The Necessity of Grace
Have you ever been or felt lost? When I was a young child my family went to Cedar Point – an amusement park in Sandusky, OH. Cedar point is a large place and often is on the forefront of having some of the craziest and fastest rides. At some point in the day I stopped paying attention to what everyone else was doing. [Shocker, I know.] When I looked up I saw my dad walking away from me, so I hurried after him. Only, once I reached up to grab his hand I realized that I had not been following my dad. I’d been following a stranger. Like any seven year-old girl my immediate reaction was to sit down right where I was and bawl my eyes out. Thankfully a nice theme park worker noticed that I was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk bawling and stopped to see how she might help. I told her I lost my family. She took me to the nearest office and they began to work to find my family. As it turns out they had noticed I had wondered off long before I realized I was going in the wrong direction and so finding them and reuniting with them was easy.
Last week, Pastor Tim preached a powerful message on how God can use our failures and our crisis of faith to do incredible work. It was after a crisis of faith that John Wesley had the most powerful breakthrough of his life – his heart being strangely warmed at the Aldersgate meeting. So often once we have experienced failure or a crisis of faith our temptation is to give up. We tend to kick ourselves once we’re down – I know I do. I can be very hard on myself.
When we’ve experienced a crisis of faith or a failure – when we feel lost and unsure of what to do next, one natural reaction is to want to withdraw – from friends, from family, and even from God. But what if we were able to discover, as John Wesley did, that it is not in fact about what we do or how good or bad we are? Instead it is about God’s love for us and God’s grace available to us. No matter how lost we are, our heavenly parent is seeking us out – searching for us. No matter how far astray we’ve gone, God’s grace is there ready to bring us back. And then God’s grace is there to help us stay on the right path. In theology we talk about God’s Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying grace. But, at the end of the day – grace is grace and it is a free gift of God available to all of us no matter how lost or found we are.
What if, instead of just giving up, sitting down, withdrawing, or bawling we could stop and accept and trust God through that process? What would we find? The answer is grace. Grace is a word that I hope you are familiar with– and not just in the dictionary definition sort of way. Grace is a word that you should hear often in our church. It is THE defining principle of United Methodism and all other denominations that have been influenced by John Wesley. Grace is a free gift of God – it enables us to believe God, accept the salvation God has worked out for us, and continue to shape us for righteous living.
We need grace no matter where we are in our lives. And once we have this understanding of God’s work, God’s grace is free to us because God paid the price, then suddenly it’s not so scary to share our faith with others. Then, instead of having to convince someone or persuade them to believe as we do, we can simply point out to them that God is already at work in their lives. We can, like the theme park worker did for me, simply work to reconnect them with their Father who is looking for them and has already done the work so that they can be together. Grace, grace, God’s grace – it’s freely given and available for each of us.