Is there a limit to God’s grace? I think anyone who follows Christ asks themselves that question when they look at their own lives and recognize their own sinfulness. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve allowed myself to wander from God’s plan only to ask myself, once I came back to God’s way, “How many times will God forgive me? How many times will He show me love and mercy even when I don’t deserve it. Of course, that’s the point of grace. God continues to pour out His love and mercy, His forgiveness, especially because we don’t deserve it. In fact, if you think about it, if the greatest example of grace is the fact that God loves us and wants us to be with Him – then anything that God does to accomplish that is a way He shows His grace.
Sometimes that grace is hard. Sometimes, to use the parenting term, we encounter God’s tough love. It isn’t easy. We don’t like it. But, if we are true followers of Christ, we accept it and turn back to God. God has dealt with us in a loving, gentle manner, and if we refuse that offer of grace – sometimes life gets hard. We suffer the natural consequences of our sin. Then we blame God. And then, He lovingly draws us back into a relationship with Him. The situation John describes in the Revelation as the plagues are raining upon the earth is when God has come to that point with those who have been persecuting His followers. He sent them as evangelists to show His grace and mercy, and not only did they reject that, they sought to kill His messengers. So, the plagues began. At one point, the description of the plague and the reaction shows up like this: “They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.” (Revelation 16:9)
In Hebrews the author talks about all the different ways that God sought to woo His people into a relationship with Him and talks about how, in these last days, God has sent His Son. To those who were suffering these plagues, not only did they have the revelation of Jesus in their lives, they had the example of those who followed Him. God had sought them, He had wooed them to enter into His kingdom. They had rejected His love and grace. They had reacted violently. We saw yesterday the worship of those who had emerged victorious over the beast. Their victory was found in the fact that they were faithful unto death. Their victory was that these people, suffering the plagues described by John, could not steal their joy in Christ. Now, as these plagues continued – these persecutors knew that God was the author of the plagues since they cursed His name, but they refused to repent; they continued to refuse to accept His offer of grace.
One of the problems I have is that I expect God to follow my understanding of the way He should work. I want Him to show me love and grace based upon my understanding of what grace is. For me, that understanding is warm and fuzzy. It’s a God who pats me on the back when I’m sinning and lovingly tells me I’m doing wrong – then, He takes my hand and gently guides me on the right path. Sometimes, though, I need to deal with troubles. They may be consequences of my actions. They may be random issues that pop up in life. They may be difficulties thrown at me by God as He seeks to remind me that I need to return to Him. We don’t like that tough love. We don’t like that hard grace – at least I don’t. When I think back on things, though, and reflect on the events of life through the glasses of God’s love and grace, I realize that those difficult times were another way that God was showing me that He wanted my love and commitment. It sure is a lot easier on me when I return that to God the right way.
Oh Lord, Your grace is enough for me. Let me experience Your grace daily and show it to others.