Blogger and soon-to-be published author Sara Hagerty recently tweeted, “If knowing Him more intimately is my end goal, there’s not one single thing I will face today that can’t serve to draw me into this.”
Sara reminds me of Paul.
In Philippians 3, Paul weighs the world’s value system against Jesus. Nothing – not family background, not religious background, not social status – outweighs knowing Jesus. In fact, in my favorite verse of the Bible, Paul makes the claim that he now views all of his assets as losses “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8).
A glimpse of Jesus’ beauty changes the way we measure the value of everything else.
While knowing Jesus is incomparably valuable, it is also achieved in the “everyday-ness” of life. It’s the most valuable thing in the world, but it can happen in the most ordinary of moments – on the level paths, on the mountain peaks, and even in the valleys of life. In fact, as God would have it, some of the experiences we are most prone to resent are actually invitations to grow in our intimacy with Jesus.
Let me explain. When faced with setbacks, disappointments, discouragements, failures, and hardships, we are especially prone to cry out to Jesus. There’s something about suffering that puts us on the fast track, so to speak, to growth in our relationship with Jesus. Paul calls this “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). It’s an invitation to know Jesus on a level we can’t reach through ease alone. As Hagerty also tweeted, “When we see suffering as a chance to know a new nearness to God, our circumstances get redefined.”
It bears reminding that God does not overlook evil. We don’t ignore pain or excuse sin. But we don’t let those realities define us, either. What is meant for evil, God is both willing and able to use for our good and His glory (see Genesis 50:20).
Through tragedy and triumph, poverty and prosperity, we grow in a relationship that’s more valuable than winning the lottery a million times. John Piper beautifully expresses this concept when he says, “Christ is glorified in me when people see He is more precious to me than all that life can give or death can take.” He’s not just precious on the deathbed; He’s precious in the daily grind of an average workweek.
Every moment of life is an opportunity to know Jesus better. No experience is excluded. And it is especially true that the most challenging of circumstances are what propel us into deeper, more joyful fellowship with our Savior. In the memorable words of Charles Spurgeon, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
Today, thank God for any wave that graces your life by throwing you against that blessed Rock.
Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry
The book of Ephesians is powerful and life-giving in so many ways, but mostly because of Paul’s bold instructions for Christian living and for its message of grace.
The Lord has used His Word and His people to teach me a lot about grace over the last year. It all began with a little book called Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (who happens to be a CIU graduate and Billy Graham’s grandson.)
In his book, Tullian stresses the importance and practice of grace in our Christian lives. Because, after all, it is by GRACE we are SAVED! It is by GRACE we are ABLE to mature spiritually. Not because of our constant striving or working or doing. It is by GRACE we are able to become holy, sanctified, and righteous before God. Tullian explains this kind of grace by saying, “When gospel grace grips your heart, life becomes all about gospel grace. When the gospel reorients how you think and feel and live, all of life becomes about the work Jesus accomplished for us, not what we can accomplish for him – or anyone else for that matter. We’re liberatingly decreased while Christ is gloriously increased.”
Learning about true, gospel grace has set me free from climbing the proverbial ladder to heaven. Understanding true, gospel grace has taught me that it’s not about me or how good I can be… it’s about Christ and what He has already done.
Studying Ephesians the past couple of months has only driven that point home even further. Paul tells us in 2:8-10 that “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. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I have always understood that accepting Christ as Savior and believing that His atoning sacrifice for my sin is what grants me eternal life. But am I living in His grace by constantly “checking spiritual boxes” in my mind and by being enslaved to the notion that I must always “measure up?” No. Because that's love of self, not love of God.
Martin Luther sums up our plight best by saying, “The sin underneath all our sins is the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and that we must take matters into our own hands.” Learning to rest fully in God’s grace is a life-long endeavor, but I am thankful that no matter how often we take matters into our own hands; His grace knows no end.
God’s message of grace has transformed my life in every way. I hope and pray that you, too, will be awakened to “the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Tullian Tchividjian shares about grace and his forthcoming book on his blog as he writes, "Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome." To read more of Tullian's blog, click here.
The free gift of God's grace cannot be earned. Spend some time reflecting on His grace today and on Ephesians 2:8-9 which says, "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."