If you were asked to describe your entire life with one word or phrase, what would it be? Think about that for a minute. The sum of all you are and all that you have done hinged to just one little phrase. I wonder if a single phrase exists that wouldn’t leave us feeling as if something was left out. Can a simple string of words encompass the totality of a life fully lived? A lot of cemeteries have headstones with epitaphs that attempt do just that –sum up a person’s life in a few words. Phrases such as: Dearly Beloved; Once Met, Never Forgotten; Uncompromisingly Unique; Remembered with Love; Generous of Heart, Constant of Faith; or A Long Life Well Lived. Sadly, as beautiful as these phrases are, they seem to leave so much out by reducing a three dimensional life to a one dimensional phrase. But what if the phrase we chose to live by turned the focus off of us and onto our Creature? What if the words summing our existence went something like this –A Grace Filled Life? Would people wonder what that meant? Would we know how to live it?
When our lives are filled by God’s grace, there is no doubt that other people will be affected by it. There is nothing about grace that is one-dimensional. In psalm 119, verse 153, our psalmist cries out to God: “Look on my affliction and deliver me…” God’s grace delivers! He delivers us from our pain, in spite of our pain or through our pain, but He delivers us according to His grace. In verse 154, we read: “Give me life according to your promise!” You see, God’s grace extends to us through His promises. What promises of God do you need to live by in this season of life, in this day, in this moment? Perhaps you are dealing with circumstances in life that leave you feeling overwhelmed and weary. You need to live by the grace of God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.“ Family is a blessing, but the people we love can also be a source of anxiety, especially when they appear to make wrong choices in life. As a parent, we need to live by the grace of God’s promise in Proverbs 22:6 –“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” As a person in relationship with others, prone to worry about those we love, we need to live by the grace of God’s Word in Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Maybe there are situations in your life that cause you great personal fear. You know what God has asked you to do and yet this fear seems to hold you back. We can live by the grace of God’s promise in Psalm 27:1 –“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” God gives us these promises and many more in His Word as an expression of grace so that we can live filled by grace, not by fear, anxiety or worry.
Similarly, when our lives are filled by God’s grace, we will live differently from the world around us. In verse 156 of Psalm 119, our psalmist declares: “Great is Your mercy, O Lord, give me life according to Your rules.” A lot of us cringe at the idea of following rules, especially in today’s society. We are actually encouraged to break the rules, challenge authority and defy the system more than we are encouraged to live by rules. But God, in His grace, gave us rules to live by so that we wouldn’t be confined to the “gray” areas of life. Living without rules leads to confusion and chaos. Take idolatry, for instance. Most of us would agree that we don’t bow down and worship golden calves or created statues; but do we bow down to food, money, or even romantic love? Are there things we place above God in our hearts that we don’t even recognize? The danger in forgetting the rule found in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods besides Me,” is that we inadvertently hold back parts of our heart from God. In His grace, God wants us to know Him intimately, but we can’t do that if we hold back our hearts. He tells us in Ezekiel 20:19-20, “Walk in My statutes, and be careful to obey My rules… that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” Do we want to know God more than we want to watch that questionable movie, eat that unhealthy meal or work those extra hours to get ahead? Another rule God gives us in His grace is the rule to take one day a week for rest and focus on Him. In our hurried society, that rule is one that seems impossible to live by. I am old enough to remember when stores were closed on Sundays and most families got together for a big meal. Today, it is just another day of the week with the exception of Chik-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, retail establishments that remind me whatever I think I need to eat or buy can wait until Monday. What if we lived by slowing down on Sundays, by worshipping God not just in the morning at church but with the entire day? God reminds us of His grace through His Son’s Words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” By living within the boundaries of God’s rules and embracing the beauty of His grace, we are truly freed to find the Sabbath rest needed to replenish the soul, and to unreservedly give God the totality of our hearts without fear.
Finally, in verse 159 of Psalm 119, our psalmist says: “Consider how I love Your precepts! Give me life according to Your steadfast love.” What better expression of grace is there than God’s unending love? Do you live as a child loved by God? When we, as creatures saved by grace, love His Word and live by His promises and His rules, His amazing love flows through us and changes the world around us. When we stop defining ourselves by our failures, our history or our pursuits, we are free to adopt the identity God has for us. Is Jesus your Lord and Savior? Then you are defined by John 1:12 which says: “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” You do not need to define yourself by mistakes because God says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, we are no longer defined by how we look on the outside because 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God; You are not your own.” Child loved by God, because of His incredible grace and steadfast love, you are so much more than you ever dreamed you could be. His Word tells you that you are a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17), an incredible work of art (Ephesians 2:10), totally and completely forgiven (1 John 1:9), a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20), light of the world and salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14) and greatly loved by God (Romans 5:8).
You see, there is nothing one dimensional about living a grace filled life. In verse 160 of Psalm 119, our psalmist gives us the one word phrase, so to speak, of God’s Word –“The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever.” My friend, God’s promises are true expressions of grace and His rules are grace given guidelines that will never be wrong. May we live in the light of His promises, on the narrow road of His rules and in the protection and forgiveness of His steadfast love –that is a life filled with grace.! So, if my life boils down to one phrase then let it be this: “She was a child of grace.”