I’m sure many of us feel touched when we sing John Newton’s much-loved hymn Amazing Grace. The words ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me’ resonate deeply with me and possibly do with you especially if, like me, you recognise living as a ‘lost wretch’ before Jesus found you. God broke through for us and His grace, as the hymn says, was the very sweet sound of God speaking into our darkness and bringing light. This light brings clarity to two realities; the first the truth of our desperate lost state and the second a bright and certain hope for the future.
Today in church as we sang this hymn, I found myself reflecting again on these awesome truths but also wondering what exactly is grace? It can’t be the same as mercy although mercy is definitely part of God’s grace. We might say that grace is that which is offered by one who is gracious, so perhaps we could think of God’s grace as a shorthand for God’s nature; His loving heart to reach out to us with a passionate invitation to receive His love and to trust Him to give us just what we need, just when we need it. His arms are permanently open wide to us, even, the scripture assures us, when we are a rebellious people. He passionately desires to help us.
A later line of the hymn says ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear. and grace my fears relieved’. Now we see an example of how God’s grace continues to work in us. As we allow Him to touch our hearts, His grace both reveals our problems and simultaneously gives us a way forward.
In fact, John Newton’s hymn highlights God’s gracious response to our needs before mentioning the problem, the grip of the wrong type of fear. The hymn states first that grace teaches us to fear the Lord. This fear is the reverent adoration of God, which the book of Proverbs indicates is vital to our well-being. We need to cultivate this fear because as we turn to God, focus on His ways and respond increasingly to His offer of truth, we will be open to receive His help for us. Our gracious God is always ready with the solution even before we realise the fullness of our problem. In this example, the issue is the fears we have, which we may not even recognise, but that put us into submission to something other than God. These fears will steal something of our freedom and can even affect our destiny. God, by His grace, reaches out to us to show us how He desires, and is fully able, to ‘relieve’ us (release us) from these fears.
God’s amazing grace is reaching out to each of us today, to teach us more about the ‘fear of the Lord’ and how to be released from any destiny-stealing fears that grip us. He is sufficient for all our needs, but we must learn to boldly approach His throne with our issues, being assured that there is grace sufficient to help us in our time of need. How amazing is God’s grace!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your amazing grace that you reach out to me to teach me and grow in me a life-giving and wisdom-growing fear of the Lord. Thank you too that You graciously meet all my needs and are fully able to release me from anything that grips me. You will give me courage and strength to face every situation. May I learn more each day what it means to fully ‘fear the Lord’ as I boldly approach Your throne for help in my hour of need. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
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