“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 KJV)
Grace is made perfect in weakness? Are you serious? This is very different than how we think of grace. When we think of an unmerited favor, we think of something closer to a forgiveness followed by a correction that we might never do whatever we did again. True, repentance is a necessary item and mercy abounds and corrections are often necessary. Yet, grace extends beyond the limitations of mere forgiveness. We look at grace through the lens of wanting to be stronger after an incident. We look at life’s valleys and want to use them as teachable moments. Not entirely a bad idea. Yet, what are we being taught? Are we being taught to be more careful next time? Are we being taught to work a little harder next time? Are we sharpening our management skills for the next time we have to face that challenge? What part of that which we are being taught is a lesson in how good God was to us when we did not deserve any goodness? Not, how much we have learned in so much as how much we have learned about God. There is the real testimony! It is one thing to learn to keep your head up next time. It is quite another to learn to keep your knees down.
So where do the works that I do fit into the growing of faith? We do not want to be idle. Neither do we want to be complacent. It is by going, doing, working, and stepping into situations that we feel the direction of His Holy Spirit in that we see His sufficiency in the midst of our lack. Belief that has not been planted in reality has no harvest to expect. It is often in the fields that we expect the least harvest and find the most difficult to cultivate and sink the quickest in thistles in that we most clearly see His handiwork. That which requires the most surrender often spotlights His favor when it is most unmerited.
Jesus gives us a command to love others as He loves us (see John 13:34). Part of the practice of that love is forgiveness. Not a forgiveness that forgets that there was ever anything wrong, but a forgiveness that recalls how the wound was healed. How the issue was reconciled. How we experienced the delivery of even a fraction of the grace that we have (and continue to) receive. Do you want to be stronger? The recognition of the grace of God will make you much stronger than simply learning life lessons as you go along. It will make you want to tell everyone in great humility of what God has done for you.
“Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.” (Luke 8:38, 39 KJV)