Hope and Grace
Love always hopes–1 Corinthians 13:7.
My mother fought hard for relationships that were threatening to break. As a member of the Body of Christ, she considered it her personal responsibility to fight to preserve “oneness.” She avoided gossip like the plague, but when she learned of trouble brewing in a marriage or any relationship in the church, her mama bear instincts kicked in to protect that part of the Body from severing. She reached out, asked questions, listened, prayed, offered assistance, and reassured the wounded that there is always hope.
I’m not sure my mother ever thought about what her spiritual gift was. Maybe the apostle Paul—and the rest of us—might assign her the category of “encouraging” and “showing mercy” (see Romans 12:3-9).
My mother was quiet. You may have rarely noticed her. Preparing meals; sewing sundresses; cleaning closets; inviting little ones to discover silent treasures inside her “church bag,” which caused a joyful hush in her pew every Sunday morning—none of these things drew attention to herself, but all of these things blessed the Body of Christ. When no one needs credit, Christ gets it instead.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us–Romans 12:6a.
We all want our gifts to be received graciously, even it if we don’t “hit the ball out of the park” every time we offer our gift. Is it okay with you that people “have different gifts, according to the grace given?” Is it okay with you that that brothers and sisters in your church, members of your very own Body, may offer those gifts with differing amounts of faith?
Some gifts are quieter, but who’s to say how much faith it may take to persevere in them?
Grace is the glue that keeps me—and the Church—together. We are truly one Body only when we pour grace out abundantly over each other.
Whether all eyes are on you as you offer your gift or no one sees your sacrifice, you belong. Let’s hold onto hope and keep fighting this good fight of faith together. Let’s live by the grace given to us so every member knows that they belong.
I struggle with legalism.
I struggle with pride.
I struggle with wanting everything to look good, whether or not it is on the inside.
But God is constantly pulling me into grace.
Merriam-Webster defines grace as unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification. It’s getting something—Someone—I don’t deserve. Grace is what picked me up from a broken, dirty state of selfishness and restored me.
I was made new in the eyes of God, even when I couldn’t quite see it myself.
Grace is not given just once; it’s received daily.
Grace is the divine assistance I’m given to accomplish anything I face in this life. Grace allows me to let go of my selfishness, and to pursue His Holiness.
“Through [Jesus] we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations” (Rom. 1:5, ESV).
“For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16, ESV).
No matter how much I strive, I didn’t earn grace and I can’t sustain it.
My mistakes aren’t surprises or forks in the road to Jesus.
Ultimately, my mistakes are reminders of how important and costly His grace really is. I am reminded of this in Galatians 3:1–6:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Grace is the divine power, the finished work, the substance of what we believe by faith. I need grace daily, and my God is so faithful to give it when I ask.
The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize how costly and miraculous His grace is.
When I’m asked to show grace to others—real, sacrificial grace—I often don’t want to. Everything in me tenses up, and I want to point to all the reasons why it doesn’t make sense.
Then I remember: “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8b).
Jesus, you’re still making me new. What amazing grace!
#Fail: Now What?
“This is my story. This is my song,” are lines from the hymn “Blessed Assurance.”
Peter’s #Fail Story
Remember Peter, before Jesus’ arrest? Jesus had said, “Satan has asked permission to sift you as wheat. I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned, strengthen the others.” (See Luke 22:14–33.)
Peter’s reaction? “I’ll never deny you. I’ll go with you unto death.”
Jesus knew better. Within hours, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, let alone admitting to loving this man he’d trailed for three years. Peter, and the other disciples with him, failed. Feared. Fled. They locked themselves away, where one night, Peter said, brilliantly, “Let’s go fishing” (John 21:1–13).
Fishing? Didn’t they leave those nets to follow Jesus?
Right. That life segment ended badly. Plan B became Plan A, and off they trundled, shaking out their nets and casting them into the waters. One long dark night in a rocking boat…these former fishermen fished. All night. And they caught nothing.
Plan B. #Fail. Plan A. #Fail. Now what?
When the sun rose, silhouetted in the shadows stood a man. “Haven’t you any fish?”
Busted. More #Fail.
But wait. At the man’s command, the washed-up fishermen again threw in their nets, hauling in such a huge mess of fish it made history. There on the beach, Jesus invited Peter and company to breakfast—into relationship, into forgiveness, into calling.
It’s there that Peter’s song and story changed.
Unless we know the backstory, his future successes—thousands of people added to the Church, passion, death threats, courage, conversion—seem overwhelming and unattainable. Only the superstars, the #Success people, experience such astounding triumph. Not true.
Peter’s accomplishments are most meaningful in the context of his greatest failure.
The “if-onlys” of failure riddle all of our lives. If only I hadn’t made that mistake, failed in that relationship, dropped that ball, betrayed that person. If only.
Failure became part of Peter’s story—the part that gave him credibility to “strengthen the others.” Without failure, forgiveness is not applicable. What’s to forgive? Resurrection means nothing. Breakfast on the beach, that miracle of sustenance and provision, is just a nice picnic.
Without the #Fail, who could relate to Peter? But because of it, others witnessed the power of Christ in and through him. Transformed from someone who feared, failed, fled—into someone inviting people to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
#Fail. It’s a great common denominator among all who dress in skin and bones. But when failure leads to forgiveness, to a turning point over a charcoal fire at sunrise, when we deserve nothing—our stories offer others hope.
What’s your story, your song, your past imperfections, your present forgiveness? Where have you failed, been found, been forgiven?
“I have prayed for you”—not that you will not fail. Because you will. “I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned, strengthen the others.”
#Fail. #Success. The ultimate turnaround.
Turns out, we are super qualified. And that story will sing.
This article was adapted from the original published in Indeed magazine, March/April 2018. © 2018 Jane Rubietta. All rights reserved.
Jane Rubietta loves words and the Word. She is a Master Instructor and coach, speaks internationally, and is the author of 20 books. Her newest release is her debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis. See JaneRubietta.com for more information.
Peace In the Valley
My family lived on the tiny Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire where my parents worked with Trans World Radio.
When Dad accepted a senior pastorate position at a small Spanish-speaking church that had been without a pastor for some time, we moved to south Florida. Dad was determined to reach out to older members who hadn’t attended for some time, develop the church’s leadership, and make new contacts.
Within four months, the average Sunday attendance had nearly doubled. Everything seemed to be going well—until Dad stopped sleeping.
One day, mom was more than an hour late to pick us up from school; I was in eleventh grade and my sister in ninth. Eventually, one of our relatives picked us up and drove us to the hospital.
Dad’s lack of sleep had provoked a severe anxiety attack, causing his blood pressure to shoot through the roof, requiring immediate medical care. There we were in the hospital room of one of the strongest, most daring men I knew. Our sole family provider and the spiritual leader of our home lay trembling, panicked, tears in his eyes. He was being force-fed his medication like a child because he refused to take them.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I didn’t understand how deeply the situation was breaking my heart. It has been nearly 16 years since that day, and my father still struggles with depression and anxiety. We recently thought his condition was behind us, but dad was again hospitalized a few months ago, nearly 10 years since his last severe episode.
It has been a hard, long walk for my father, sometimes a crawl through the dark, life-sapping valley of anxiety and depression. It still is.
A couple of years into this season of my father’s health struggles, one of my college professors said, “When one member of the family is hurting, the whole family unit hurts.” It was then that I realized for the first time that my father was not the only one in the valley—we were (and are) all there with him, heartbroken and wrestling with our own fears and questions.
Yet, in this valley is where Christ has so tangibly manifested Himself as the faithful Shepherd who comforts and leads us beside restful waters. It is here that our family has come to know the good, good Father who fathers the orphan—who has been a loving Husband to the widow when dad has been unwell.
Here in this valley, the Lord has been teaching me how to pray—with thanksgiving rather than being swept up in my own anxieties. And I have experienced the transcending peace of God that “guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Even in the most frightening and darkest moments of our lives, the Lord’s nearness is palpable (although at times it has taken me a while to realize it). I have no doubt that He is working all things together for our good and our sanctification. Here in this valley, He is with us, and He is our peace.