“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18
These words hung for years on my bedroom wall written on a simple Sunday school handout with a picture of a bright green tree.
I memorized them in Sunday School and earned a piece of candy for my hard work.
When I was a little girl, I would repeat them over and over again in the darkness of my room when I could not sleep. I knew them by heart, but I did not understand grace.
I knew I was a sinner. I knew I needed a savior. I knew that Christ died for me. I wanted to follow him and I gave good lip service to loving him.
But, I did not truly understand grace.
Webster’s dictionary defines grace as “the unmerited love and favor of God.”
Nothing we do can earn God’s favor.
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” 2 Timothy 1:9
Nothing we do will separate us from God’s love.
“Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
And yet, I have spent so much of my life trying to earn God’s love and favor like it is a piece of Sunday school candy. I have strived and struggled to do all the right things, to follow the rules, to be holy, to be blameless, to be perfect. But, as I strived, he whispered,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
For years, I measured my worth by my behavior. I took credit for my own righteousness and judged others when they stumbled. And when I stumbled, I felt the crushing weight of shame and guilt. All the while, he reminded me,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
When I was a teenager, my dad’s favorite song was Grace For The Moment. He played it every morning on my way to school.
“If I understand faith, it’s not counting on me
It’s the hope and assurance of what I can’t see
It’s the daily relying on Jesus to be
Providing more grace faithfully
Further proving His great love for me with
Grace for the moment, all that I need
Grace for the moment and faith to receive.”
It was not until years later that I truly understood its words. As I began to understand grace, I began to realize that God allowed all my failings and inadequacies, so that I would understand my desperate need for him and fall at his feet to receive his beautiful gift of grace.
God has not called me to strive to be holy and righteous and perfect, but he has called me to fix my eyes on his throne of grace and allow him to transform my heart. It is not about me working harder. It is about him working in me.
As a New Year begins, and I am tempted to make goals and resolutions that rely on my own strength, I resolve to embrace grace. When I am tempted to take credit where credit isn’t due, I will thank him for the good work he is doing in me. When I am tempted to wallow in guilt and shame, I will thank him for his forgiveness and mercy. When I am tempted to work to earn his love and favor, I will sit at his feet and receive his beautiful gift of grace.