12 January 2019

Grace Will Lead You Home

This sermon I preached with one of my students, before she left school to return home.

The bulletin's synopsis:
As the years come and go we tend to rely upon mere things of this world to fill the emptiness that the past year left in us. But God reminds that He is all we need to fill that emptiness, because His grace is sufficient for us. 
With Him we can do more than survive. We can thrive.

Manuscript for 13th January 2018
Nairobi, Kenya

Ryan: Happy New Year, L..

L.: Happy New Year, Ryan.

Ryan: Have you made any new year’s resolutions?

L.: I have...

Ryan: That’s great.

L.: Have any of you made new year’s resolutions?

L.: New Year’s resolutions: the problem is that we seem to forget who gave us this life, who gave us a new year, we don’t put God first in our resolutions for the new year that is why we find ourselves easily falling into challenges early in the new year such as struggling to lose weight, reading a new book, or getting enough exercise. Because it seems as though our new Year’s resolutions are just about me me me.

Ryan: And these challenges of the New Year might be the same troubles we’ve faced in our past year, problems that are all too familiar with us that follow us into the New Year. Like problems with depression, troubles with family, problems with friends, problems fitting in, feeling like you’re not enough, trouble with school, trouble with getting good grades.

L.: So we find ourselves falling into the trap of searching for other materialistic things such as bad relationships, drugs, substances, maybe shopping, or social media, and even school to fill these empty holes that these challenges have created in our lives.  However we shouldn’t forget that happiness depends on happenings. We might rely on situations or rather circumstances to define our happiness. But joy is always there. Joy does not depend on happenings. Instead we should look to God who promises us joy that cometh in the morning and it is forever there despite the circumstance or situation you are facing.

Ryan: You’re saying we should be content with God despite the happenings in our lives? What do you mean by happenings?

L.: Yes exactly Ryan. Happiness depends on happenings, by this I mean events that go the way we want, or when we get what we want. But the joy we find from God doesn’t depend on our circumstances or situations. God is enough for us.

Ryan: That reminds me of a passage from 2 Corinthians 6. Paul writes, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ.” And he says he’s content because of God’s promise to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power i made perfect in weakness.”

L.: Wow, God promised “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Ryan: God’s grace is all we need for our happenings. Grace is enough for us.

L.: But Ryan, what exactly is grace? And don’t say it’s amazing.

Ryan: Well, the word grace in the original Greek is charis. Charis or grace basically means favor or kindness. It’s where we get the words charisma or charismatic, someone who is attractive and inspiring, but it used to mean someone who possessed God’s favor because of their gifts.  Like Mary, for example. In Luke 1:30, the angel Gabriel comes to her and tells Mary that she has found charis or favor with God.

L.: But does grace just means favor, or kindness? What’s so special about that?

Ryan: Grace doesn’t just mean favor or kindness, but its kindness that is unearned. It’s unmerited favor from God. God shows kindness to us, He favors us not because of anything we deserve but because of His love.

L.: So grace is a word to describe God’s love for us even when we don’t deserve it. Grace is unearned, undeserved, but God saves sinners anyway.

Ryan: Exactly. That’s why theologians say that the most basic definition of grace is unmerited favor from God. It’s God’s saving love, God’s compassionate kindness for sinners even though we don’t deserve it. This is what Ellen White says about grace:

“By disobeying the commands of God, man fell under the condemnation of His law. This fall called for the grace of God to appear in behalf of sinners. We should never have learned the meaning of this word “grace” had we not fallen. God loves the sinless angels, who do His service, and are obedient to all His commands; but He does not give them grace. These heavenly beings know naught of grace; they have never needed it; for they have never sinned. Grace is an attribute of God shown to undeserving human beings. We did not seek after it, but it was sent in search of us. God rejoices to bestow this grace upon every one who hungers for it. To everyone He presents terms of mercy, not because we are worthy, but because we are so utterly unworthy. Our need is the qualification which gives us the assurance that we shall receive this gift.” AG 10.2

L.: So God’s grace, God’s favor, His kindness, His love was sent in search of us!

Ryan: That’s right. God’s grace is active, it comes after us. It finds us.

L.: But why would God’s grace be sufficient for us?

Ryan: God’s grace is sufficient because of what it does. Because of His favor for us, because of His kindness, He saves us. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. This is not of your own doing. It is the gift of God. Not the result of works.” We need nothing more, nothing less than God’s grace for our redemption.

Have you ever sinned?

L.: Yes of course. I’m a sinner saved by his unmerited grace and favor.

Ryan: God’s grace is all you need to be forgiven. Have you ever found yourself in such a mess that you couldn’t get out of it?

L.: So many times I find myself in situations that I find hard to get out of.

Ryan: God’s grace redeems you, grace redeems your mistakes and makes something good out of it. Have you ever been so sick, so tired, so overwhelmed that you’ve felt helpless, like you couldn’t get up?

L.: Yes, in fact when I was sick this past semester. I felt so helpless, so weak and tired and in my weakest point my faith was tested I found myself questioning God and asking Him why me and why now?

Ryan: God’s grace comes and reminds you that you are highly favored by God, that His kindness is always toward you, that by His grace you can stand. There is nothing we can do to earn His love, there is nothing we can do to make God save us. God’s unmerited favor toward us, His grace is enough to redeem. Nothing more, nothing less.

L.: In other words, you could say that Jesus is all we have and Jesus is all we need. That reminds me of what Paul says in one of my favorite passages,  Philippians 4.

Ryan: Go on.

L.: Paul says in Philippians 4:10-13, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 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 all this through Him who gives me strength.”

Ryan: That’s one of my favorite passages too.

L.: The thing about this verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” is that it’s over used. It gets taken out of context.

Ryan: What do you mean?

L.: For example, “I’m going to run a marathon. I can do all things!” “I’m going to get a 4.0 this year. I can do all things!” Yes you can do it through Christ but that is not what Paul necessarily meant when he wrote this verse. He wanted us to realize that with Christ, all things are possible whether we have weaknesses, whether we are insulted, whether we have hardships, whether we are persecuted, whether we have troubles. We can be content in whatever situation we are in because his grace is sufficient for us.

Ryan: I get it. Paul is saying that Jesus is enough for him to get through hard times or good times. He can be content in whatever situation he’s in because Jesus is enough for him.

L.: Exactly. See, the thing is that contentment can be an elusive pursuit. As we tend to go after what we think will make us happy only to find that it didn’t work, in fact we were much happier before we started the quest. That is why it is important to learn to be content with what we have and resort to God in times of loneliness, emptiness and despair as He is all we have and all we need.

Ryan: And in this New Year we should remember that Christ is all we need to fill our emptiness.  We should not resort to materialistic things to fill the emptiness that challenges of life have left in us.

L.: When we feel discontent in life, we tend to turn to things that might satisfy us but they won’t. In any situation that we are in, we should be content. Whether we are poor, or whether we are rich, whether we are failing, or wether we are succeeding, whether we are on the hot list or on the not list, whether we are depressed, or delighted all in all the important to remember is that Christ is enough for you. And despite any situation we face we should be able to say I’ve learned to be content because I was with Christ and He is all I need, I don’t need more or less because Jesus is all I need. For example, look at Paul in jail. He may have  felt lonely and depressed but he realized that Jesus is all he had and Jesus was all he needed.

Ryan: Because God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor, God’s saving love was sufficient for him.

L.: We ought to trust in God in this new year to give us the strength to get through the year. We need to stop looking at these mere things to fill that emptiness we have inside and remember that his grace is sufficient for us. At some point in my life I faced difficult situations where I felt as though God wasn’t there for me. I felt like the God I prayed to before, wasn’t there and He wasn’t listening to me in my time of greatest need. But at some point, He comes to me and says my child, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Ryan: Our troubles might continue, but so will God’s grace. Our problems might still confront us, but so does God’s grace. Our fearful pasts might follow us wherever we go, but so does God’s grace.  Our sins might abound, but so will God’s grace.

L.: We might be weak, but God’s grace is strong. We might be insulted, but God’s grace encourages us. We might be persecuted, but God’s grace comes after us. We might be sick, but God’s grace heals us.

Ryan: Trials endure, but so does God’s grace.
L.: Enemies surround us, but so does God’s grace.
Ryan: Fear grips our hearts, but so does God’s grace.
L.: Sin abounds, but God’s grace abounds all the more.
Ryan: We are pressed
L.: but not crushed
Ryan: Persecuted
L.: but not abandoned
Ryan We are struck down,
L.: but not destroyed
Ryan: We once were lost,
L.: but now we’re found. We were blind, but now we see.
That is God’s amazing  grace.

L.: So remember -- the emptiness we have in our lives -- only God can fill that. The challenges we face in our lives, only God can fix that.  The brokenness that we feel in our lives, only God can heal that. He must increase and we must decrease. It should be more about Him and less about us. His grace is sufficient, my own strength never will be. His favor, His love is sufficient, my own power never will be.

L.: And this grace will not just help us survive, but it will enable us to live a more abundant life. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” All we have to do is wait upon him and we can do more than survive. We can thrive.

L.: Because of Him we are saved. No, not because of our own doings but because of his grace. Our lives right now might be a mess and it seems like everything is failing and you feel like giving up. You like Lord I can’t do this anymore I’m not enough, everyone hates me, I’m failing in school and it seems as though everything I do fails. He says my child to me you are enough, you are the most intelligent, my love conquers all and my grace is sufficient for you. I will renew your strength and mount you up with wings like eagles.

Ryan: You will run, and not be weary. You will walk and not faint. And you will learn to be content in whatever the circumstances. You will know what it is to be in need, and you will know what it is to have plenty. You will learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether to abound or whether to suffer. Why?

L.: Because you and I can do all this through Christ who gives us strength. And God’s grace is sufficient for you. All you have to do is to find that grace.

When Adam and Eve repented of their sins, they found that grace!
When Noah built the ark, he found that grace!
When Abraham followed God, found that grace!
When Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea, he found that grace!
When Joshua entered the Promised Land, he found that grace!
When Ruth followed Naomi, she  found that grace!
When Esther stood in front of the king, she found that grace!
When Isaiah prophesied, he found that grace!
When Mary accepted God’s will, she found that grace!
When John followed the Savior, he found that grace!
When Peter’s life was changed, he found that grace!
When Saul became Paul, he found that grace!

T. will find that grace!

Mrs I. found  that grace!

V. will find that grace!

Ms O. found that grace!

A. will find that grace!

Whoever I see will find that grace!

Ryan found that grace!

Ryan: And L., you’re finding that grace.

L.: You too can find that grace,

 and grace will lead you home!



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