Illustration results for amazing grace
R. David Reynolds
“Great Is thy Faithfulness” is not the result of some tragic event in Thomas Chisholm’s life but a powerful witness to his daily walk with Jesus as he experienced “morning by morning” new mercies from His Everlasting Father. Pastor Chisholm always trusted his Everlasting Father to take care of Him, sustain him, and provide for his daily needs. Just before his death in 1960 he wrote this power, personal witness:
My income has never been large at any time due to
impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me
on until now. But I must not fail to record here the
unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He
has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care
which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”
[SOURCE: Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366
Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids:
Kregel Publications, 1990), 348.]
BE LIKE THE SPIDER
There was a man who was cleaning up his desk one Friday afternoon when he noticed an envelope that had been opened. Someone must have placed it there while he was on the phone. He opened it and read it, and to his shock and dismay it was a notice of being terminated, being laid-off from his job. His entire department was being eliminated along with his position. After all the years he had given to his corporation, he found himself filled with resentment and the sense of being victimized. The man sat slumped in his chair in utter despair.
He began to think of all the terrible things that were going to happen to him. His entire lifestyle would have to be altered. He thought, "I'll have to sell my house; I'm too old to get another job; I'm useless; I'm all washed up."
At that moment, the man noticed a spider on his desk, and without thinking he brushed it off. He was amazed though as he watched as the tiny creature automatically spin a strand to bear its weight and swing gracefully to the floor.
He pondered: If this tiny creature could draw forth from within itself some reserve of resources to meet its emergency, why could he not do as much? For many hours, he sat deep in troubling thoughts that turned gradually to creative mediation.
The man moved from the anxiety of what he lacked to the abundance of the God-given inner resources he had been blessed with. He thought: "My security is not in my job or in my money or in my house but in my connection with the God of grace who has seen me through all circumstances in my life. They might take me off the payroll, but no one can take away the flow of God's abundance in my life."
This man had secretly been longing for an opportunity to tap into his creative ability and interest in writing. Now here was the opportunity before him. A whole new way of thinking possessed him. He thanked God for the new door that had opened before him and even blessed his termination from his job. He left the office with an enthusiasm and zest for life that surprised even himself.
To make a long story short, the man had some writings published and earned some money. Now he didn't become a financial giant but more importantly he had a new found faith in the abundance of God and became less anxious about what he lacked in his life.
Source: Adapted from a story told by Eric Butterworth
Why would God go to all the trouble to endure our bad choices and our flagrant sinning in order to have relationship with us? Hear the story of the lost son from the modern setting as told by Philip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace.
Yancey tells the story of a prodigal daughter who grows up in Traverse City, Michigan. Disgusted with her old fashioned parents who overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay premium for her. So she goes to work for him. Things are good for a while. Life is good. But she gets sick for a few days, and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, and all the money goes to support her drug habit.
One night while sleeping on the metal grates of the city, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl. She begins to whimper. “God, why did I leave. My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She knows that more than anything in the world, she wants to go home. Three straight calls home get three straight connections with the answering machine. Finally she leaves a message. “Mom, dad, its me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I‘ll understand.” During the seven hour bus ride, she’s preparing a speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in the Traverse City station, the driver announces the fifteen-minute stop. Fifteen minutes to decide her life.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and a great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads – Welcome Home!
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes and begins her memorized speech. He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. We’ll be late. A big party is waiting for you at home.”
A FATHER'S FORGIVENESS
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace , Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call "dissolute"… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. "Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa." When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeti...
John Newton, the writer of the most popular hymn in history, "Amazing Grace" said:
"… if two angels in heaven were given assignments by God at the same time, one of them to go and rule over the greatest nation on earth and the other to go sweep the streets of the dirtiest village, each angel would be completely indifferent as to which one got which assignment.
It simply wouldn’t matter to them. Why? Because the real joy lies in being obedient to God. For a Christ follower, the important thing isn’t what God has us doing; the important thing is that we’re doing what God wants us to do."
Lee Strobel, God’s Outrageous Claims, 93
A book that has changed my life is What’s So Amazing About Grace? In it the author, Philip Yancey quotes Mark Twain. Apparently Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing left.
In this area it might be Baptist, Pentecostal and Catholic. But you know, it’s hard enough sometimes for a Wesleyan, a Wesleyan and a Wesleyan to get along.
What it means to live under grace is illustrated by the life of John Newton. Newton was born in London, half a century before the American Revolution, to a mother of superb spiritual qualities and a nondescript father. His mother died when he was six. Five years later he went to sea with his father who was a ship’s captain. He became a midshipman and for a time led a wild existence, living in utter disgrace. He rejected the God of his mother, he renounced any need of religion and he lived an irresponsible and sinful life. Eventually he became a slave trader, crossing the ocean several times as captain of slave ship, responsible for terrible human degradation among the captives he had crowded on board. But grace was always a factor in his life. He survived a deadly fever in Africa, and his ship survived a terrible storm which almost killed him.
Finally, dissatisfied with his life, he began reading the writings of Thomas a Kempis. Somehow, the Holy Spirit began stirring inside his soul, awakening him from sin, urging him toward salvation until he finally gave his heart to Christ. He was so thoroughly converted, in fact, that he felt a call from God to enter the ministry. He was eventually ordained in 1781 and accepted a pastorate in Olney, England.
But Newton’s disgraceful past never left his memory and he was completely dumbfounded over the privilege of living joyously free under the divine grace of God. In an intense moment of inspiration, when he was thinking of the wonder of the grace of God which had saved even a wretch like him, he wrote the hymn, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound."
"At last I understood: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the...
The following quotes from people at various stages of their lives shows the maturity that should take place in our perspective toward God and the world around us.
PROGRESSION OF WISDOM WITH AGE
You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. Age 7
I like my teacher because she cries when we sing "Silent Night." Age 7
When I wave at people in the country, they stop what they’re doing and wave back. Age 9
When I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up. Age 13
Though it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents were strict with me. Age 15
Silent company is often more healing than words of advice. Age 24
Brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Age 29
Wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed me there. Age 29
If someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. Age 39
I’ve learned you can make someone’s day simply by sending them a little card. Age 44
Children and grandparents are natural allies. Age 46
The greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his need to cast blame on others. Age 46
Singing "Amazing Grace" can lift my spirits for hours. Age 49
Motel mattresses lie better on the side away from the phone. Age 50
You can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles three things: 1) A rainy day 2) Lost luggage 3) Tangled Christmas tree lights. Age 52
Regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them after they’re gone. Age 53
I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. Age 58
If you want to do something positive for your children, try to improve your marriage. Age 61
Life sometimes gives you a second chance. Age 62
You shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back. Age 64
If you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if yo ufocus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. Age 65
Whenever I decide something with kindness, I have usually made the right decision. Age 66
It pays to believe in miracles. And, to tell the truth, I’ve seen several. Age 73
Even when I have pains, I don’t have to BE one. Age 82
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. Age 92
The fact that God forgives us and blesses us when we don’t deserve it, and of course, we never really deserve it, is what makes grace such a risky thing.
Author Philip Yancey, in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, calls these things loopholes. We all understand loopholes. Webster’s defines a loophole as a means of evading something unpleasant - a hole that provides a means of escape.
Yancey notes that in his book he provides what he calls "a one-sided picture of grace - portraying God as a lovesick father eager to forgive, and grace as a force potent enough to break the chains that bind us. He writes: "depicting grace in such sweeping terms makes people nervous, and I concede that I have skated to the very edge of danger. I have done so because I believe the New Testament does, too."
He then proceeds to tell the story of a friend of his he called Daniel. Daniel was about to leave his wife of 15 years for another woman, someone younger and prettier. He knew the personal and moral consequences of what he was about to do. But he had a larger concern - and he asked his friend "Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I am about to do?"
What a question, huh?
Yancey pondered, "How can I dissuade my friend from committing a terrible mistake if he knows forgiveness lies just around the corner?"
C.S. Lewis quoted Augustine, who said, "God gives where he finds empty hands." Then Lewis noted that a man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift. Then Yancey wrote: "Grace must be received. Lewis explains that what I have termed grace abuse stems from a confusion of condoning and forgiving. To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted, as well as offered, if it is to be complete…and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness." Ultimately, Yancey told his friend that, yes, of course, God could forgive him. ut he also challenged him with these thoughts:
What we have to go through to commit sin distances us from God. We change in the very act of rebellion, and there is no guarantee we will ever come back. He said to his friend, "You ask me about forgiveness now, but will you even want it later, especially if it involves repentance?"
Consider what a tremendous risk God took by announcing forgiveness in advance. Yancey says that the scandal of grace involves a transfer of that risk to us.
- drawn from "What’s so amazing about grace" by Philip Yancey