Grace has often been defined as, simply, the unmerited favor and blessing of God. Yet, I believe grace is much more than this. It is everything that Christ is to us in our times of suffering — power, might, kindness, mercy and love — to see us through our afflictions and trials.
Jesus says the rain falls on both the just and the unjust (see Matthew 5:45) — referring to given problems of life such as marriage problems, worries over children, financial pressures, sickness. And the righteous may battle against pride, depression and fear, feelings of inadequacy, oppression of the enemy.
You may question why nations suffer — why there is such awful famine, pestilence, flooding, hunger, disease and destruction. Scripture sheds light on the world’s sufferings through its portrayal of God’s people, ancient Israel. That nation suffered similar calamities: holocausts, captivity, economic collapse, strange diseases. At times Israel’s sufferings were so horrible that even their enemies pitied them.
Why did Israel suffer such terrible things? Scripture makes it clear in each instance that it was because they forsook God and turned to idolatry (see Deuteronomy 4:25-28). It is important to note, however, that along with every righteous judgment upon Israel came manifestations of divine grace in preserving a godly remnant, and fulfilling his divine purpose in and through them in spite of their failures (see 4:29-30).
Even though the reason for our trials may remain a mystery, we should be prepared to accept them until Jesus comes for us. There will be no end to them, so the wise believer will determine in his heart to get to know Jesus more intimately and seek him as never before.
Someday in glory, our heavenly Father will reveal to us the beautiful plan he had for us while we were going through hard times. He will show us how we attained patience through all our trials; how we learned compassion for others; how his strength was made perfect in our weakness; how we learned his utter faithfulness toward us; how we became more like him, our precious Lord and Savior. And until the day we meet him face to face, our loving heavenly Father says, “I have all the grace you need to overcome!”
“According to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:11-12). God’s children have the right and freedom to break in on our Lord at any time — one of the greatest privileges ever bestowed on humankind.
Our heavenly Father sits on his throne in eternity and at his right hand sits his Son, our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus. Outside this throne room are gates, which open to all who are in Christ. At any time — day or night — we can bypass guardian angels, seraphim and all the heavenly hosts to boldly enter these gates and approach our Father’s throne. Christ has provided us direct access to the Father, to receive all the mercy and grace we need, no matter what our circumstance.
This wasn’t always the case. In the Old Testament, with few exceptions, no person had access to the Father. Abraham was called a friend of God and enjoyed a measure of access to the Lord, but even he remained “outside the veil.”
Moses, the leader of Israel, had unusual access to God, who said, “I, the Lord … speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings” (Numbers 12:6-8). But the rest of Israel knew nothing of this kind of access.
Christ’s life in human flesh provided greater access to the Father, but even that was limited. At the moment of his death, however, the veil of the temple in Jerusalem was literally ripped apart and our destiny was sealed. When Jesus gave up the ghost, we were given total, unrestricted access to the holy of holies: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
Scripture admonishes us, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith … Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (10:22-23). God is urging us, “Come into my presence often, daily. You can’t maintain your faith if you’re not drawing near to me. If you don’t boldly enter my presence, your faith is going to waver.”
Determine in your heart to take full advantage of God’s great gift of access. Your eternal future depends on it!
Scripture attests to the fact that a hunger for the uncompromised grace of Christ exists throughout the world. Luke writes that when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, thousands “had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases” (Luke 6:17, NLT). These masses came because they had heard about a man of grace who would heal them.
“There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon” (6:17). The hurting crowds didn’t travel those distances because they wanted to hear a preacher urge them to try harder. They were already worn down by discouragement, disease and despair over their efforts to remain godly. Many were probably on the fringes of life, people who were shoved aside by their broken condition. Whatever the case, observing the law had not brought them life.
To these hungry sojourners, Jesus’ reputation for grace turned out to be true. He not only preached grace but demonstrated it by healing them all: “Healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone” (6:19). Imagine! Of all those thousands, not one went home unhealed. Not one broken life was left untouched — and not a single soul present was unaffected by the powerful grace of Jesus Christ.
According to Luke’s account, Jesus proceeded straight from those healings to present the Beatitudes: “Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, ‘God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh” (6:20-21). Other gospel accounts include additional blessings: the humble will inherit the earth; the pure of heart will see God; the merciful will be shown mercy.
Jesus looked on the crowd and saw that they were already poor in spirit so what did he do? He spoke blessings! Just as the Father spoke creation into a void of utter darkness, Jesus spoke divine blessings onto ravaged sinners, people beaten down by life.
Many Christians believe God’s grace is too good to be true so they hold on to their sense of works. But the new life we have been given — the life of Christ himself — resurrects us to serve him in freedom, peace and joy.
No one needs to convince you that the days ahead are going to be more difficult than ever — you already know it. Something inside your heart perceives it, in spite of the deepest optimism that many try to generate. Everything that can be shaken is about to be shaken.
As the world’s culture is quickly spinning into something that is out of our control, we can be thankful that it is never out of God’s control. Jesus’ disciples once asked Him, “And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). In Matthew 24:4-11, not only did Jesus foretell the wars, earthquakes, famines and outbreaks of disease that are unfolding before our eyes, but he also warned that in the last days, religious deception would reach epic proportions.
The end-time strategy of Satan is clear: Divert those who are trying to find refuge during calamitous times by presenting a myriad of false Christ-options along the way. Satan himself is the author of much of the chaos in the world, and when the chaos begins to mount, he will put false signposts throughout the world that claim to point the way to Christ. Satan’s goal will be to confuse the people of God as well as the prodigals who are trying to come home to the safety of the presence of the Lord.
The Scriptures bear witness that the battles we face are common to all men. There is no temptation that is unique to you (see 1 Corinthians 10:13), including the temptation to give in to fear. Even the apostle Paul expressed this common struggle when he said, “Outside were conflicts, inside were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5).
We see from Scriptures that in spite of some trepidation, Paul refused to draw back from whatever awaited him: “None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24). You may have a deep sense of foreboding because of world events, but those who know God will look at what the world sees as catastrophe and be able to embrace it in some measure as an opportunity for God to give us his grace to endure. In the midst of it all, we must be able to hear the word of the Lord to his church: “Fear not!”
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
The Holy Spirit gives us strength when we release all our needs into God’s hands and trust in his might. We see an example of this kind of trust in a Moabite woman named Ruth. After her husband died, Ruth traveled back to the land of Judah with her mother-in-law, Naomi, who was quite elderly and also a widow. The two women lived together in humble surroundings, and Naomi became concerned about Ruth’s welfare.
Ruth went to work in the fields of a wealthy man named Boaz who just happened to be a relative of her deceased husband. According to Jewish law, Boaz was suited to marry her and continue the husband’s lineage, and Naomi encouraged this. God orchestrated a wondrous plan for Boaz to take Ruth as his wife, give her a child, and provide for her and Naomi.
This fascinating story is detailed in the book of Ruth, and we see the beautiful way God brought about his plan. After working in the field all day, one night, Ruth said to Boaz, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative” (Ruth 3:9). In short, she was asking him, “Will you marry me?” Now, this was no manipulative scheme. Ruth and Naomi had done everything in divine order. We can be sure of this because Christ’s lineage came through Ruth (Matthew 1:5).
After Ruth asked this question of Boaz, she told her godly mother-in-law what happened; and Naomi advised, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out” (Ruth 3:18). She was confident that she and Ruth had done their part, and it was time to sit still and trust God to perform what he had promised.
Ruth and Naomi relaxed and praised the Lord as they watched God work out his divine plan in surprising ways. Likewise, when you put your complete trust in God in quietness and confidence, he will never fail you.