7 Side Benefits of Grace, Part 3

Most of us are familiar with this definition of “grace”: God’s unmerited favor. That’s a good, solid, simple definition, and again most of us relate grace to God’s treatment of us in salvation. God saved us – He forgave us – when we didn’t deserve it and He continues to treat us better than we deserve. True enough. But most of us don’t think about grace much in our day-to-day lives. I call these “side benefits” of grace, but they really aren’t “side benefits” at all. Each of the seven is a big deal to the beneficiaries of them. Each of the seven helps us to live a fearless, courageous Christian life.

So far, we’ve looked at four of the seven:

  • God names each of us by a name of His choosing. He knows us that well;
  • God is so aware of us and He is so close to us He actually has the number of hairs on our head numbered;
  • He watches us so closely He has our very steps counted;
  • He pays such strict attention to how we talk about Him, He not only records our words but He has written our names down in His big black book in Heaven.

Those are all marvelous side benefits of God’s grace.

Let’s continue with the final three side benefits of God’s amazing grace.

God bottles our tears, Psalm 56:8 KJV

Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? (Psalm 56:8 KJV)

Psalm 56 has been called “the cheerful courage of a fugitive” by Old Testament scholars. David was a fugitive for part of his life; he didn’t always live the easy life on the throne in Jerusalem! While he was a fugitive, he had it bad –

Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. (Psalm 55:5, 6 KJV)

That’s the cry of a man on the run; pursued by a relentless enemy bent on his destruction. David, the mighty warrior-king-poet, was for part of His life, a scared man hiding out in caves, behind trees, and in ditches. And he had good reason for be fearful. King Saul wanted him dead, the enemies of Israel wanted him dead, or alive so they could torture him and make sport of him. In Psalm 55, he’s a man with his back against the wall, but in Psalm 56, he’s writing with some conviction. What he wanted in Psalm 55, he received in Psalm 56. He’s still surrounded by the enemy. He’s still in mortal danger. But through all that, David realized that God was still by his side. In fact, God was more than just with him – God had been delivering Him every step of the way.

The historical background of this psalm has to be noted. David had been captured by the Philistines in Gath. He was in the worst possible place a man of God could find himself in: more or less helpless, surrounded by the enemy, with no way out in sight.

Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. (Psalm 56:1, 2 KJV)

What David wrote here, while poetic-sounding, was really happening to him. He was surrounded – literally covered up – by the enemy. What can a believer do when the forces of Satan are arrayed around him? David tells us –

I will trust in thee. (Psalm 56:3b KJV)

David was afraid. Fear is a very real thing that every believer has to deal with from time to time in life. Anybody who says they are never, ever afraid lies about other things, too. Fear is real. But, at the same time, no believer ever has to fear. When those real feelings of fear come on you, you don’t have to entertain them. When the fear hits, do what David did: trust in God. Each of us must learn to do this because fear and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time.

Love contains no fear—indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. This means that the man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected. (1 John 4:18 JBP)

Love casts out fear. But it’s not just any kind of love. It’s not the love between husband and wife or parent and child, it’s God’s love for you. Yet, it’s more than that. It’s you taking your eyes off yourself and the thing that you fear, and appropriating God’s perfect love.

Verse 8 tells us that God knows “your wanderings.” Yes, He knows where you’re going and where you’ve come from. God never stops keeping track of your comings and goings. Sometimes your wanderings get into trouble – you get into deep water. When that happens, then this happens:

put thou my tears into thy bottle…

Regarding this verse, John Bunyan notes:

God preserves our tears in a bottle, so that He can wipe them away.

We cry for all kinds of reasons. We get angry, and we cry. We get sad, and we cry. We get scared, and we cry. Those are the tears God wants to wipe away, bottle up, and get rid of. A side benefit of God’s grace is that God cares when we hurt. This really is a phenomenal statement of God’s unending compassion. No believer needs to carry any burden. Let that burden go – in the form of tears, if you like – and let God bottle them up and take them away.

God takes our hands, Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 TNIV)

That’s a verse of tremendous comfort to Christians, and it is an incredible side benefit of God’s grace. No non-Christian can enjoy this close relationship with God. Only you can, if you have made Christ Lord of your life. But when you understand this verse’s historical context, it becomes even more incredible.

In Isaiah 41, the prophet shouts out a challenge to all the idolatrous nations surrounding Israel.

Be silent before me, you islands! Let the nations renew their strength! Let them come forward and speak; let us meet together at the place of judgment.” (Isaiah 41:1 TNIV)

So, God has a word or two for those heathen nations. But God calling out these nations occurs within the context of His deliverance of Israel from Babylon. The instrument of His deliverance is revealed in verse 2 –

Who has stirred up one from the east, calling him in righteousness to his service ? He hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him. He turns them to dust with his sword, to windblown chaff with his bow. (Isaiah 41:2 TNIV)

God is talking about a man all these heathen nations would be aware of: Cyrus, King of Persia. He’s the one with Babylon in view and he’s going to be the deliverer of God’s people. What we’re talking about here is God’s sovereignty; His overruling purpose. That is, from time to time, God will use the people and systems of this world to accomplish His purpose for His people. Cyrus, as far as he was concerned, was wanting to extend the borders of his kingdom and that would entail conquering Babylon. But God had a greater purpose: He would use Cyrus and his ambitions to deliver his people from their captivity.

With verse 8, God turns and talks to His people –

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” (Isaiah 41:8, 9 TNIV)

In spite of their present circumstances and dismal future prospects, God had in no way forgotten His people. He chose them. He had called them from all over, bringing them together as a nation, and they were chosen and assembled to serve Him. He never gave up on them. In fact, God thought so much of His people, that He steps in and overrules in human history just to help them out. He still does that today.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19 TNIV)

The omnipotence and sovereignty of God. Knowing the future is God’s prerogative, not yours. You don’t what the future holds. You may think you’ve got a lock on your job and your retirement, but all it takes in one downturn in the economy to wipe out all your plans. What will you do then? This incredible side benefit of God’s grace is almost too good to be true. God will step in, move the world to help you. And His promise is that He will hold your hand. He will see you through. He won’t let go.

God supplies our needs, Philippians 4:19

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 TNIV)

This must surely be one of the greatest verses in the New Testament. Anybody who’s ever come up short by the third week of the month always remembers, however vaguely, that Paul wrote it to the Philippians. Sadly, most Christians get Philippians 4:19 completely wrong. And so they’re always disappointed when they not only come up short, but remain short until the next paycheck. So let’s look at what Paul was really saying here.

There is a real danger that Christians living for Christ and content in their own circumstances – even if those circumstances are difficult – might become careless about the needs of others. And that’s the context of verse 19.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12, 13 TNIV)

So Paul was content with his lot, but he was no stoic. He wasn’t into deprivation. For Paul, going without wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Suffering for the sake of suffering was not necessary, and Christians who are indifferent to the real needs of others, thinking that their bad circumstances are God’s way of punishing them, are totally wacked out in their thinking. That’s why Paul wrote this –

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. (Philippians 4:14 TNIV)

Sure, Paul would have been content to be stuck without two pennies to rub together, but he was grateful for the thoughtfulness of the Philippians who helped him out. And the Philippians, not a wealthy church by a long shot – hadn’t only helped him out, but they had generously helped out other churches and other believers in dire need.

I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18 TNIV)

These poor folks in Philippi, who had so little, gave so much to others in need. So much so, now they were in need. And it was to those generous, impoverished believers, that God gave this side benefit of grace.

You see, God puts a high premium on loving, thoughtful gifts given to those other believers in need, especially to those who are serving and ministering for Him in less than desirable circumstances. The fact is, our stewardship in temporal things is very often a barometer of our spiritual condition, and thoughtfulness in sharing with others and in relieving their need is all part of fulfilling God’s will for others and for ourselves. God doesn’t always use a Cyrus. Sometimes He uses you.

The side benefits of His grace aren’t meant to stop just with the one who has received them. If you’ve been blessed by God, turn around and bless another.

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