept it reluctantly.
Our Response to Grace
These may be simple moments but our response in them makes us ask: What is it about receiving grace that is so hard? These small moments are revealing. We simply have trouble receiving grace.
If we have trouble accepting an occasional free lunch or a compliment from a person, how much more trouble do we have accepting the grace of God? How hard is it for us to accept God’s grace when we fail or when we sin? If we struggle accepting grace on a human level, then how are we doing at accepting grace from our Father in Heaven?
Our response in these moments of grace says something about the default position of our heart. It shows a lack of humility to simply accept what was said or done for you. It shows a certain kind of pride, or self-sufficiency, or works-based mentality that says, “No, please, let me pay. Let me contribute something. I can do it.”
Our response reveals that we have trouble receiving help and receiving grace.
The Immeasurable Riches of His Grace
Now consider your relationship with God. While you were dead in sin, God gave His Son for you. He gave you forgiveness. He gave you eternal life. He gave you his Spirit. He gave you a new family, the Church. He gave you his word. He gave you love, hope, joy, peace, and so much grace that it will take you all eternity to grasp. Yes, all eternity. Read what Paul says in Ephesians:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:4-8).
Don’t glance over that all-too-familiar passage too quickly. "In the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace." It will take all eternity to soak in the lavish grace of God. It’s that abundant. We will be enjoying His grace for all eternity, but we struggle accepting it now, don’t we?
Grow in Grace
Grace is our daily food. Peter’s last command in the New Testament sums up the Christian life, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Grow in grace. Growth in the Christian life is growth in grace – in receiving grace and giving grace. For many servant-hearted people, it is a real struggle to be served and accept grace. Whether we sin, succeed, serve, or are served, we need to learn to accept help from others and accept His grace. Even in the normal, simple moments of life of receiving a gift, a kind word, a free meal, or help from a friend … we must recognize that these are gifts of grace from God and respond with simple, humble gratitude. Any other response shows that we are having trouble accepting grace and shows that we still want to earn it or pay for it or contribute something.
We all need help and grace every day. Thankfully, there is nothing more abundant in the universe than God’s grace. God is not begrudging with His grace. He joyfully gives it. Whether through His Word, a simple gift, a kind word, or act of service, there are countless moments each day in which God is pouring out His love and grace to us.
So accept it. Receive it. You’ll be doing it for all eternity.
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)