Regular listeners to the podcast that comes out from Bethel Church in Redding, California, will have heard Bill Johnson saying this kind of thing lately: we’ve got to remember that everything is by grace. Even our greatest victories, it’s only because of grace. We must never lose sight of that.
It’s a good point made in a fresh and refreshing way. And it really is true. And I think his emphasis indeed has reminded me that it IS easy to forget about the wonder of grace.
Grace is one of those things that has in some ways, at different times been ‘cheapened’. You can get ‘ticket-to-heaven’ grace where someone literally just ‘gets saved’ by grace but in and of themselves there’s nothing else they can do or give because they’re so evil so they just sit around waiting for the Lord to come, or to die and go to heaven. Or it’s cheapened the other way round by making it all-too-excusable to sin, and then say, “well, it’s alright, God is gracious.” There’s receiving His grace, and then there’s outright, dangerous cheek.
But when grace is understood rightly it is not only wonderful but also deep, profound. You see we get our English word ‘grace’ originally from the Greek word ‘charis’, which you may well recognise as a girl’s name. It’s also in the root of our Christiany terms like ‘charismatic’ – coming from the Greek ‘charismata’ which literally means ‘grace-gift’.
I still haven’t fully got my head around this word, because it fans out into other words, with connections both in the Greek and in today’s English. For example this word ‘charis’ can mean ‘grace’ in the various ways we know it in the New Testament, but it can also denote ‘thankfulness’, or thanksgiving. So, one translation of Hebrews 12:28 says “let us have grace,” another says, “let us give thanks”. Interesting! This also imports into English when we think that when we ‘say grace’, we mean we are about to give thanks for dinner! So ‘charis’ can be translated ‘thanks’, as can its cognate, ‘eucharisto’, from which the Anglicans get their word ‘eucharist’ for when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper!
You can see then also how it is closely connected with the idea of gifts,
1. because of this term ‘charismata’ which comes up quite a bit
2. because of other passages which connect the idea (“to each one grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” Ephesians 4)
3. because when you receive a gift (perhaps ‘by grace’), your response is to give thanks (grace).
I love how beautifully these ideas are tied up, and at the same time I find it difficult to untie them to see all that is going on!
All I know is that His grace has been leading me lately to take more of an attitude of thankfulness. We often go through trials and difficulties, and one of the challenges to the believer is to be an ‘overcomer’ and learn how it is that we can get through and indeed ‘overwhelmingly conquer’ in such situations. I think this is possibly one of the simplest yet most important keys to the whole thing: being thankful for grace. When I think how, even very recently, I have been moaning, grumbling and complaining even just in my heart, where God can hear it (and perhaps sometimes consciously directing it to Him), I chide myself for being so out of perspective – how can I so quickly become grumbly when there is so much good to thank Him for?!
So even just last night, when wrestling with a situation in my heart, I decided to choose to give thanks for the situation, and what good there was in it. Later that night, when I struggled to go to sleep, I chose to thank God that I was awake and therefore had a chance to pray! It’s a bizarre reaction, and yet it is the response that will turn a situation around. God promised to ‘turn our mourning into dancing’, I believe we should agree with that idea in our reactions! Instead of moaning about a situation, whether directly or indirectly to God, we should choose – because of His grace (charis) – to give thanks (charis / eucharisto).
Because it is only because of His grace. Without it, I would not be in the position to be able to choose the positive response. It’s not my own godliness that helps me make the right decisions in moments of difficulty, it’s His grace, His righteousness, His faithfulness.
Thankfulness attracts heaven – I believe that. Last night as I chose to give thanks, I felt God draw nearer. We see in Scripture how Jesus, faced with thousands of starving people and only a boy’s packed lunch in His hands, chose to give thanks to His Father in that moment (John 6:11). Thanksgiving is the attitude of faith. So in that sense, faith too is ‘by grace’.
Amidst all that is going on in our lives, and amidst all that God is doing, I believe this is something He is saying really strongly right now: let’s not forget the measure of His grace which not only saved us, but by which we continue to operate in our walks with Him! And let us give thanks, whereby we may serve God acceptably (Hebrews 12:28). I believe it will liberate us from worry, and posture us for victory in our circumstances. A thankful heart is a believing heart. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith (1 John 5:4).
Thank You Lord for Your grace!