When We Need It (5)
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.” James 4.6
Our not-so-gracious world
Sometimes the grace-filled world can seem not very gracious.
The more we understand of God’s grace, and the more consistent we are in acknowledging that grace, and giving thanks and praise for it, the more we realize the effects of grace. We experience a deep assurance of being loved and secure. Peace fills our mind and joy floods our heart, putting a song in our mouth and a spring in our step. We feel confident, but not in ourselves; rather, our confidence comes from knowing that grace attends us all our way, and will be available to help us in whatever time of need we may encounter. Knowing that God attends to and cares for us at all times, knows what we need before we ask Him, and supplies all our needs through His riches in glory by Christ Jesus – this is for all who know it a source of great comfort, encouragement, hope, boldness, and joy.
In general, the experience of grace creates a kind of buoyancy in our souls, that is uplifting, sustaining, safe, and peaceable. We can almost feel like we’re floating on air, being carried along by strong but gentle spiritual breezes that empower and direct our every next step.
Grace is a good feeling, a feeling of wellbeing which Old Testament saints summarized in the word shalom. In Hebrew, that word means something like health, peace, prosperity, wellbeing, and salvation, all at the same time. It is the result of grace, and when we are basking in the abounding grace of God, shalom is our experience, and leads us to adore, worship, give thanks, and bear witness to our gracious God.
But the grace-filled world we inhabit is not always so cordial. Spiritual forces of wickedness seek to discourage, defeat, and destroy us continually. People who don’t know the grace of God frustrate, betray, or affront us with their self-serving ways. And our own lingering sinfulness often leads us to depart the path of grace into the jungles of mere self-interest, with outcomes that are very often the opposite of shalom.
Which explains why, for most believers, shalom can be an elusive sensation. More than we would prefer, we are troubled, doubting, fearful, angry, resentful, conniving, lustful, depressed, and sad (Jms. 4.1-4). We begin to languish in troubles, setbacks, disappointments, deprivations, hardships, temptations, and assorted trials. And at such times, the abounding grace of our loving Father can seem very far away, indeed.
Why this happens
The grace of God is a spiritual boon, and the effects it creates are spiritual as well. Knowing God’s shalom does not depend on external conditions; shalom enters the soul with the grace of God, and establishes its presence in our heart, mind, and conscience. Nothing can deprive us of shalom, except corrupting spiritual influences that insinuate themselves into our soul, distract us from devotion to God, and lead us to chase vain notions about what’s best for us, as if the life of faith really was all about us after all.
We become alienated from the shalom that accompanies God’s grace because we hoist our sails into false winds – gentle, lying breezes that promise short-cuts to wellbeing, exciting side-trips in our journey of faith, or boosts to grant us some advantage over people we are called to serve. At such times, if we would look into the wheelhouse of our soul, we would discover that the one who is directing our journey is not the Father Who abounds in grace toward us, but the father of lies, who seeks only to rob, kill, and destroy.
Imagine Peter’s surprise and chagrin to have Jesus rebuke him as though he were Satan himself (Matt. 16.23). He was not Satan at that moment of course; but, by giving into the thinking of fallen men, and choosing a course contrary to the revealed will of the Master, Peter had become momentarily an agent of the very one who sought to destroy him and his Master, and who was operating from within the soul of the foremost of Jesus’ disciples.
And that is precisely what happens to us whenever shalom eludes us and grace seems unavailable, unreal, or unlikely to be sufficient for our need.
The way back to grace and shalom is clear. James lays it out: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jms. 4.7-10).
To get back in the jet stream and reliable winds of grace, we have to submit to God, rather than to our own best ideas about how we ought to live. We must recognize the devil’s role in our malaise and resist him, by refusing to consider that anything other than God’s truth is the path of grace and shalom. Turn to the Lord in prayer, and wait there earnestly, drawing nearer to God through meditation and pleading. Confess your sins, repent of every wickedness which the Spirit brings to mind. Cry for mercy as you weep because of your rebellious inclinations. Mourn to realize that you can be so easily duped and so ready to depart the path of salvation for the ways of the flesh. And humble yourself before the Lord, repeating every step of this process until that old, delightful buoyancy begins to return.
Understand that only grace has enabled you to steer out of the doldrums and crosswinds of the lie, and to recover your proper course in the wind of God’s Spirit. Praise God for His grace! Sing to Him of the wonderful and amazing grace of Jesus! Throw yourself headlong into whatever fount of grace appears to you – a story in one of the gospels, a favorite psalm, a prayer rehearsing your testimony and all the grace of God shown to you, a song celebrating the grace of God – and then sink in, deeply, until renewing and abounding grace brings shalom to your soul and renewal of your course once again.
We will all experience such times of need. What a joy to know that grace, which has brought us safe thus far, will be there to lead us back on the path toward our home in God.
1. God’s shalom does not derive from external conditions; it affects them. Explain.
2. What might be some indicators that you were beginning to be blown off the course of God’s grace? How can you know when you are beginning to prefer your own ideas and ways to those of the Lord?
3. What preventive steps can you take throughout the day to prevent the father of lies from taking control of the wheelhouse of your soul?
Next Steps – Transformation: Write a prayer that you can use whenever you feel your shalom is beginning to wane. What should that prayer include?
Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.
We hope you find ReVision to be a helpful resource in your walk with and work for the Lord. If so, please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. We ask the Lord to move and enable many more of our readers to provide for the needs of our ministry. Please seek Him in prayer concerning your part in supporting our work. You can contribute online via PayPal, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.