July 31, 2023
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV
Two years ago, I experienced grace in a new way when I came “face to face” with my own mortality. On the evening of February 4, 2021, I was going home from work. It was dark outside, and as I was parking my car I pulled up alongside another parked car. That car held 3 young men who were in the midst of some drug activity.
I startled them, and one of them shot at my car 7 times. One of the bullets hit me in my arm and broke my shoulder blade. By God’s grace, I was able to get help, be treated at a local hospital, and regain strength through physical therapy. I am doing fine. As far as I know this was the closest I have ever come to meeting the Lord “face to face.”
Yes, it was traumatic. But at the same time, it was clarifying. I was reminded again of what we believe – life is brief, we are not in ultimate control. Especially, the concept of grace took on a new practical meaning for me.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor where He delivers us from sin and the power of the evil one. Apart from him, we would be destroyed by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Grace is a gift. After my life was spared, I began to appreciate life more because I now better understand life is a gift! I have a new and sweeter appreciation for my relationships with family, friends, and church members.
In the same way, life in Christ is a divine gift. We don’t get it because of our skills at avoiding sin or our ability to placate God. Rather, we receive new life on account of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This passage reminds us that even the faith whereby we receive Christ’s salvation is itself a gift from God.
When we experience God’s grace, it changes the way we view the rest of our life. God’s saving grace changes not only our relationship with him, but also with ourselves and others. We discover that he has designed and called us to “good works.” He’s equipped us to do things that bring him glory and bless our neighbors.
I share this not to solicit sympathy for my experience but to make much of the Lord and his goodness. All we have belongs to him and he is worthy! We are simply so blessed to be his children and to be well cared for by him both now and for all eternity.
Kevin VandenBrink is a teaching elder in St. Louis, Missouri who serves as the Planned Giving Director for Langham Partnership.