As I come to the end of this two-week series on grace, I hope I have encouraged your heart and challenged you to consider what it means to live by grace. You might wonder what might show you were moving in that direction in your daily life. In the book review that got the series started, Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges, the author points to some clues that show evidence of that.
One of the first evidences that show we are experiencing living by grace is gratitude. We are keenly aware of how great the gift of God’s grace is and continues to be. That awareness fosters gratitude and gives honor to the Lord for such an incredible gift. As we grow in Him, we discover that no matter how wonderful we thought the gift was at salvation, it is more magnificent than that and our lives reflect it.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and a readiness (perhaps eagerness) to show appreciation for and a desire to return kindness. When I say that we get in touch with even more about grace after we have walked with Him for some time, it is because we recognize with gratitude it is His grace that has kept us and helped us become more Christlike. That spurs us on to desire to grow even more and recognize the ability comes from Him when we do.
The second evidence we are living by grace is contentment. When we are grateful/thankful our focus is on what we have in every area of our lives rather than on what we do not. As we are walking daily with the Lord, we recognize what we do have is by His grace. No matter what our station or situation in life, a deep awareness of grace results in an inner contentment. This could be akin to a “peace that passes understanding”.
Sadly, it can be easy to experience discontentment. It stems from comparing what we have to what others may have, believing we deserve more than we have gotten, and questioning whether God has been fair to us. This kind of discontentment points to the truth that we have lost touch with grace that we received when we didn’t deserve any of it.
Jerry Bridges says this about contentment:
“…contentment arising in our souls from living by grace – that is, from realizing we have not received what we actually deserve, but daily receive what we don’t deserve – brings great wealth of spirit, even if we are living in poverty and obscurity.”
The third evidence of living by grace is humility. True humility is not saying there is nothing good in us and dwelling on how undeserving we truly are, but recognizing instead that whatever good there may be stems from the grace of God. True humility gives credit to whom it is due.
True humility is not responding with self-deprecation when we receive a compliment or some honor for something we have done. That focuses on us…the opposite of true humility. Humility expresses thanks for the compliment or honor, but then acknowledges and points to the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace within us as the source of the achievement.
Forbearance is a word not often used in the current day, but Jerry Bridges notes it is a character trait of someone living by grace. We are more familiar with the word patience than forbearance. Forbearance actually means, “to put up with”. If we are exhibiting forbearance in our relationships that stems from gracious grace within us, it is not something we do with complaining or a grudge.
I was especially taken by the words of Jerry Bridges about this in Transforming Grace:
“…God has to constantly put up with our faults and failures. Not only are we faulty and thoughtless in our relationships with one another, more importantly, we are faulty and thoughtless in our relationship with God. We do not honor and reverence Him as we should.”
A few paragraphs later Bridges’ adds:
“The more we have a heartfelt comprehension of God’s love for us, the more we will be inclined to love others. And since love covers a multitude of faults, the more we will be inclined to be patient with one another. So patience (forbearance) ultimately grows out of recognition of God’s grace in our lives.”
The final evidence of living by grace is forgiveness. It is a close companion of forbearance, but it differs in a critical way. If we have forbearance or patience with others, we do so because of some unintentional way someone has responded or not responded that irritated or disappointed us. When they have intentionally said or done something that hurts us, then we need grace to remind us of what we received despite our own permanent bankruptcy to offer forgiveness.
Looking at this list might be daunting. If so, remember you cannot accomplish any of this except through appropriating and living by grace every day. Giving God’s grace reign to do so, yielding out of love for Him to the work of the Holy Spirit is the only way. Then we are transformed and He is honored and glorified.