The WORD of the Day:
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work."
--II Thessalonians 2:16-17
Let Me Give You a Lift:
The book of II Thessalonians is a letter from Paul to one of the First Century churches. The church at Thessalonica had a special place in Paul's heart, because it is one of the churches that he helped establish during his missionary journeys. He knew the people he was writing to, and the book contains several personal blessings like the one above. The letter is one of praise for good work, and encouragement to keep pressing on; sort of a First Century "keep up the good work" message.
Many of Paul's blessings follow a two-part formula similar to the one above, in which he says 'this is my prayer for you, and this is why I know God will be faithful to answer it.' Here, Paul is praying that God will comfort and strengthen his brethren, while reminding those brethren that God loves them and has given them the gift of hope through Christ by grace.
So what is grace? Grace is one of those theological terms that all Christians grow up using and have an inherent sense of, but sometimes have a hard time explaining to others. I've heard a friend say before that explaining grace is like trying to explain the air; we know it's there, but how do we put it into words?
What you will hear some people say about grace is that it is "unmerited favor" or “undeserved kindness” from God. Basically, the kind of graciousness people show to each other, only applied to God. The verse most often pointed to in illustrating this “unmerited favor” is John 3:16, where Jesus says:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
But “unmerited favor” really only reflects the first half of that verse: God gave us Jesus because He loves us. No one deserved it, but God did it anyway. That is what happened. But grace is not what happened, grace is the byproduct: because Jesus died, we all have the opportunity to live! So there must be something more.
The Greek word we translate as “grace” is “charis.” According to Strong's Exhaustive Bible Concordance, charis means:
the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude.
Now we are on to something. Grace is not just the offering of a gift we don’t deserve. Grace occurs when we accept the gift. When we allow our hearts to be filled and our lives to be changed, when we are transformed by God—that is grace. And gratitude is a natural byproduct.
So why do we need to understand what grace means? I can think of two important reasons. First, all of the other gifts from God—love, comfort, strength, hope—are part and parcel to that “divine influence upon the heart.” We will never truly understand the magnitude of God until we understand grace.
Secondly, we are called to show grace to other people, and in order to do that, we must understand what grace is. Jesus taught us to love our enemies, to refrain from judging people, and to be a good neighbor. In one sense that is giving others “unmerited favor,” but in a much deeper sense, we are showing other people the divine influence God has on our hearts by how we live our lives.
Give it a Listen:
Today's song is "The Lost Get Found" by Britt Nicole. It's a song about how sometimes we can get discouraged when we aren't sure how to make a difference (or even if what we do matters). The message is, everything we do affects someone, even when we don't know it. My favorite line: "don't be afraid to stand out, that's how the lost get found."