Often in conversations with folks, one may hear the interjected phrase, ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ The content of the subject might be starving villagers in Africa, a serial killer sentenced to recline on ‘Ol’ Sparky’, or a friend experiencing marital or financial difficulties. Most certainly, in these cases, the phrase is legitimately apt. However, I strongly suspect that this ‘spiritually’ descriptive phrase is greatly misunderstood.
I have never heard anyone proclaim in a discussion of Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, George Washington, Thomas Edison, Britney Spears, or Julia Roberts, ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ It would be equally apt. A young woman, bedridden by Multiple Sclerosis, peers out of her window on a beautiful spring day and watches a family frolic in the nearby park. ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ She understands the grace of God.
The Apostle Paul:
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24-28, NIV)
“But by the grace of God I am what I am,...” (1 Cor. 15:10a, NIV)
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV)
Peter, along with other Apostles in Jerusalem:
“They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5: 40b-41, NIV)
God’s grace, His love, and His righteousness do not conform to fit the zeitgeist of our post-modern, relative culture. Even much of the modern American church has been influenced by these half-truths.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2TI 4:1-4, NIV)