William Paul Young, the author of The Shack, was at the Best Western in Harrisburg in early March of this year. Our friends, Tom Kaden and Mike Gingerich, invited us to attend their banquet sponsored by their ministry, Someone To Tell It To.
I was impressed by the message Young spoke that evening. He said, “After going through years of ritualistic abuse, I learned the importance of ‘living in the grace of the day.’ Yesterday has its regrets, tomorrow its troubles but God gives us grace for the day! Learn to live in it. It is from heaven as manna was given daily to the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. They received enough for each day—not too little or too much. Just what they needed.”
I get this. Young made the point that grace is the “manna” which enables us to live within divine favor but also heal, and then, pace ourselves as we engage the world with faith, dignity, love and truth. Grace causes us to bear with inequities, brokenness, heartaches, and the injustices and not overreact with anger or despair. It provides courage and confidence to trust God or we might abandon Him altogether.
I remembered a story in Genesis 26 where Isaac was asked to remove himself from the vicinity of the Philistines by its King Abimelech. Isaac did not fight back. He thought it was unfair, less than charitable, and would cause him undue hardship. But he met the request with grace and moved on.
What happened next caught me off guard. A little while after his departure, Abimelech approached him with his entire army and does an unusual thing. Instead of warring against him, he asks Isaac to partner with him. Would he agree to engage in an oath to confirm this commitment. Strange, huh? Why would Abimilech do this or Isaac consider it? The answer? Abimelech (and all the Philistines) saw clearly that the Lord was with Isaac. It became clear when Isaac took the Israelites a distance away and they saw the favor of God prospering him wherever he went and whatever he did. Not bad insight for a ranked pagan, huh?
I saw this thing myself just yesterday. Didn’t see it coming either.
I have been discipling a man, Ben, who has been on the streets, living in abandoned buildings, and attending college. He has been unable to find a home he can afford so I have helped him with food, money, tools for work, laundry and whatever way I can and he asks. He has made great progress. We have a great friendship and he has come closer to Christ in the last 6 months. He still calls himself a “reluctant follower” but he behaves more like a Christian than many Christians I know.
This week, he finally, found a landlord who was willing to barter work for room in an apartment that needed much remodeling. My friend, Ben, told the landlord how I (we—m28) have coached and helped him through many a difficult situation. He was impressed that Ben had arrived at this point in his journey and was taken back by this. So, he asked to meet me.
When we met here is what He said, “I have been through some difficult times in my life in the last three months and I need your help as you have helped Ben. Would you be willing to partner with me through these difficult days? I sure would appreciate it.” Of course, I said yes. But I asked him, “What makes you think I can help you?” He said, “It is obvious you have found favor with God. So I thought you might be able to help me find peace out of the heart ache in my life.” Like I said, I didn’t see that coming.
[Living in grace will] provoke a question about the Gospel and the hope it conveys. Everyone needs hope. Without it, we would give up.
Here are two takeaways for me. If we are faithful in living in the grace of the day as Isaac did, we can expect two things to happen. First, many of the people we do life with will begin to connect the lives we live with the Gospel we keep. In many of them, this will provoke a question about the Gospel and the hope it conveys. Everyone needs hope. Without it, we would give up.
Second, some of them will want to have a closer relationship with us. They’ll want to spend more time with us, if only to gain some advantage from our friendship. And when they do, they will also be willing to discuss our faith more openly and honestly. And what is wrong with this?
When the people in our unbelieving world begin to sense the hope and see us living in the grace of the day God gives us, perhaps, they will consider that there might be something in our way of life for them too. If we have been gracious and forbearing with them, loving and nonjudgmental, or even willing to be taken advantage of or wronged, this may be the path that will give us opportunity if not earn the right to speak into their lives. As Isaac lived with favor and within the grace of the day he was given, let us do the same. It is better than fretting over the uncertainties of tomorrow. Right?