Hard Pressed But Never Destroyed

January 4 2013BMy best friend and I not only shop together, call and text but we also pray together and share scriptures when needed.
So, today I’ve been praying for a specific need because that was her morning text. This afternoon she called a bit depressed and perplexed. I did what a friend does: I listened, agreed, offered comfort, listened some more, offered a bit more advise. When our silence grew deafening, the only thing I knew to do was pray over the phone for her in her ear.
She’s a praying woman and I know she will find her answer.
Afterwards, I began trolling through a list of things, although I’m supposed to  finish a chapter of my novel and send out two resumes. I was growing weary at the writing, and daunted by the task of job hunting. In my list of things, I found the following devotion that represented the day, ironically, I’m sure my best friend sent it to me on January 12, 2012.

Hard Pressed, But Not Destroyed

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, We are preserved not pickled! 2 Corinthians 4: 8 to 9 (NIV).

The Message translation of the Bible says this ”We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us in trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us our lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!”

When the sailors of old faced the worst of the storms, they would call out to encourage one another with this statement of faith, “Hold fast”. When the wave buffeted against them and the winds howled and the storm raged, and it seemed like everything was against them, they would call out, “hold fast”.

Ephesians 6:13 – 14  (NIV)  says, “and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then”.

At times we may feel like we are going through the mill, and we are having a hard time. That is the time you need to hear these words “Hold fast! For the storm will not last forever.”

Notice if you will, that no matter what life throws at you, no matter the circumstance, there is a  “But not” from God, but not crushed, but not in despair, but not forsaken, but not destroyed! -Because God is an awesome God. We are preserved not pickled!

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 4: 8 -9 (NIV)

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

No matter what we face, not matter how difficult the storms of life, it will not last forever, we will be preserved not pickled. Because if God be for us who can stand against us? Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.

In A Place of Cheap or Free Grace

ImageMy grace is sufficient for you…” is a powerful verse. Although easily said, it’s tough living the scripture when life doesn’t seem smooth or when our preference is not God’s provision until one truly understands grace. When God blesses us, despite the fact that we do not deserve it; that’s grace.  When good things happen to the unworthy, that’s grace. And it’s free. Free to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Hence God’s daily bread for our life is ample.

Imagine a moment when you were in a place of free grace? Scriptures illustrate these characteristics of those blessed by God’s grace: fruitful and grow, Genesis 1:22, happiness and prosperity, Genesis 22:16-18, build you up and give you an inheritance, Acts 20:32.

However these blessings come only with obedience to God’s commands. Repeatedly from Old Testament to New there are if then clauses: If God’s people obey, change, seek, love…, then He will provide, increase, protect…you get the picture.

So why would one want cheap grace? In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship, cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, the cross, and without Jesus Christ, living and personified.

And living with cheap grace gives us unholy rest.

I don’t know about you, but I want free grace. I don’t want to claim to follow Christ, yet live my life my way: no rules, no discipline, no structure, no Bible, no prayer, no  church, wanton and crazy. I’ve done that, too.

Are you in the place of free or cheap grace?