Saved by the grace of God
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Devotional text: Titus 3:7
The grace of God has been the subject of this series as we lead into the season of Lent. Last week, I discussed the meaning of God’s grace as it pertains to salvation of humankind, the grace of God that shows favor upon his people and draws us to him for eternal life as we trust in the Messiah, Jesus.
This week, I am continuing along these same thoughts, expanding on the scope of God’s saving grace and what it means for us today.
Explaining the grace of God (his everlasting favor toward us), we first continue with Paul’s letter to the Roman believers. Reading the scripture from Romans 3:22-24, we find that as believers in Jesus we gain righteousness from God. Paul explains to us that we are all the same before God for “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We become justified as a free gift from God through his grace, imparted upon us as believers. Therefore, we owe salvation to the grace of God, who brings us to Jesus, and sets us on his path of becoming righteous people.
Continuing with the knowledge of God’s grace as we come into righteousness and justification through Jesus, Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 6:11-14 that having faith in Christ is what releases us from our sinful natures.
As believers, we want to do what is good and right and helpful for ourselves and all others. God helps us to become such people as we become new persons in Christ, no longer self-willed, but God-willed. This means we seek to follow God’s great commandment: loving God with all our being and loving all others as ourselves.
In 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, Paul writes about boasting of one another’s faith in Jesus and what that meant for the people of his time, as it does for us. He speaks about God’s grace reaching “more and more people.”
In these scriptures, he reminds us that although we have troubles of one kind or another, we also know that the eternal glory of God within us shines brightly over and through the difficult times. He reminds us when going through tough times to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
It’s not unusual that Paul and his companions (such as Timothy and Barnabas) speak often concerning difficult times. They were beaten for speaking about Jesus, thrown in prison, humiliated and tortured. Yet, they kept their eyes on Jesus, the eternal light of their lives that would never fade for any reason. They sang praises to God while incarcerated. They continued to spread the gospel of Christ though they were beaten and stoned. Their hearts were full of thanksgiving to the Lord, whether they were living in blessed times or times of anguish, because they understood the temporariness of their situations and knew the glory of the eternal.
We can learn so much from the writers of the New Testament, as they laid out their lives before us in honesty. They believed. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. They could smile, while others might be screaming or depressed. They knew, deep down inside their very being, that God’s grace saves.
In today’s world, so many want instant results, instant healing, instant transformation from bad to good. That’s all right. It’s human nature not to want to suffer. It is human nature to try to get through difficult times as quickly as possible. However, it is not usually the way things happen in the world.
We become sick. It takes time to heal. Sometimes, it takes a lot of time. We go through stages of healing and even have times of returning to anguish and pain. Is God with us? Yes. Does God make his presence known to us? Yes, often through wonderful, caring people.
Natural disasters strike. We lose our homes, our property, almost our lives. Has God left us at such times? Does God take away his grace? He does not. He has promised to be with his people always. He has shored us up with his grace through our faith in him.
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like God is truly there. Sometimes, we need to be patient in waiting for our lives to turn for the better. It doesn’t mean that God is punishing us; it doesn’t mean that God has left us. However — yes, there is a however — God does want us to believe that we live under God’s grace, always. It doesn’t do us any good to turn away from God and then wonder where God has gone. God hasn’t left us; but sometimes we leave God.
As we look at the message of the New Testament to believers, we see example after example of God’s grace (loving favor). As Paul wrote to the Philippians in chapter 1, he gave thanks for the believers in Philippi because they grew confident in their belief and were full of great joy in the Lord.
In 1:7, he told the believers that, whether he was in prison or out spreading the gospel, he also shared the growing love of fellow believers living and growing in the grace of God.
In a recent conversation with a woman from my church, we talked about her daughter’s search for employment. She had been praying God would lead her to just the right job for her gifts and talents. A recent college grad, her search was slow going. And then, something happened that renewed her faith and hope in God’s grace.
So often, it is in the little, but remarkable, things that take place before our very eyes that awaken us to God’s presence.
Here is her story. It was a typical wintry day in the northeast; Emily was vising friends in New Jersey. It was 40 degrees outside. Bundled in her winter coat, she walked through a nearby park and came to a bench where she sat down to rest in the coolness of nature around her. As she relaxed, she took a book out of her purse and opened it to read a little bit. That’s when it happened. A beautiful, and healthy, monarch butterfly landed on the page before her.
Now, I don’t know about you, but don’t butterflies winter in the warmth of Mexico? What was this one, flitting about on a cold winter’s day, doing in a park in New Jersey?
Three times the monarch came and landed on the page of her book, until after the third time it finally departed. The young girl, with tears in her eyes, saw this remarkable event as a gift from God, letting her know his presence and care for her.
It is so often in these small and unexpected, but delightful, happenings that God gets our attention.
For Emily, on that day, she knew God’s grace through a monarch butterfly. It’s an example of what our God is like, sending one of his creatures in moments of solitude to give us hope.