For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next six months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God’s store of grace from day to day as we need it.
—D. L. Moody
For ten days, our family sat by the hospital bed of my suffering mother. At first, a previous surgery to remove the aggressive cancer
cells from her lung appeared to be successful. Soon we learned the metastasized cells had penetrated her bones. The process of her pain- ful death moved quickly. In her final days, she lay quietly, overdosed with pain medication and laboring to breathe as she journeyed toward eternity.
The morning before her death, she suddenly opened her eyes wide and began to express the most glorious praise, continuing for over a minute with heartfelt declarations of her love and gratitude for Jesus. Our family witnessed an amazing demonstration of her fully alive spirit, transcending a rapidly failing body, to soar into the heavenlies with intimate worship of Christ. What I saw that morning could only be described as dying grace. The Lord was giving her a longing for His presence and an expectation of eternity’s glory. As a pastor for thirty years, I’ve witnessed this amazing display of the tender, unmerited favor of God in the lives of many as they knocked on death’s door.
What do you pray for when you don’t know what to pray for? What do you seek from God when you are struggling or suffering? We can learn from the apostle Paul’s experience as he begged God, three times, to remove a debilitating thorn in his flesh. His pleading eventually turned to praise, his burden changed to blessing, and his thorn gave him cause for thanks. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.) Why? Because Jesus imparted a life-transforming truth and provision to Paul in the midst of his anguish: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9). Paul learned that Jesus responds to our affliction in prayer with amazing, divine grace.
UNIQUE, SPECIFIC, TIMELY PROVISION
The concept of God’s unique provision of specific grace was first birthed in my understanding during high school during the days of the Cold War. Superpower nations threatened one another with weapons of mass destruction. Urban speculations circulated about the poten- tial for Communists taking over our nation and putting Christians to death in a ruthless wave of persecution. Stories of this kind of thing in other nations surfaced in the news. Christian songs were even written about the future need to meet in secret for fear of maltreatment.
Periodically, I wondered, What would I do if I were brought before a firing squad with threats to denounce my faith or die? How would I handle it? What would I say? In time, as I clearly understood the power and practicality of grace, I gained assurance that I did not need to worry. If that moment ever came, God would lavish me with grace for a bold, glorious martyrdom in the exact instant it was needed.
EXPERIENCE GRACE. EXPECT IT!
The popular acrostic for grace, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, is more than a pithy slogan. The sacrifice of Christ’s redemption invites us to the abundance of heaven’s supply of grace for our most desperate and very practical needs. John 1:16 says that out of Christ’s abundance, we have all received “grace upon grace.” Another translation says, “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another” (nlt). Like the endless rhythm of ocean waves washing onto a beach, God’s grace lavishes our lives with a continual provision of His supernatural enabling for our chronic limitations.
Just as we expected and experienced sufficient, converting grace when we came to Christ and were transformed by His power, so we should live with confident expectation that His provision will be enough every day. Grace is not just a past-tense salvation miracle. It is a present-tense sanctification wonder. We can live each day expecting a fresh phenomenon of grace in our lives.
RECOGNIZE GRACE. UNDERSTAND IT!
I like to define grace as “God doing for me, in me, and through me what only He can do through the person and power of Jesus Christ.” This grace is not a crutch for the lazy or irresponsible. Grace works in conjunction with my conscientious efforts, not instead of them. Paul wrote of this when he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Grace meets us to do what we cannot do, while we do what we are able to do. Every effort on my part, even my prayer, is but an overflow of the constant provisions of His grace. It may sound like a riddle, but in reality, it is the two-sided coin of empowering grace.
Grace is not an escape to some leisurely world where life is safe, pressures have disappeared, and all is flowers and fun. Grace is a deliv- erance from the devastating powers of this world’s allure and decep- tions. As Paul says:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.
(Titus 2:11–12 nkjv)
Do you want to see someone who understands grace? Look for the fruit of clear-minded, consecrated, Christlike behavior in their lives.
Again, all of this grace is tailor-made, flowing from the provision of our all-wise, all-sufficient God as we call on Him. In the trenches of pastoral ministry, I’ve witnessed extravagant displays of saving grace, guiding grace, sustaining grace, unifying grace, and suffering grace. I’ve marveled at specialized grace arriving—seldom early but never late. The beautiful manifestations of His undeserved enabling have supported the confused, the depressed, the broken, the troubled teen, the lonely single adult, the barren couple, the stalled marriage, the empty-nester, and the pain-afflicted senior adult. All of this is available as we pray.
HOOKED INTO A HEAVENLY IV DRIP
If you’ve ever been hospitalized, as I have on a few occasions, you know that one of the first and most essential medical treatments is the
insertion of an intravenous (IV) tube into a major vein. This provides a means for the doctor to administer an endless variety of specialized treatments for the patient’s well-being. The basic hydrating saline solu- tion becomes the carrier for ingredients vital to healing, comfort, and nutrition.
I like to think of grace like an IV to the heart, flowing with unique and in-the-moment formulas of Christ’s provision. It started to gush the moment we turned toward Christ. It supplies His full provision for all we need, regardless of the trial or temptation. Right now, as you read, it is flowing.
The basic formula in this life-giving current is the power of the Holy Spirit, applying the truth of God’s Word as we pray. But the unique application can change based upon your situation. Just like a patient receives an instantly delivered formula of sustenance, so do we in Christ. And just as that formula can be supplemented with a myriad of antibiotics, pain medications, blood thinners, anti-inflammatory aids, and other drugs, so does the Lord provide exactly what we need, as we need it, and when we need it.
It really is amazing, isn’t it? So, let’s trust and obey the great appeal of God to come to Him and pray earnestly. As we now pray together, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Excerpted from “21 Days of Deeper Prayer: Discover an Extraordinary Life in God” by Jim Maxim with Daniel Henderson, © 2020 by Jim Maxim. Published by Whitaker House, New Kensington, PA. Used with permission. All rights reserved. www.whitakerhouse.com.
Free audio prayers found here: www.acts413.net/deeperprayer