- ABOUT US
- Calendar and News
- READING PLAN
- The Chosen
God’s Sustaining Grace
It seems that many people are going through so much. It’s really unbelievable. It ranges from those with a wide variety of illnesses to those whose stress levels have reached so high they’re one tick away from a heart attack.
And let’s not forget about those whose emotions are out of control and are turning to drugs or alcohol for relief, or so they think.
People today are going through what some have affectionately or not so affectionately called, “The Ringer.” Maybe you can relate.
What we need to get us through to the end of this race, this journey called life, is God’s sustaining grace.
The Apostle Paul brings this out in his letter to the Philippian Church.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 NKJV)
In this opening section of Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church, Paul gives what be considered as the distinguishing characteristics of a Christian, including a thankful heart, a consistent and joyful prayer life, having a loving fellowship with other believers, discernment combined with compassion, righteousness, and the confident assurance of God’s grace to see us through.
Paul said that it was the Lord who began this good work, and He will complete it, making us more into the image of Jesus Christ until that day when we will be with Him.
When we open up our hearts and allow Jesus entry, then heaven will be our eventual home, and there is absolutely no doubt about it.
This is something Paul knew well and used the analogy of a fight and race to reveal its truth.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8a NKJV)
Like Paul, we too can depend upon this promise, that when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we’ll cross the finish line with heaven and an eternity with God on the other side.
Unfortunately, what happens is that we try to get to heaven based upon our own efforts, based upon our own performance standards. The bad thing about this methodology is that we have no certainty of the outcome. How will we know when we have enough?
The Good News, the gospel message of Jesus Christ, rests entirely on God’s sustaining grace.
The only question becomes is how will we finish the race?
Some people finish the race well, some poorly, yet they still finish. My goal is not only to finish the race well, but also to get as many people across the finish line that I can where they will likewise hear the Lord say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV)
The important thing to remember is that it is the Lord who will give us the strength to finish this race. It’s the power God gives to us to keep on keeping on when we feel like quitting. It’s the power to do what is right, when doing wrong is so much easier. It’s God’s sustaining grace.
In this race, there are many pitfalls and things that can cause us to stumble, but no matter what comes our way, no matter what trials assail us, it is God’s sustaining grace that will see us through.
What I’d like to do is to take some time to look at a couple areas that causes us to stumble, and then look at how God’s sustaining grace can help.
1. Through Times of Temptations
Temptations are one major area that causes us to stumble and fall.
The Apostle Peter said,
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NKJV)
Today this might read, “Be careful in how you live, because Satan is out to eat your lunch, but if you stand firm in what you believe, then he’ll have nothing to hold on to, and don’t think you’re the only one going through it, so is everyone else.”
The moment we become believers, a battle starts. And that’s because we ‘re no longer Satan’s property, and he doesn’t like to lose what he has invested so heavily in. So a battle begins for our soul. Satan’s sets up temptations to make us fall. These are those choices, “Will we do right or wrong, good or bad? Will we be selfish or giving?”
The question isn’t whether we’re going to be tempted, that’s a given. Rather, the question is when and how that temptation is going to come. Even Jesus was tempted the same way we are, but He never succumbed to them.
And this reveals a very interesting distinction, that temptation isn’t a sin. It only becomes a sin when we give into it.
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15 NKJV)
Notice it says that our desires are what cause these temptations. What this means is that Satan puts inside our heads all these crazy ideas. Now, we don’t need to be ashamed, because they’re not sin, not yet, not until we start acting on them.
This is a novel idea for many, because we continually keep ourselves under bondage thinking, “How could I have ever thought that, I must be an evil person.” But these temptations are not sin.
Someone said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
When Larry King asked Billy Graham about how he remained untouched by scandal, Graham replied by quoting this Scripture.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV)
This is what sustaining grace is all about. What it says is that God will never allow within our lives more temptations than what we can handle, and with these temptations provides a way to escape.
However, a lot of people say that God has given them more than they can bear, and when the Bible clearly states that God doesn’t, they say, “He hasn’t in my case.”
But God doesn’t lie, and if God says that He doesn’t give us more than what we can handle, and provides a way of escape, then that is a truth we can count on.
Our problem is that we don’t like the way God has provided. We want to do it our way, and that is why things keep getting worse. But to do it God’s way is to get back to the Bible and let the Lord show us the way.
The second way God’s sustaining grace helps is
2. Through Times of Tiredness
We’re just tired. In fact many of us are exhausted. It takes a lot of energy to do what is right, therefore we tend to slack off and do only enough to get by.
Maybe to say it another way, we begin to coast. Have you ever notice that no one can coast uphill, or for very long on level ground? Coasting only takes place where we’re going downhill. But doing what’s right, to grow and mature, is an uphill grade that takes energy.
Further, the reason why doing what’s right is so tiring is that we are going against the flow of society and culture, which says that good is evil and evil is good.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
Where can we get the power to do what is right and not coast so that we can cross the finish line and hear, “Well done good and faithful servant?”
Well it’s not in our own power.
The reason why so many people are tired when it comes to their walk with God is because they’re trying to do it in their own power. They try to be good, to keep the Ten Commandments, to be righteous. They try, try, and try again, and it’s wearing them out.
The Lord said that it’s not by our own power or ability, but rather it’s all through and by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah 4:6.
At this point I’d like to present a novel idea that will revolutionize our walk with God. Instead of trying to be like Jesus, let Jesus be Jesus in us.
In other words, stop trying and start trusting.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13 NKJV)
It’s not about our will power, rather it’s about the will and power of God that gives us the strength to accomplish His kingdom purposes. You see, God never asks us to do something He hasn’t given us the power to do. So we have to quit trying and start trusting, and let Jesus be Jesus in us.
And finally the last area that God’s sustaining grace helps us is
3. Through Times of Trouble
When we can’t fix the problem, solve life’s riddles, or change the circumstances; then we need to call out for God’s grace.
What we need to understand is that we can’t control everything that happens in life. We can’t control who our parents are, nor can we control where or when we were born, or where or when we’re going to die, and basically everything in the middle.
And the reason is because we’re not God; we’re not in control. The only place we can turn, therefore, is to God’s sustaining grace. The question is “how?”
A. Cry Out To God
This is what King David was doing, because he was finding himself in situations that were beyond his control. He cried out to God to help deliver him from life’s trials and tribulations.
We’re incapable of delivering ourselves, and so we have to start relying on God and His grace.
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:6-8a NKJV)
I absolutely love what he says, that God gives more grace. But notice who gets the grace; those who are humble and admit they can’t do it on their own.
B. Get God’s Word Inside
The Bible is remarkable. It comforts, strengthens, fills, soothes, and gives us the energy to keep going. So we have to get God’s word planted inside. We have to read it or hear it spoken every day. We need to get God’s word inside our hearts and lives.
When the Psalmist was discouraged he asked God to revive him by His word.
“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:25 NKJV)
God’s word has proven itself to be trustworthy when everything else has failed.
What I find somewhat amusing is that Psychic Friends Network filed for bankruptcy. Their lawyer said, “They apparently made some bad decisions due to some unforeseen circumstances.”
Wait a second; shouldn’t they have seen these? Shouldn’t they have seen it coming?
Instead of going to tarot cards, astrology, or horoscopes to find out what’s happening, we need to get into God’s word, which is reliable, and allow God’s word to get into us.
C. Get Into Fellowship
The importance of small groups cannot be overlooked, and it is through small groups that I first began to grow.
The Bible says,
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
It is in these small groups that we can get the feedback and support when crisis comes. Soon we’ll be starting some more small groups here at Living Waters.
D. Hold Onto God’s Promises
Did you know there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible? So we need to keep our eye on the prize, we need to keep focused on the hope and promises of God, especially the promise of heaven.
Heaven is where we can experience what some call “The land of no mores.” No more problems, no more sorrows, no more sadness, grief, or messed up lives. Therefore we need to hold onto these promises, and God’s sustaining grace well see us through.
Where are you? Where do you need God’s sustaining grace? Are you discouraged and feel like giving up? Are you being pounded by temptations? Are you tired and weary? Are there troubles in your life that you just can’t seem to fix?
Let God’s sustaining grace see you through. This is what Paul counted on to get him through.
“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NKJV)
God’s grace is sufficient to meet our every need, so when we find ourselves going through the “Ringer,” through something that has got us down and out, or that somehow we just can’t fix, let’s not give up; rather let’s look up, for God’s grace is waiting.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study