Not Ever in Vain

“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

‘In a favorable time I listened to you,
    and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,  but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love;  by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed;  as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:1-10

When God’s grace gripped Paul’s heart and intellect, it gripped him completely and forever. The tenacious Pharisee and persecutor of Christians was transformed by grace, and determined never to waste this priceless gift. Not only did he invest time and sweat, prayers and tears for His kingdom’s sake, but he received all God brought to him not in vain, but as a stewardship.

Paul put to eternal use the ministry God gave him. He worked tirelessly to finish his race a victor. The difficulties he endured seem to be taken in stride, an integral part of the course he ran, obstacles he overcame with his Lord’s enabling and for the furtherance of His gospel. Grace had consumed Paul, and Paul was consumed with grace’s mission. Nothing he endeavored was in vain, but fueled by God’s purpose. (2 Timothy 4:7)

The grace extended to us was costly to Jesus. He took our punishment so we no longer are hampered, and gave His life so we could live for Him. This immeasurably valuable grace that saves and grants spiritual gifts is to be infused into all our thinking about and behavior toward others, our service in church and community, our involvements and conversations at work and in our neighborhoods. Do we value it appropriately, and integrate it in our efforts? (Romans 12:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24)

Are we handling God’s grace with gratitude and intention, or casually and in vain? How do we waste the days and hours and opportunities allotted to us for giving and proclaiming God’s grace to others? What will we do to change this habit, and more deliberately take advantage of conversations and chances to serve? In what instances do we give way to emotion and take the Lord’s name or honor in vain, diminishing Him before loved ones, or an unbelieving world? Would we quickly confess, and determine to revere Him instead? (Exodus 20:7; Numbers 20:12)

“A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill;
Oh, may it all my pow’rs engage
To do my Master’s will!

Help me to watch and pray,
And still on Thee rely,
Oh, let me not my trust betray,
But press to realms on high.” ~Charles Wesley (1762)


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