God gives his gifts where He finds the vessel empty enough to receive them.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12.9a
Self-sufficiency is a dangerous thing, because it is a deceptive thing. We have made idols out of independence, financial security, and control of our own destiny. This is a ‘first-world’ problem. Much of the world exists in a day-to-day struggle for existence. They live without security; life is lived one day-at-a-time.
We, on the other hand, live in an endless pursuit of what our government euphemistically calls ‘social security.’ Our goal is to hoard enough goods and reserves so that we can retire as young as possible and enjoy doing anything we want – or nothing – for the rest of our days.
And yet, if life teaches us anything, it’s that there is no real security in this world. We purchase a house and call it “real estate.” But is it really? Recently I watched a program about sink holes swallowing up homes. The Guadalupe River flooded twenty-some years ago, and lots of “real estate” floated away. I grew up in the shadow of Mt. Saint Helen, and when it erupted in 1980, half the mountain shot into the air and drifted across the United States at 75,000 feet, and about 230 square miles of ‘real estate’ was wiped away.
Consider our career pursuits. We finally get a good job that we’ve been wanting for years, and announce that we have “secure employment.” But as anyone who’s experienced a corporate takeover or catastrophic downturn in the economy can tell you, that “secure” job can get insecure very quickly.
We take our health for granted, until one day we can’t; what we trusted in for our self-sufficiency is suddenly taken away. A relationship we thought would last a lifetime dissolves into frustration and divorce. An investment that secured our retirement goes belly-up in a stock crash. And on and on.
Why am I telling you this? Because as counterintuitive as it is in this world, the most “secure” thing you and I can build our lives on is God’s grace. But when we’re looking for security in the passing things of this life, we inevitably fail to look to God. St. Augustine wrote that “God gives where He finds empty hands.” What are you basing your security on? Are your hands so full of the ‘stuff’ of this world that you can’t grab onto God’s grace? As Dr. Phil might say, “How’s that working for you?”
Oxford professor H. L. Goudge said, “Grace is the free favor of God; peace is the condition which results from its reception.” Isn’t that – the peace that comes with God’s security – what we all want? Grace is at the center of the gospel, and it is at the center of a joyful life. As George Barlow put it, “Grace is what all need, what none can merit, and what God alone can give.”
Recently I had a laryngitic throat. I had to preach in a few hours, so I asked the Sunday morning prayer group to lay hands on me and pray for healing. I imagined God miraculously clearing my throat, but instead, He gave me strength to preach despite my compromised voice. His grace was sufficient for me, even in my weakness.
Edmund Clowney writes, “No folly is greater than to suppose that God is optional for daily living.” Strip away the façade of self-sufficiency that cannot meet your deepest needs, and embrace God’s grace that can!