Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Greatest Regret

A sentence I read in a book by Kay Arthur* has really been on my mind the past few days. She said, “Failure to allow His (God’s) grace to labor through us in all of its power—this will be our greatest regret.”

Now, after all of the Precept classes and training seminars taught by Precept Ministries that I have attended through the years, the word “greatest” really got my attention. When studying scripture, I was taught to be very aware of “absolute” words in the text such as—all, every, never, forever, none and the like. These words have extremely strong inferences but since we use them so often in our everyday language we forget the powerful punch they really have. So when Mrs. Arthur herself uses the word “greatest”, I was stopped in my tracks to ponder over what point she was so adamantly trying to make.

“Failure to allow His grace to labor through us in all of its power”.

Failure” is a strong word in and of itself, isn’t it. I have quite a competitive spirit. (Just ask my husband for stories about our competing against one another at racquetball in college—not a pretty sight! The teacher separated us after awhile and wouldn’t let us pair up again because he was afraid it would result in us calling off our engagement. :) I don’t want to fail at anything. I like to conquer and win. I want to achieve what I was after. Failing at something isn’t about being passive and just hoping all will work out in the end. Failing suggests an attempt or effort was needed or made, but that there was a deficiency. There is nothing passive about failure.

to allow”...the word “allow” means to grant, give or yield (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). Again, this word is action oriented, not passive like it may at first sound. I don’t just watch as I fail in this area, I choose to yield or not. I choose to grant God access and authority or not.

His grace” cannot be defined thoroughly here today. There is the grace that leads to salvation (Titus 2:11) and the grace of God that keeps us (Romans 5:1-2). Faith and grace are inseparable. You cannot be full of faith if you are not standing in and appropriating God’s grace. Grace is active, alive and completely necessary for the Christian life each and every day and for each and every circumstance and for each and every encounter with others! We either walk in His grace or in our own imperfect, limited sufficiency.

to labor through me” is allowing God and His will to be manifested in my life. “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” Philippians 2:13.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” 1 Corinthians 15:10

in all of its power”. Sit and imagine for a minute how powerful grace must be since it is God’s grace! No thing—substance or measure—can be lacking in the grace of God! It is not possible! What powerful grace wants to labor through us? The grace that can perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish me (1 Peter 5:10). The grace that gives me power, love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). The grace that powers a holy calling within me, “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” (2 Timothy 1:9) The grace that saves me through faith helps me walk in the good works that God prepared for me before creating creation (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Yes, His grace has to be sufficient. It cannot be anything less. I am weak! No doubt about that one! I am weak and just a smidgeon of His powerful grace can no doubt perfect the weakness of this vessel. But...But...only if I “allow” or yield my will to that of my Father’s.

So, will this be “our greatest regret”? Will we choose to have His grace poured out on us in vain or will we appropriate it. We don’t earn grace, but we have to appropriate it by faith. The woman who lives with God’s grace working through her is the woman who lives by faith.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” Romans 1:17

Yes, I believe if I fail to live a life of faith that in turn appropriates God’s powerful grace in my life, I believe that would be my greatest regret. How much God has planned for my life, for my testimony, for His glory would be lost? The lives my life touches will be affected by this failure, this shortage—my husband, my children, my church, my neighbors, my family, my friends...

I have been me long enough to realize that I am weak and needy. I want to be full of strength and full of grace so that I have no need that God cannot meet. I want nothing of this world. If anything, I want to “fail” at allowing this world to have its power over me. I readily admit to failure on that one, but by God’s grace, I keep trying!

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

"this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it." 1 Peter 5:12b

Don’t give up, friends! Keep seeking! Keep yielding! Keep standing! Keep appropriating!

Live your life without regret!

(*"Lord, I Need Grace to Make It Today"; Waterbrook Press, 2000; pg 166)