“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 D
So far in this sub-series on appropriating God’s grace, we have discussed prayer, consuming the Word of God and being submissive to God. In this post, we will look at the fourth and final means of appropriating God’s grace through the ministry of other Believers.
Ministers of Grace
The Bible says by helping each other with our troubles, we obey the law of God, which is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Vayikra 19:18 and Matthew 22:39) God never meant for us to go through life on our own. He puts weaknesses in our lives so we realize how much we need each other. We need to accept support from God’s people.
The fourth means by which we can appropriate God grace is through the ministry of other Believers. This is a fundamental means God uses, because He has ordained that the Kehilah be such that “all the members care for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:25 NLT) Of course, this is to be a reciprocal ministry. We should be channels of grace to one another.
However, the times when we need an extra measure of God’s grace are often the times when we are most reluctant to let other people know we need it. This leads to an important principle regarding the ministry of grace. Each of us needs to cultivate a small group of friends with whom we can be transparent and vulnerable. This might be on an individual or small group basis. But we need a few people – including our spouse, if we have one – with whom we feel free to share our failures, hurts, and sorrows.
What are some ways in which we can ask others to be ministers of grace to us? There are three primary benefits from having a small group of fellow Believers that we can turn to in time of need.
- Prayer support. It is instructive how often Paul asked the recipients of his letters to pray for him, even when he did not seem to have extremely pressing needs. So certainly in our times of need we should ask others to pray for us. But, if they are to pray effectively for us, we must be willing to share what our real needs are.
- Their help in accepting and applying Scripture to our specific needs. We might say, “Here is my problem. What Scriptures do you think might help me?” I realize this is a radical suggestion, because so often, when we are experiencing adversity, the last thing we want is for someone to give us a pat answer in the form of a Scripture verse. But if we have developed the kind of friendship where we can be transparent and vulnerable with one another, then we are not going to be giving each other pat-answer type responses.
- Helping us see our situation with a better, more objective, perspective. We all know our tendency to magnify problems, or perhaps put the worst construction on events affecting us. The friend can be the Ruach’s agent to help us see our circumstances more objectively. That better perspective may help us to more readily humble ourselves under God’s hand.
Prayer is probably the most important way we can be a minister of grace to someone else. Beyond prayer, we must in some way receive permission to be a minister of grace to the person in need. One of the best ways we can do this is to demonstrate that we care.
How can we demonstrate that we care? Obviously the first thing we must do if we know a friend is hurting is to make contact. This is where we so often fail each other because we may feel awkward and don’t know what to say. Try this, just tell the person, “I know you must be hurting badly, and I don’t know what to say, but I just want you to know I care.” Then, if appropriate you could add, “If it would help, I’d like to have lunch [or whatever] with you, and just listen to you. I’d like to know how you are really doing.”
When you have demonstrated to the person that you do care – be sensitive to determine when the other person believes this – you can begin to ask gently probing questions, such as, “How are you and God getting along during this tough time?” “Are you able to get any comfort from the Scriptures, or are they just dead to you right now?” Ask questions in a way that communicates you won’t be shocked by negative answers.
The sharing of Scripture with a person who is deeply hurting requires a great deal of sensitivity. We must be careful that we do not appear to be “preaching” or giving glib answers to difficult problems. A good rule is to comfort others only with Scriptures that have comforted us in a similar situation.
Ministering to one another in time of need is an important means by which the Ruach mediates His grace to us. We do need each other’s help to appropriate the grace of God, for as Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, in that their cooperative efforts yield this advantage: if one of them falls, the other will help his partner up – woe to him who is alone when he falls and has no one to help him up.”
If you realize you do not have such a “grace ministry” relationship with one or more friends and are wondering how to develop it, let me offer a few suggestions. First, we must admit we need it. Some of us, especially us guys, are reluctant to admit such a need. Self-sufficient independence seems to be a hallmark of western culture. However, you probably have realized and acknowledged that none of us is self-sufficient – even in our personal, private relationship with God. He has made us in such a way that we need one another.
Second, ask God to lead you to the specific people of your same sex with whom you can develop such a mutual relationship. As you pray, consider the various people within your sphere of acquaintances who might be possibilities. If you are looking for a one-to-one relationship, invite that person to breakfast or lunch and see if the “chemistry” is there, that is, if you sense a mutual comfortableness with one another in sharing personal needs, goals, spiritual lessons, and so on. If you are looking for a small group environment, invite two or three friends who might be interested to get together and explore the formation of such a group.
This is the bottom line – the take away – from this sub-series on appropriating God’s grace: When you’re going through a problem you can’t fix, don’t give up. Just look up! Look up to Yeshua and follow His lead.
In my next post, we will be moving on in our series on Gods’ Grace by looking at dealing with perfectionism, a problem with which I have personally struggled.