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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Growing in Grace

I have misunderstood grace. I have always thought that grace was something that I would believe that grace was good in every moment. I have thought it was something I would long for a hope would never pass. But grace is much greater than my ability to discern its goodness or its duration.
Grace is sometimes the hardest thing that you can go through. It is the loss of a job, the criticism from people with whom you are doing your best or condemnation when you desperately believe you need encouragement.
I thought I wanted to be a Baptist Student Ministries Director on a college campus. I worked toward that end. I entered seminary as a part-time director. That was a very discouraging year. The year ended with one someone from the state office chewing out all of the part-time directors for an hour and forty-five minutes. He said that we should do something else (other than becoming directors) if we could. He was absolutely right. I quit soon after that meeting. It was God’s grace though I didn’t recognize it at the time. (This does not mean that his actions toward us were godly. God uses the ungodly to accomplish His grace. This is also a hard lesson to learn.)
So many people talk about surrendering to the call of the ministry. They act as if it is God’s punishment. I will admit that there are times when it is so difficult that it seems to be punishment. I have often tried to leave the ministry but God would give me no peace in my efforts. The calling into the ministry is an act of God’s grace. It is a great privilege. It is the hardest work you will ever do when it is done at God’s call. (I have worked in oil field supply, been a school teacher, bank teller and farm laborer. I have worked from the from the rising of the sun to way passed its setting. I have worked from the setting of the sun until way passed its rising. I have known other work. There is nothing harder than the ministry. Yet, there is nothing more rewarding to those who have been called into it.) 
The ministry never releases you when you take a day off. It remains on your heart at all times. Those who treat it as a job are not called. They simply have a job that involves ministry. Those who are called know that God is the center of their lives at all times. He is the heart of who they are. Nothing comes from them unless it flows through them from Him. Both the calling and the walking in the ministry of the gospel is an expression of God’s grace.
The hard things are often produce the greatest evidences of God’s grace in my life. Life does not guarantee success. Sometimes success fails to appear even when everything is done right. Grace is present even in the most severe defeat. It is still working on the hearts of those who love the Lord even when they can’t see Him. It is still accomplishing His pleasure when the believer feels no pleasure.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each of these requires grace. Each of these is proved by a testing with fire. Each of these is formed in a furnace. This fruit becomes rare because of the avoidance of the difficulties required to grow this fruit. We turn from the grace of God find ourselves no more than we can produce in ourselves. We accept the difficult things and discover they are the grace of God because we see the fruit produced in our lives.
The Apostle Paul said that he was called by grace. This grace blinded him, stoned him, imprisoned him, shipwrecked him and had him called names by those he was trying to reach. Yet, he saw it as grace. If he did, then so must I.
Grace is what God is making me.
Romans 1:1-6 (ESV)
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of the name among all the nations including who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

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