As a young believer, I found myself corralling grace into a corner — by grace I have been saved. Conversion was the theological boundary of grace in my mind. By it, I was adopted into God’s family and granted the future hope of heaven, but surely, the hard work — the blood, sweat, and tears — of living for Jesus depended on my strength and ability.
In writing to the Ephesian church, Paul understood the strong human desire to boast, but before he points out the sheer grace that saves all believers, he provides a stunning account of the spiritual blessings that we are granted in Christ — indeed, the grace of God extends far beyond only plucking us from hell!
In Ephesians 1, Paul sings praise to God for His grace in choosing us, redeeming us, adopting and forgiving us. He goes on, giving thanks for the grace of the Holy Spirit’s presence in us, the grace of growing in wisdom and knowing Christ. God’s grace not only saves us but also opens the door for us to know Christ with greater intimacy.
This is good news: The grace of God that saved me once sustains me now. Rather than patches of parched land, His grace covers the landscape of my life, and what a holy covering it is.
The beauty of God’s sustaining grace has moved off the pages of my theology textbooks and spread into every corner of my life. For the past few years, we have been losing my father to a disease that is slowly crippling both his body and his brain. This season of prolonged grief and loss continues to show me that grace is not just a divine response for help. As I care for my father, the gift of grace characterizes countless moments throughout my day.
Grace is the precious time I’ve been given with my dad in the face of death. Grace is the encouragement of friends when I’m confused and overwhelmed. Grace is a long peaceful walk, a smile from my dad, contagious laughter with my sister. God’s grace meets me in my tears and in my joy. His grace sustains me. His grace abounds.
With His sustaining grace, I know Jesus is near in the midst of pain and loss.
Yet in this sin-stained world, suffering can hold a commanding presence, and grace can seem more bitter than sweet. Believe me, what is being taken away from my father, from me, from our family, can feel like a greater injustice than the goodness that is coming about through this trial. The tension is strong: I am losing my father to an ugly disease while gaining precious time with him, moments of eternal significance. And this is where grace cuts in, and the presence of Christ becomes more real than ever. Christ may not eradicate this painful situation, but He has promised His presence and the comfort of His Spirit, come what may. Though loss lingers in our home, Christ covers us with His grace.
John celebrates this reality when he opens his gospel with a lyrical description of Christ’s incarnation.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:14, 16 (ESV)
In Jesus Christ, we receive boundless grace — grace that saves us and grace that sustains us. I am wholly undeserving of this gift, this grace that covers my life. I am left echoing Paul’s words to the Ephesians 1:14: all of this I have been given for the praise of his glory. I can take no credit. I can make no boast. I can only give thanks to the One who is present with me in the pain and covers me daily with His grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)