Grace. That beautiful, wonderful thing. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “grace”? Is it a gentle and encouraging word spoken from a friend? Is it a smile from a stranger? Is it your child’s willingness to forgive quickly? Is it a phone call from your mom? Is it a sunrise or a sunset? Is it your husband cleaning the house for you? Is it the ability to worship God in freedom? Is it a picture of Jesus saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”?
In whatever form, grace is beautiful.
Here’s a question I’ve been pondering lately, what if we could be avenues of grace? Vessels that the Lord chose to use to pour out His grace. What if we intentionally began praying for opportunities, making ourselves sensitive and obedient to the promptings of the Spirit, to serve as avenues of grace for the glory of the Lord and His sweet gospel?
But what really is an avenue of grace? It wasn’t until the other night that the Lord challenged me to think more fully and specifically on this vision I have for my products. On almost every order receipt, I write something along the lines of “I pray that this journal/wood sign/etc. serves as an avenue of grace in your walk with Jesus.” In theory I know what this means. I know I want my products to be part of something bigger. I know grace is precious and life-changing, and if the Lord uses them in the lives of my incredibly kind customers to magnify His grace in their lives, that these products will go deeper than their decorated surface. But the Spirit began pressing me to prayerfully consider how I could get caught up and better used in the Lord’s grace-delivering agenda. And for this consideration, I needed specifics.
As I began listening to the Lord that night, my mind raced with pictures and scenarios that put this idea of “avenues of grace” that had always been only a vision into something that I could readily apply:
It’s sneaking over to a friend’s house to clean her dishes because she is swamped with life’s other responsibilities.
It’s bringing a cupcake to a friend who is just having a hard day.
It’s getting just as excited with a friend who is wide-eyed and delighted over something important to her.
It’s looking in the eyes of the person on the street with the cardboard sign, embracing the opportunity to love someone so vulnerable.
It’s knowing when someone is on the brink of being overwhelmed, or there already, and not hesitating to jump in the mess to alleviate and to create some freedom.
It’s writing to encourage and refresh the heart of someone whom the Lord has used to help you love Him more fully.
It's responding to your impatient child with patience.
It’s asking people how they are really doing. And really wanting to hear their answer.
It’s letting your dog’s un-ashamedness to be found at your feet all. day. long. teach you about the gospel.
It’s speaking a timely and kind word to a friend weighed down by life’s worries.
It’s keeping a young mom’s kids for an afternoon to give her the opportunity to meet with the Lord and be refreshed.
It’s giving someone a thoughtful and meaningful gift, just because.
It’s surprising your husband with words of encouragement and adoration.
It’s knowing someone well enough to know you don’t have to be asked before stepping into help.
It’s staying up late or getting up early (or both) to care for another.
It’s giving up our well-planned day to enter another’s world, serving him/her for the glory of God that he/she might experience grace in a fresh way.
Because when we experience grace, it’s unnatural. Grace gives someone pause to consider something deeper. This humbling experience of grace creates an opportunity for God to sink His truth and love deeper into the heart. “Why would someone do this for me? Why would someone consider me and my life more worthy of her time and energy than her own agenda? How could she have responded with kindness after my harshness? What did I do to deserve this?”
These questions, this pondering, this humility makes room for the gospel.
Because grace can never truly be grace apart from the truth. Grace is “unmerited favor.” It can’t be earned. It’s not based on the performance of the individual. Grace, in its very nature, is an undeserved gift. So, if grace is something I don’t deserve, I only know that to be true because I know what I do deserve. Right? So deep in our core, we must know the truth. We must know the truth that what we deserve should accord with who we are and what we do and have done. And we can’t even begin to comprehend grace without this truth.
In the core of who we are, the truth is (and get ready, it’s not pretty), in our fallen nature, we choose our will and our way over God’s. We have broken relationship with Him and deserve to be separated forever. We think more about ourselves than others, and we find ways of appeasing our desires that do not bring Him glory. We rebel, we harbor bitterness, we hide, we judge, we hurt, and we reject. We find our identity in temporary and unsatisfying places. We often even do some of the things mentioned above as avenues of grace in order to get something in return, be liked or approved, or seek our own glory. Yikes! And this is only a small picture of the truth.
Wow, that was hard. It was hard to write. To admit that has me written all over it, apart from the grace of God. But remember, grace can never be grace apart from the truth.
Ready for the good news? The best news? The truth is never separated from grace in Christ Jesus!
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
Jesus, undeserving as He was, took on what we deserve that we might be wiped free of the stain of our consequences. Free from what we deserve. In order to give what we don’t deserve – grace. His life, death, and resurrection epitomizes truth and grace for us. We, fallen sinners, now have forgiveness and the favor of God. We, who broke fellowship with God, have been restored back into right relationship with Him. We, who owed a debt we could not pay, have been redeemed by the blood of our Savior. We, who were hopeless, restless, joyless, have been given hope secured, eternal rest, and deep joy and peace.
So back to my question, what if we could be avenues of grace? What if we joined in God's gospel work in this way? So if and when people ask those questions, we have the joy and the incredible opportunity to share with them the wonder of what we’ve been given in Jesus. Grace upon grace. We have the opportunity to invite them to understand the truth more fully that grace might be sweet and might begin to characterize their lives, as well. We create, in the power of the Spirit, opportunities for God’s glory to be on display and for His gospel to advance. When we serve as avenues of grace, we are creatively manifesting the gospel in the small, everyday movements of life.
Will you prayerfully join me in this endeavor? Will you consider the wonder of the Ephesians 2:4-10 grace we’ve been given in light of the Ephesians 2:1-3 truth? Will you ask the Lord for opportunities to join Him in His grace-delivering, gospel-advancing agenda?
Praying with and for you! Part 2 coming soon!
Ps. If we are on the receiving end of these avenues of grace, let’s use the hashtag #avenuesofgrace to invite people to join us and to put God’s glory on display and create even more opportunities for His gospel to advance!