I learned an unforgettable lesson about grace on a beach.
It was the summer of 1986, and I was on a summer missions project in North Myrtle Beach. About halfway through the summer, a strange and amazing thing happened in my heart. This rising senior who had played “office” as a child (I was the president of the company my dad worked for and my little sister was my secretary) and who loved her accounting major suddenly had the desire to be in vocational ministry. The way I describe it was that God took my heart and made it do a 180 in my chest. The change was massive, exciting, and scary!
Since I had been involved in Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) for half of my Christian life, I naturally considered joining the staff of the ministry. The kicker, though, was that you had to raise your own financial support to do it. Daunting for anyone, but especially for someone whose parents had moved three times in the last 5 years.
One week a woman with Cru came to visit the project to speak to the women and make herself available to talk to us one-on-one. I don’t remember her name, but I still remember part of our conversation as we walked on the beach. When I talked to her about my fears about raising my own financial support, she taught me about God’s grace. She said that God hadn’t given me the grace right now to take that step of faith because I wasn’t raising support right now. But she assured me that when I reached that point, God’s grace would be there then. In other words, God doesn’t give us the grace ahead of time – He gives it to use when we need it. (She was right, by the way!)
This conversation came to mind recently when I was teaching a Bible study on grace using the study guide to Jerry Bridges’ book Transforming Grace. In Chapter 10, Bridges compares grace to manna. The story of how manna started is in Exodus 16. God provided so that each person had exactly the amount of manna that they needed for each day, but one of the rules of manna was that you couldn’t hoard it overnight. Of course some of the Israelites tried – only to find it full of maggots the next morning! The way God set up manna meant that the Israelites had to go to bed each night with an empty bowl trusting that God would provide food for them the next day. Think about doing that every night!
Bridges says, “God’s distribution of the manna illustrates the way He distributes grace. There is always an ample supply; no one ever need go without. But there is only as much as we need – and even that is on a day-to-day basis. God doesn’t permit us to ‘store up’ grace. We must look to Him anew each day for a new supply. Sometimes we must look for a new supply each hour!” (Transforming Grace, pg 146)
The lesson the Cru staff woman taught me on the beach that summer turned out to not just be one for me to raise my own financial support as a 22-year-old. It’s actually one I have to go back to over and over again. Because following Christ – and, honestly, just living life – often means doing things that I don’t think I can possibly do. How can I have that hard conversation I know I need to have? How can I face the person who hurt me so badly? How can I add one more thing to my schedule even if I sense that God is calling me to do it? How can I share Christ with my co-worker? How will I transition to the empty nest? How can I get through the pile of work on my desk that never seems to shrink? How can I keep responding patiently to that difficult co-worker day after day? The list goes on and on.
Thankfully “God’s grace” is the answer to each question. Maybe not the only answer to the question, but it is an answer to each and every one of those questions and anything else that seems impossible or overwhelming. His grace is always sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He even gives an abundance for every good deed (2 Corinthians 9:8). So be encouraged and be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1) in all that you face – today and every day.