I sat in the pew and braced myself for the fear I knew to expect. I don’t know how many times I thought I was wielding the shield of faith, only to sustain a truth-knifing requiring weeks, or longer, to heal. My pastor preached a sermon last fall based on Kyle Idleman’s book Not a Fan. The sermon’s main message was that those who follow Christ could adopt the motto: Come and Die.
Just the motto you wanted for your life, right? (Don’t use it to search for craft inspiration on Pinterest.) The idea is found in the verse, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25 (NIV)
I am well acquainted with that verse. I bear hidden scars from the interaction with that truth, and after many years it still sounded…downright awful.
But as I sat and listened to the message, fear did not come knocking. Perhaps it was God’s mercy. Perhaps I’ve had so many rounds in the ring with fear, I was getting better at this capturing thoughts business and making them align with how Christ really wants us to think (2 Corinthians 10:5).
(Oh, and by the way, all those mental battles are exhausting so if you’re in that situation – please be gentle to yourself. You are being productive if you’re battling fear with grace and truth.)
Contrary to the past, fear never made an appearance during the entirety of the sermon. In fact, the sermon prompted me to write a song instead!
What made the difference between a truth-stabbing vs song inspiration? Embracing grace first.
So I had no idea that when you grill kabobs, you soak the skewers in water first. I watched my husband, the one who does all the grilling in our family, do this. He explained it helps prevent them from scorching when they’re in the fire. Makes sense.
I wonder if this also applies in the spiritual realm? If we’re a skewer put in the fire, so we can yield nourishment to others, we need to soak in grace first so we’re not scorched by the truth. Soaking in grace equips us to rightly respond to truth.
Over the past two decades, I’ve struggled to embrace grace. I know I’m not done struggling, but the following treasures of grace have already changed my life:
- I am forgiven. 1 John 1:9 “”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus’ last words on the cross confirmed, “It is finished.” God’s eternal wrath at my sin has forever been absorbed by His eternal Son, Jesus Christ. My debts to Him are paid in full. Every past, present, and future sin!
- I don’t have to be afraid. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 Hope began to draw gasps of oxygen once I began to wrap my soul around this.
- I am loved and highly valuable. The exorbitant price Jesus voluntarily paid to rescue us from ourselves to himself, is clear evidence of God’s love for us and the worth He places on each of us.
- I just need to take the next right step. Following Christ is not a trivial pursuit; it requires everything. This is what scared me! But my present steps, not necessarily leaps, of obedience are what prepare me for the harder future assignments.
Impending labor pains terrified me when I became pregnant with our first child. I’d heard the horror stories. But the logic that my body was preparing me to handle the harder future assignment of labor pointed me to the truth that God prepares us for what is to come. If He designed a mother’s body to change gradually in a process that unfolds over nine months to birth life, could I also trust that He uniquely designs His followers’ transformations to suit the good works He has prepared in advance for each of us? (Ephesians 2:10)
May God yet call me to die for him? Maybe. But meanwhile, God is calling me to live for him. To just take the next right step. God will see to it that he’s prepared us for it, whatever “it” is that God’s asking of us.
- I can rest in grace. I couldn’t save myself; that’s why Jesus died for me. I can’t sustain myself; that’s why Jesus lives for me. This daily gratitude for the implications of Easter is the crux of Christianity. I can simply rest in God’s provision of this amazing grace.
- I can learn from my mistakes. This was not obvious to me. It continues to be a game-changer. Grace is the hand that picks us up every time we fail. It gives us permission, not to beat ourselves up, but to learn from our mistakes and move forward. As I’ve heard before: We don’t ever lose, we win or we learn (or at least, we have the opportunity to). I love that.
Will God ask me to do hard things? Yes. But all of these other things are equally true and by embracing grace first, a usually fear-inducing situation inspired a song instead!
(Stay tuned for Part 2 – the lyrics to the song!)