God's Great Grace
God's Great Grace
Seeing a crowd of condemned criminals being led up to execution, John Bradford (c.1510–1555), the English reformer, is said to have remarked: ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.’
In 1807, John Newton, best known as composer of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, encapsulated the amazing grace of God in some of his last words as he lay dying. He declared: ‘I am a great sinner but Christ is a great Saviour.’
In today’s New Testament passage, Peter speaks of ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Peter 5:10). How should you respond to God’s great grace?
Thank and praise the God of all gracePsalm 134:1–3
Grace is a gift, and the appropriate response to a gift is thanksgiving. Praise is the supreme form of thanksgiving, and therefore praise and worship is the appropriate response to the God of all grace.
The psalmist writes, ‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord’ (vv.1–2).
Lord, thank you so much that you are the God of all grace. Thank you that you, ‘the Maker of heaven and earth, bless’ me (v.3).
Humble yourselves before the God of all grace1 Peter 5:1–14
Leaders are called to be ‘examples to the flock’ (v.3). Humility should be the mark of the Christian leader. Don’t boss others around, telling them what to do: ‘not lording it over those entrusted to you’ (v.3); ‘Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way’ (v.3, MSG).
Leaders in the church are called to be shepherds. Pope Francis says that pastors should smell of the sheep. Shepherds love their sheep, look after them and stay close to them. A leader watches over the pastoral work of others, encouraging them to use their gifts.
Peter says this is not something that should be regarded as a duty, but something that we really want to do (v.2). It should not be done out of a desire for personal gain – ‘not greedy for money’ (v.2) – but out of a desire to serve others – being ‘eager to serve’ (v.2).
Peter then says that ‘you who are younger must follow your leaders’ (v.5, MSG). Leaders should lead with grace and followers should follow with grace.
He closes his letter with three instructions for ‘all of you’ (v.5). They are a response to the ‘God of all grace’ (v.10). Grace permeates the New Testament and it permeates this passage: ‘This is the true grace’ (v.12).
- Humble yourselves
Peter writes, ‘Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another’ (v.5). Whereas ‘God opposes the proud’, he ‘gives graceto the humble’ (v.5b). Humility is a choice. It is something you are required to do to yourself: ‘Humble yourselves’ (v.6). Humility is an act of the will.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. There is a strong link between humility and grace. Because grace is free, the only appropriate response to grace is humility.
- Live carefree before God
Peter writes, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (v.7). He ends with the words, ‘Peace to all of you who are in Christ’ (v.14). God loves you. He is a God of all grace. You can cast all your cares on him. There is nothing too big or too small to hand over to him. Thomas à Kempis wrote, ‘They travel lightly whom God’s grace carries.’
Staying peaceful is evidence that you have humbled yourself before God, and that you trust him to do what needs to be done.
- Stay alert
‘Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up’ (v.8, MSG). Peter reminds his readers that they are ‘not the only ones’ suffering and that it ‘won’t last forever’, saying, God ‘gets the last word’ (vv.9–11, MSG).
The qualities commended in this passage are very different from the values of our culture. The cult of youth and beauty is replaced with an emphasis on valuing and submitting to the elderly and wise. Self-aggrandisement is replaced by humility. You are promised God’s help in dealing with the struggles of stress and worry. Instead of pursuing instant gratification, you are called on to be ‘self-controlled and alert’. These are not easy things to do – but if you do them, you will stand firm and resist the devil.
Lord, help me to be submissive, humble, self-controlled and alert. Help me to spot the work of the devil and resist him.
Today I want to cast all my anxiety on you... Thank you that you are the God of all grace.
Put your trust in the God of all graceDaniel 1:1–2:23
Do you work in a secular environment where those around you have very different standards to your own?
The book of Daniel charts the lives and careers of Daniel and three other young men, who were able to flourish in the Babylonian Civil Service. Their example gives you a great model for how to work in a godly way, in a context where God is not acknowledged or followed. This mirrors the situation in most ‘secular’ workplaces. These chapters are therefore a goldmine of practical examples and help.
We see the four friends co-operating with their employers, but without compromise. They refuse to conform, but they throw themselves wholeheartedly into their new situation and career. They undergo three years of leadership training and preparation. They allow their names to be changed to reflect that they are now part of the Babylonian administration, and subsequently they all seem to pursue successful careers.
At the same time, they resolved not to compromise their beliefs or defile themselves. You can defile yourself today by the kind of films and TV you watch, the internet sites you visit, or the things you listen to. ‘Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine’ (1:8). (This was perhaps because the royal food had been a sacrificial offering to the Babylonian gods.) They never allowed their commitment to their new careers to trump their higher allegiance to God.
However, Daniel was wise enough not just to disobey – he tried to work with those in authority over him. He asked for permission and then God, in his grace, caused the official to show favour and sympathy to Daniel (v.9).
‘God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds’ (v.17). Although these young men had outstanding natural ability – they were ‘handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning… well informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve’ (v.4) – Daniel’s real power came from God’s supernatural wisdom.
Like Daniel you are called to live a life of purity and be totally at peace. Follow Daniel’s example and be comfortable in your own skin and walk in a close relationship with God.
On the other hand, Nebuchadnezzar had enormous power and wealth. He was popular, respected and feared. There was no real threat to his security and yet he was very insecure and fearful. Be aware that beneath the façade of self-sufficiency can hide a deep-rooted insecurity.
He was so haunted by his dreams that he couldn’t sleep. In this crisis, he knew in his heart that the magicians did not have the power they claimed but were just playing games. They virtually admitted they had no supernatural wisdom (2:9–11).
Daniel recognised that God alone is the source of all power and wisdom (v.20). In a wonderful way, God, in his grace, will not only reveal things to you, but also give you the wisdom and power to understand and deal with your situation. You can learn from Daniel’s example:
- Have faith in God
He believed that God would speak to him (v.16). God will speak to you as well.
- Know the power of prayer
He requested a little time and then he asked his friends to ‘pray to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery’ (v.18, MSG).
- Combine prayer with action
He went to see Nebuchadnezzar and ‘spoke to him with wisdom and tact’ (v.14).
- Learn to recognise God’s voice
When God spoke to him in a vision, he was so completely certain he was able to thank and praise him in advance of sharing it with the king: ‘Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his… I thank and praise you, O God’ (vv.20,23).
God of all grace, praise you that you are the Maker of heaven and earth who blesses me. Help me to live a life of purity in a close relationship with you. Please give me wisdom. Help me to hear your voice and speak it with confidence.
‘Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food... At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.’
There is definitely something in eating healthily. Bear Grylls stresses healthy eating and look at him! (Just off to buy some vegetables!)
Verse of the Day
‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7).
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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.