Recently, I was reading Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect."* Paul clearly recognized that God's grace had totally transformed his life.
A zealous Pharisee, Paul had sought out Christians so he could imprison and execute them. Jesus had predicted in John 16:2, "'A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.'" Paul had truly believed that he was doing God a service by getting rid of as many believers as possible.
However, Paul's efforts to please God were actually leading him farther away from the truth. Acts 9 records his dramatic conversion after God powerfully intervened and revealed himself to Paul. God captured Paul's attention, blinded him, and directed him to seek out Ananias. Paul recognized the truth about Jesus, and then he obeyed and accepted God's grace.
Determined to live the remainder of his life in gratitude to God, Paul yielded himself to God and allowed Him to work through him. He devoted every moment of his life to pleasing and glorifying this God who had reached down to such an unworthy, sinful man and had claimed him as one of His anointed servants. Paul so valued His relationship to Jesus that, no matter the cost, he wanted more of His Savior.
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . . I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings (Philippians 3:8–10).
So, God's grace had a powerful and lasting effect on Paul's life. But, does the Bible recount any instances when God's grace was without effect?
They Did Not Recognize God's Grace
Despite the fact that Jesus had performed many miracles in Korazin and Bethsaida, the people did not recognize God's grace, which had been so generously extended to them. Jesus warned, "'Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes'" (Matthew 11:21). The vast majority of the people who listened to Jesus speak and witnessed His miracles did not recognize God's grace. They followed Jesus only as long as He miraculously supplied them with bread.
They Did Not Value God's Grace
In Matthew 19, Jesus encouraged a rich young man to sell his possessions and follow Him. Tragically, the young man walked away from Jesus, and the priceless opportunity to serve Him, because he valued his possessions more than God's grace.
Paul writes to Timothy, "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica" (2 Timothy 4:10). Demas had been a believer (Colossians 4:14) and a coworker of Paul's (Philemon 1:24). Sadly, Demas deserted Paul because he valued the transient benefits of this world more than he valued the awesome grace of God.
They Did Not Act on God's Grace
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul quotes Isaiah :8: "'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.'" Then, he adds, "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Paul was addressing believers, his fellow workers, who had recognized and received God's grace. "We urge you not to receive God's grace in vain" (v. 1).
Paul encouraged the Corinthians to follow his example, being willing to suffer loss, persecution, and hardship, to draw closer to Christ, whose worth far exceeds everything else.
Like Paul, we must recognize God's grace, value it, and act on it. When we do, God is able to multiply His grace, "so that in all things at all times," we will have what we need and "will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). Then, His grace to us will not be "without effect."
© by Nancy A. and Howard W. Stevens
* All Scripture verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.