Summary: We are thankful for a gift when we actually use it!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! In Canada, Thanksgiving has always had a connection with the fall harvest. It is a time to give thanks to God for the bounty He has provided. And truly, there is a lot to be thankful for, but today, as we continue in our Mountain Moment series and climb Mount Gerizim, I want us to think about the thing that God has given us that we should all be most thankful for.
Please turn with me to John 4
As you turn there, I want you to think about grace for a moment. You have probably already guessed that I was referring to grace when I talk about the thing we should be most grateful for, and you are right. You are such a bright and wonderful bunch of people!
Now, we most often identify grace with the free gift of salvation given through faith in Christ and His work upon the cross, but the gift of grace doesn’t end with our salvation. In fact, our salvation is only the beginning of the gift of God’s grace in our lives. Grace is a state or a condition we live in as followers of Christ. Grace is God’s power and God’s intention at work in our lives
In 2 Corinthians we get a wonderful insight into grace when Paul gives us a very personal insight into his life. Paul suffered from some kind of a physical aliment which he called his "thorn in his flesh". Paul tells us that three times he prayed for God to remove the thorn and three times the Lord said no.
Now this is where things get interesting. Listen to the reason the Lord said no to Paul. He says: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 9:12). OK, so what do we learn about grace from this passage?
1. God’s Grace is sufficient--first of all, God’s grace is sufficient. It is all we need. It is enough. There are times when we may not think it’s enough. There are times when it doesn’t feel like it is enough, but the Lord says it is indeed enough! The Greek behind the word that the NIV translates as ’sufficient’ refers to strength. The idea is that God’s grace is strong enough to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Jesus says, "My grace is strong enough to get the job done!"
2. Grace doesn’t remove the problem--the next thing we learn from Paul is that God’s grace doesn’t always remove the problem. Paul keeps his thorn. Paul has to deal with the thorn. Paul has to work with the thorn. If we put point one and two together we could say that God’s Grace is strong enough to help us overcome the problems and the trials we face in our lives. Our problem may not be removed, but God, through His work of Grace in our lives, will give us the strength to overcome, work through, and deal with whatever it is we are facing.
3. Grace is unleashed through our weakness--finally we also see that in order for this kind of living- coping-overcoming grace to be unleashed in our lives, it requires us to acknowledge our weakness. Jesus tells Paul that His gracious power is perfected, or it will accomplish its work in the context of our coming to terms with our weakness. Keep all of this background in mind as we jump into John 4.
Beginning with verse 4 we read: "Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour." (John 4:4-6)
Notice how verse 4 begins. "Jesus had to go through Samaria." You could simply take this to mean that Jesus had to go through Samaria because he was travelling from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north and going through Samaria was the most direct route, but the fact of the matter is that, unless a Jew was in big hurry, they would have never considered going through Samaria.
The reason for this was that Jews and Samaritans hated one another. Jews looked down on Samaritans as a contaminated race and Samaritans despised Jews as self-righteous rats. They were also divided by religious hostility. Jews worshipped in Jerusalem, on the original site of Solomon’s temple and Samaritans established a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, the site of the original tabernacle.
We get a glimpse into the common attitude of the Jews toward Samaritans when in John 8:48 the Pharisees, angered by Jesus’ teachings, blurted out this accusation: "You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?" I guess it wasn’t enough just to call Jesus a devil. They had to come up with something even more insulting than ’devil’ and the adjective they picked was the term ’Samaritan’!