Helping Grace

This is post #2 in a series on Grace.

Grace is a gem with many facets. Peter said as much when he admonished us, As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10) “Manifold” means numerous or varied, and thus is a perfect adjective for a many-faceted grace. At its simplest, grace is unmerited favor. As such, God’s grace is best displayed and illustrated and understood in saving grace, but saving grace is by no means the only aspect of God’s grace discussed in Scripture. As we saw last time it is first, but it is not only. Thus, today I wish to turn our attention to a different facet of the manifold grace of God.

I call this aspect of the grace of God helping grace. I get that phrase from Hebrews 4:16. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. 

Helping grace is just as much grace as saving grace. Do you and I deserve God’s help? Do we deserve for the Almighty, the Creator of everything, to give us the help we need to fulfill our daily tasks? Of course not. Any help He grants us is entirely undeserved. It is purely a gift.

I suppose one might say, “Well, I am just trying to do what God told me to do. Of course, He ought to help me.” Really? When your boss assigns you a task does he then show up in your cubicle to help you do it? No, he does not. He explains, he trains, and then he instructs you to do it yourself. If you keep coming back to him and saying, “I cannot do this without your help” at some point he is going to lose his patience and you will find yourself in the unemployment line.

No, beloved, we do not deserve God’s help in living our lives, not even in fulfilling the daily tasks He has instructed us to do – but we most assuredly need it. And when He provides the help we need to do something that we are unable to do on our own He has, yet again, richly bestowed His grace upon us.

As well, helping grace is always enough. Who cannot help but be moved by Paul’s pen when he writes:

2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God often calls on you and I to do something that is beyond our normal capacity to do. For example, He tells us to live a holy life, yet we are chained by the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is impossible. He tells us to love our wives like Christ loved the church. That, too, is impossible. He places some crushing burden upon us, and when we cry for relief He piles yet more on top. When we say we cannot go another step and plead for deliverance Heaven is deaf, as Shakespeare said, to our bootless cries. How do you live holy? How do you love your wife as well as Jesus loves? How do you carry an indescribable burden for years? You ascend to the throne of grace on your knees, and find waiting for you there just the grace you need to help you do what He called you to do.

I can hear you now, murmuring as you read, “But He did not because I could not carry that burden; I fell beneath the weight of it.” I say this kindly but it must be said: God has provided you and I all the helping grace we need. If we fail, it is not because He did not provide; it is because we do not avail ourselves of that provision. God has given us the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Word of God. God has given us a church to encourage and strengthen us. God has given us a pastor to feed us. God has given us a mind capable of understanding. God has given us a free will capable of choosing. God has given us a promise of fresh grace, specific to our situation, available for the asking. This is most definitely sufficient.

Do not tell me that you cannot do what God told you to do. Tell me it is hard, yes. Tell me it hurts, yes. Tell me you do not want to even though you know you should, yes. But do not tell me you cannot.

Our Saviour, of all people, understood this. Facing the cross He pleaded to be excused, but resigned Himself to His Father’s will and carried it out magnificently. How did He accomplish that massively impossible task? But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9)

Mature Christians do not become mature by finding excuses; they do it by finding grace. They do all sorts of things God wants them to do even though they cannot. How? The grace of God helps them.

Not only is helping grace always enough it is also always necessary. We simply cannot do what God tells us to do in our strength. We must have His help in order to do it, whether it is something for ourselves, or something we need as we serve others. Paul said it this way, For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. (2 Corinthians 1:12) Our “conversation” is our manner of living. “To you-ward” means how we help, how we minister to those around us. How do we live a life oriented in service toward those around us? By the grace of God.

I am a Christian, a citizen of the United States, a neighbor to other people on West George Street, a son to two aging parents, a brother to five siblings, a father to three precious children, a friend to dozens if not scores of people, a husband to my darling wife, a writer read by more than a few, and a pastor to the membership of my church. Just writing that sentence exhausts me. All of these responsibilities require things of me that I cannot do and be. It is not in me to fulfil all of them well all the time.

In just one of those – being a Christian – I am supposed to live holy, have faith, pursue wisdom, show love, stand firm for right, know doctrine, witness, give sacrificially, be patient, learn the Bible, praise God, pray, serve in a ministry, forgive others, keep Christ pre-eminent, be at peace, persevere, work hard, judge carefully, control my tongue, express gratitude, keep my mind on Heaven, cultivate sorrow for my sin, be meek, hunger for right, yield to the Holy Spirit, live contented, resist the devil, keep a shining testimony, and a thousand other things. How in the world can I do that, let alone everything else on my list?

I cannot – by myself. I must have God’s enabling, strengthening, helping grace. And then I can, for His grace is sufficient.

This is the only possible way that what I offer to God will ever be acceptable to Him.  Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Hebrews 12:28) 

Do you find yourself over-matched, beloved? Do you find yourself wondering how in the world you can possibly do all the things you are to do? How you can possibly be all the things you are to be? Good. Let that drive you to the throne of grace. You will find there mercy, and grace to help in time of need.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published at Concerning Jesus Blog. Used by permission.

Tom Brennan

Tom Brennan is the pastor of the Maplewood Bible Baptist Church in Chicago, where he has served since 2004. Prior to that he founded and pastored a church in rural Pennsylvania. Maplewood is a vibrant, multi-ethnic, inner-city work more than a century old but full of life. He and his wife, Mandy, have three children. Brennan’s Pen is Tom’s writing ministry. Birthed in 2014, it includes a blog, daily emails designed for men in ministry, as well as his books. Tom welcomes interaction with his readers. You can contact him on Facebook at Brennan’s Pen.

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