GRACE: Unusual Strength by Philip John

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Another sermon from my father-in-law Philip John, at Ashraya Church in South India.

GRACEunusual strength

We hear the word GRACE quite often. In fact too often, don’t we? How are you? By God’s grace I am well. By God’s grace my business is prospering. By God’s grace I was able to pass the exam. We hear it so often that it sounds like a cliché. But in actual fact GRACE is supernatural.

The word GRACE is mentioned 133 times in the Bible of which 125 are in the New Testament. When we read this amazing book we realize that the word GRACE is associated with Jesus Christ. In last week’s presentation we heard Mike quote the words of Apostle John – ‘For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’. John 1:17

GRACE as we know means unmerited or undeserved favor. While there are many facets to GRACE the one that I want to present to you is the aspect of unusual strength given to us by God to accomplish tasks which otherwise would have been impossible for us to do.

Why do we need this strength?
a. to conquer sin
b. to accomplish more
c. to handle tough times

a. Conquer Sin
We develop habits along the way. Quite often these are substitutes for the love that we crave for. Not knowing how to have a life of peace and joy we end up doing things that give us temporary relief or satisfaction. These turn into negative habits or weaknesses. And these negative habits get ingrained into our character and soon this begins to affect us or someone we love. We call that sin.

Let me give you some examples:
If it offends another person (e.g., lying / being unfaithful to one’s spouse)
If it is harmful to one’s health (smoking / dependence on alcohol, drugs etc.)
If we do unfair practices at work or
If we indulgence ourselves while neglecting the poor.

When sinful habits become ingrained the devil tempts you in the very areas of your weakness. And you fall again and again. You hear the accusing voice saying – you are no good, you are a slave to this sin, and you will never be able to get out. And you say – well I’ve tried and failed many times and I can’t get out. Maybe it’s ok or maybe I am born like this – when I look around there are so many people doing it also – so let me join others who practice these things. In fact I should join the others to fight for our right to make our life-style choice acceptable to the world. So I don’t look disrespectable.

For instance, people who become trapped by the gay life-style want to live that way and are working hard to make it accepted by the world.

Some people believe abortions are ok. They don’t see it as killing babies. They call it ‘pro choice’. This stand has more or less been accepted by the world. They have heart rending arguments to justify their view point. The poor child would have been left homeless or deprived – this way we are putting it out of it’s misery! These are just a couple of examples but there are countless more.

Then there are illegal and unrighteous ways of making money. Some run brothels, others run gambling dens. Recently we read about some politicians making money by using their wives’ and children’s passports to smuggle people illegally into other countries. When arrested the man said – I did this for my bread and butter! Nobody seemed shocked. We have become immune.

Such things are accepted by the world system. Do it but don’t get caught is the motto. And even if you do get caught we have a legal system that will take care of it.

It is clear that the world system runs counter to God’s laws and when we live according to the world’s system we break God’s laws and suffer the consequences of it. When we come to the realization that there is a better way and if according to God’s promises we seek first the “kingdom of God and it’s righteousness, everything will be added”. Simply put this means – Do things right and all your needs will be more than adequately met! God gives us unusual strength – his supernatural ability to do so!

Even though we took the ‘law into our own hands’ and did things our way the good news is that through Jesus, God has given us unusual strength to get out of whatever we choose to get out of!

Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4: 6 &-7

Mind you, God does not make the choice – you do! He gives us the ability to fulfill that choice.

b. Accomplish More

Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of themyet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Cor 15:10

When we rely on God’s strength we are able to accomplish much more. The verse does say that we must play our partI worked harder than all of them. We cannot be lazy and expect God’s GRACE to kick in. However even the desire to work hard is because of God’s GRACE. Paul recognizes that his achievements were due to God’s GRACE and acknowledges it! We should do so too.

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times; having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Cor.9:8

When we rely on God’s GRACE we will not lack anything! What an assurance?!

c. Handle Tough Times

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me (explain). But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong! 2 Cor 12:7-10

Everyone goes through difficult situations in life. This is often due to a combination of factors. As we mentioned earlier God has established a ‘code of conduct’ to ensure that the world is governed in an orderly manner and man leads a healthy and enjoyable life. You may suffer poor health because you have not taken care of your body. Incorrect eating, no exercise, late nights and little sleep and soon you are a candidate for a heart attack. You did not follow God’s laws and have to suffer the consequences.

However, sometimes we suffer because of circumstances beyond your control. Some are born with a defect or suffer the consequences of an accident. Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ seems to be some ill health he suffered from. He soon realized that he received unusual strength (God’s grace) to overcome his physical handicap but also handle to weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. He held on to God’s promise – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and saw it working in his life.

My wife and I know what it is to have this kind of GRACE having suffered quite a few times in our lives. Sometimes these sufferings were the result of wrong choices but on many occasions it seemed that we had no control over them. We have suffered excruciating pain but with tears in our eyes we can say with faith and conviction that “God’s Grace carried us through. His grace has been sufficient for us!”

How do I receive Unusual Strength?

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem
a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. Zech.12:10

The prophet Zechariah lived around 520 BC and spoke these words. At that time none understood it’s meaning. But later events showed that he had spoken about Jesus.

If I acknowledge that I have fallen short of God’s standard and followed the ways of the world and accept God’s forgiveness because Jesus paid the price on my behalf and believe that he rose from the dead, I am automatically empowered with that GRACE that Zechariah spoke of. However, I still have to make the right choices. What is assured is God’s strength to accomplish the choice I make. Earlier, we would make those choices but failed because we did not have the GRACE but in Christ we have been given that unusual strength to complete what we set out to do.

Our Part

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Do you want to?

6th May 2007

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