Everyone at the church was thrilled when Bill and Joy were married. They were a modern-day Cinderella and Prince Charming. He was smart, good looking and from a well-liked Christian family. She came from a broken home on the wrong side of the tracks.
She struggled feeling worthy of God’s love. He struggled seeing he needed God’s love. But by God’s grace, they both accepted Christ while in a college youth group.
After five years of marriage, the honeymoon was over and God began to seem distant. Joy wanted to be a mom but couldn’t get pregnant. Bill was frustrated his career was stagnant. His MBA wasn’t generating the upper middle class income he hoped.
The mutual disappointment was taking its toll on their marriage and their relationship with God. Their frustrations only grew when their non-Christian neighbors were being blessed with children and career advancements. They decided it was time to meet with their pastor.
Although their story may be different, their experience reflects many couples. They accepted Christ as their Savior and experienced His blessings – love, acceptance, and rich fellowship.
But what was going on with Bill and Joy? After 7 years of Christianity their spiritual lives were stagnant. Their joy was gone and they were losing their love for God.
What changed? How can their pastor help them? Is there some secret sin which was preventing Bill and Joy to receive God’s blessing? What was it about God they were not understanding?
Grace is common too
Their pastor was patient with them as he listened to their story. He asked various questions to make sure he understood what they believed and listened for gaps in their understanding.
After prayer, he decided to discuss God’s common and saving grace with them. Common grace is the mercy God shows all mankind through various blessings.
- He provides us shelter and food for survival (Matthew 6:25-34).
- He blesses us with family: spouses and children (Genesis 2:24-25).
- He blesses us with intelligence, allowing many advancements to be made in medicine.
- He provides order through governments (Romans 13).
- He blesses us with beauty: music for the ears, sunset for the eyes, food for the tongue.
Common grace is received by all people; the evil and the good (Matthew 5:44-45). This common grace is a result of God’s goodness and kindness–hoping many will come to repentance (Romans 2:4).
But there is a danger. God’s blessing must be received with correct theology. If not, we can begin to think we are finally getting what we deserve–that it is not about grace at all.
- Joy wanted God’s blessing of a happy family life to make up for the abuse she suffered as a child.
- Bill wanted God’s blessing in his career so he would be viewed as a success.
We can begin to expect God to be the provider of our desires. We can wrongly believe God is good when we receive His blessing and when the blessings are not there, the goodness of God is up for debate.
The other grace is better
Our enemies (world, flesh, and the devil) work hard to take our eyes off the prize (Philippians 3:14) and place them on created things.
Created things are tangible and present. When we receive them, they make the world seem as it ought to be. God’s common grace can be twisted to become idols.
We need to remember the context of God’s common grace. It is the display of God’s love, mercy, and patience, which leads us to accept the free gift of salvation (2 Peter 3:9).
This gift is saving grace. Saving grace is the work of God in an individual’s heart, leading him to repentance by trusting in the work of Jesus Christ for his salvation.
This work of God is not based on any merit of the individual, but the free gift of God, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Yes, God does give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:13), but the gifts are to display God’s glory, not because we deserve them. The greatest of these gifts is redemption.
Which gift do you treasure?
Bill and Joy’s problem was they loved God’s common grace more than His saving grace. I don’t think they are alone. I know my heart longs for God’s blessings more than His holiness.
We can easily crave the wrong things. We don’t see the depravity of our hearts or how our greatest need has been addressed in the Gospel (Ephesians 2:3-5). Our relationship with God has been restored.
The great transaction has taken place–Christ came down from heaven to take our place, and we get His righteousness. I have to remind myself daily that this is a big deal.
It is okay to desire God’s blessings, but we don’t need them. They don’t control us. It is only when we recognize these truths we can lay down our lives and pick up our crosses (Mark 8:34).
Thinking about God’s common and saving grace has been convicting. I look back at my early years as a Christian, and realize how most of my gratitude towards God was for His common grace.
- What is your theology regarding God’s common and saving grace? (You can read Wayne Grudem’s, Bible Doctrine, Chapter 17 for reference.)
- Have you ever thought about how to receive God’s blessings? How does Matthew 12:34 relate to how we receive God’s blessings?
- Take some time and list the top 5 treasures in your life (e.g. marriage, children, sex, comfort, food, etc). Did Christ make your list?
- How do you view God’s common grace towards non-believers? Does it cause you to praise God?