I have been enjoying hymn 236, “My heart o’erflows with praise to God alway…” Every verse speaks about the grace of God and what it does for us. I think that is the main theme of the hymn, and the more I think about each verse, the more I love it.
Grace is hard to define, but to me, it is that which comes from God that “makes the difference” for us in every experience, in every situation. It is what makes up for our lack. It is what forgives and covers our sin, and erases our mistakes, giving us a “clean sheet” to start again and again and again. It is His strength made perfect in our weakness.
It enables us to have victory against all odds (like David facing Goliath). It enables us to withstand temptation. It gives us the right words when we don’t know what to say, how to answer. And we could go on and on…it includes so many things, too numerous to mention. My desire is expressed in verse 3, “I long to live so that my life will show how much it means such boundless grace to know…”
Another hymn (number 335,verse 3) speaks of those who are “true monuments of grace,” and that’s what this verse is speaking about too. The purpose of a monument is to remind people of someone or something. Every time you see a monument you are reminded of the person or thing or event that it stands for. I can think of people I know who are as monuments of grace. Their lives are continually showing how much it means His boundless grace to know.
I love the promise given in the last verse, “I’ll give you grace, no power my hand can stay.” Absolutely nothing and no one can hinder or prevent God from giving us His grace, as long as it pleases Him to give it and we are open to receive it. There are some conditions of course. For one thing, He gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud. If we don’t come to Him and ask, we won’t receive it. If we are relying on ourselves, if we don’t feel our need of help, then we won’t receive it.
Jesus told the disciples more than once in the garden, “Watch and pray. The Spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” But they missed the help they needed because they were sleeping instead of praying. And of course in the fray that followed they learned just how weak their flesh was. Peter had been so self-confident in what he said, “I will never forsake Thee…I will never deny Thee…” But when the pressure was on, that’s exactly what he did. Afterwards, when faced with how miserably he had failed and that he had just done what he claimed he would never do, he wept bitterly. But that experience was not in vain. I don’t suppose he ever relied on himself again like he had done that night. He learned his lesson.
The Pharisee who prayed in Luke 18 missed God’s grace because he was satisfied with himself. It was the sinner who didn’t even feel worthy to look up to heaven that received grace and was justified, because he humbled himself and repented.
I’ve been reading again about Joseph, as a slave in Potiphar’s house, and then as a prisoner in the dungeon. In both cases, he was a monument of grace! In spite of where he found himself and his own helplessness and all that was against him, nothing could stay God’s hand or hinder Him from pouring out His grace and blessing upon him. It is always such an inspiration to read that story.