“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
How Do We Appropriate God’s Grace ~ Part C
So far in this sub-series on appropriating God’s grace, we have discussed prayer and consuming the Word of God. In this post, we will look at the third means of appropriating God’s grace through our submission to God.
Submission to God
The third means God uses to administer His grace to us is our submission to His providential working in our lives. Kefa said, “All of you should clothe yourselves in humility toward one another, because God opposes the arrogant, but to the humble He gives grace. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time He may lift you up.” (1 Kefa 5:5-6)
God gives grace to those who humble themselves under His mighty hand of providence. Our tendency is not to humble ourselves but to resist the workings of His mighty hand. However, if we are to appropriate God’s grace, we must humble ourselves, we must submit to His providential working in our lives. To do this we must first see His mighty hand behind all the immediate causes of our adversities and heartaches. We must believe the biblical teaching that God is in sovereign control of all our circumstances, and whatever or whoever is the immediate cause of our circumstances, God is behind them all.
All we have to do is to recall Job’s afflictions. Job’s response at the loss of his children and his possessions was, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. Adonai gave; Adonai took; blessed be the name of Adonai.” (Job 1:21). And with respect to his own affliction he said, “Are we to receive the good at God’s hands but reject the bad?” (Job 2:10)
God gives grace only to those who are not only humble toward other people, but are humble and submissive under His mighty hand. An ancient hymn says, ‘Lord, I am willing to receive what You give, to lack what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to suffer what You inflict and to be what You require.’ We must have that spirit if we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and receive the grace He has promised to give.
But there is still one more essential element in this exercise of humbling ourselves under His mighty hand. We must not only submit, we must also do so in faith that He will lift us up in due time. The “due time” is when the adversity has accomplished its purpose. As the prophet Jeremiah said, “For rejection by Adonai does not last forever. He may cause grief, but He will take pity, in keeping with the greatness of his grace.” (Lamentations 3:31-32) God will not leave His heavy hand of adversity on us one moment more than is necessary to accomplish His purpose: “For He does not arbitrarily torment or punish human beings.” (verse 33)
The humbling of ourselves under God’s mighty hand always leads to exaltation. Sometimes this may consist in the removal of whatever affliction God has brought into our lives and the restoration of peaceful circumstances, perhaps even more prosperous circumstances than before. This happened in the case of Job: “Adonai blessed Job’s later situation even more than his earlier one.” (Job 42:12a). At other times, though the circumstances are not changed, as in the case of the death of a loved one, the heaviness and painful grief or agonies are removed. This happened in the case of Paul’s thorn. He was given grace to accept his thorn.
How are we to obtain such faith when it often seems to us God has forgotten us? The answer lies in 1 Peter 5:7: “Throw all your anxieties upon him, because He cares about you.” God cares for you. Even though He is disciplining you, He cares for you. As we have already seen, discipline is an indication of His care. But His care goes beyond necessary discipline. Even as He disciplines you, He shares in your pain. Isaiah described God’s attitude toward Israel, “In all their troubles He was troubled.” (Isaiah 63:9) The same can be said of God’s attitude toward you. In all your distress, He too is distressed.
Because God cares for you, you can cast your anxiety on Him. Do not get these thoughts reversed. The text does not say, “If you throw your anxieties on Him, He will care for you.” His care is not conditioned on our faith and our ability to throw our anxiety on Him; rather, it is because He does care for us that we can throw our anxiety on Him.
Even at this point, we need the help of the Ruach to do this. Even with all the assurance this whole passage provides us, its truth sometimes fails to reach our hearts. Sometimes we have to pray for the grace to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and the grace to believe that He does in fact care for us. Sometimes we must pray as did the father who came to Yeshua asking Him to heal his son. When Yeshua said to him, “Everything is possible for him who believes,” the father exclaimed, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24 HCSB)