Each new year, I choose a word to help guide me in the coming months. I don’t just randomly grab a word out of the cold December air. I pray and ponder what God is whispering to my heart. Sometimes I know my word by Christmas. Other years, I’m well into the new year before my word solidifies. Usually, two or three words hover in my thoughts for a while. Last year my word was grow. That threw me. It took almost a full year before I understood what “grow” meant in my life. I knew I wanted to grow in knowing Jesus, but I didn’t know a son-in-law and two babies would join our family in 2017. And I never dreamed my third novel The Mother Keeper would do fine on Amazon. There’s a chance the word grow might follow me into this year too, since our married daughters, and our oldest son and his sweetheart are wanting to build families now, but this new year, I’m leaning towards grace.
Or maybe leaping towards grace would explain better how I’m feeling today. This photo of our six-year-old helping my husband rake the leaves reminds me of how I handle grace. Not very gracefully. I’m ready to just dive into grace this year and see what happens.
Can I just be honest with you? I’m not much of a grace girl. I’m a get er done girl. Work hard. Earn it. Spend it. And earn some more. Which doesn’t fly in God’s economy of grace.
Now in the American economy, you can kick butt and take names, as my dad would say. The American dream is all about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. But let me tell you something very important if you are a Christian. Please listen carefully. You don’t have bootstraps. Or even boots. You are a helpless, hopeless human being when you stand before God and the only pulling you’re about to do if Jesus doesn’t cover you with grace is a horrified pulling away from a Holy God who has every right to squish you like a bug. When you stand before God without his grace and your repentance this is how you will feel, like a dirty little stink bug.
But I know. Of course, you’ve repented. I’ve repented. Yet, have we? Does it show in our lives? Do we offer forgiveness to others as freely as we have been forgiven? Do we love as lavishly as the flood of the Lord’s love upon us? Do we sacrifice our earthly desires to fulfill the heavenly calling of Jesus’ sacrifice for us?
I kind of do. Sometimes I do. I sacrifice a lot. Like my showers are short, and my days of mothering long, and I haven’t been on a girl’s vacation since I was in my twenties. Unless you count a few women’s retreats where I did my best to lean into God with my Christian sisters and found myself growing a little and crying a lot and coming home with a new friend or two I barely have the energy for since I’m busy crawling on my belly because I don’t have any bootstraps.
I. Just. Can’t. Pull. Myself. Up.
And neither can you if you’re becoming like Christ, though many of us think we can. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, and this is true. So very true. What’s not true is the reality of this scripture for many believers. We think we’re doing it in Christ’s strength, but are we?
The truth is most of us function on an abundance of grace and we don’t even know it.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor. There is nothing we have done, nor can ever do to earn this favor. It is a gift from God. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines grace as: “The unmerited love and favor of God toward human beings; divine influence acting in a person to make the person pure, morally strong; the condition of a person brought to God’s favor through this influence; a special virtue, gift, or help given to a person by God.”
I think my biggest struggle is that I secretly like my own strength. Maybe it’s not even a secret. After seventeen years of living born-again, I’m still trying to earn God’s love. I know. Prideful. And I’m not as strong as I used to be. A number of painful blows have landed on my life revealing just how weak I really am. I can’t take a breath without God breathing life into me. All the vitamins and exercise in the world aren’t going to grant me health. I can work my behind off, beefing up my bank account, but one medical emergency can steal all that away. It’s happened. You can strive your little heart out, but if God doesn’t bless you, you won’t be blessed. And truthfully, I’m not convinced wealth, health, and happiness are a blessing. That’s called the prosperity gospel, and though it sounds so good, it’s not biblical. But God says, “I am able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV.
Growing up I always heard, “God helps those who help themselves.” I seriously thought this was in the Bible, but it’s not. The Bible says, “God helps the helpless.” One of the best things I’ve done in my life is read the whole Bible every year for seventeen years now. And the crazy thing about it is all the new things I learn in God’s word each year. The Bible is a living book that gets in your bones and changes you. It truly does. I knew I was helpless when it came to saving grace, but it’s taken me nearly twenty years to realize I’m also helpless when it comes to living grace. So I’m diving into grace this year. I’m hoping it’s a soft place to land. I’ll let you know how it goes.
If you’d like to do the Bible in a year an easy way, I love the Daily Audio Bible, which I’ve linked here. I listen to it every morning and I enjoy it so much. I’m also following John Piper’s daily devotional if you are interested in taking a look at that, I’ve linked it. I’d also love for you to share your word with me for the year in the comments or a message or on facebook so I can pray this word over you.
Happy New Year dear friends! Praying we all have a good year!