So, ladies, my fellow researchers, reachers, listeners, and fighters, just in case you were wondering, no, it is not time to give up. It is not time to walk away from this conference even though you may be feeling a little discomforted right now. It is time to press in, to lean in, and see what God has for you.
It is kind of like a massage. That’s how I feel at this point. I think so many of you have been giving stuff up and praying and crying that it might feel sort of like a deep-tissue massage. You know what I mean?
You finish your massage, and you’re laying there on the table, and they say, “You may get dressed now.”
And they leave, and you are laying there. When you go to push yourself up, your eyes are, like, swollen. You know what I mean? You're congested. You’re just, like, “Oh my word. That was great!” But you throw your legs off the table, and then you get dressed. It can happen.
So right now you may be feeling a tad congested. Maybe you feel all of that stuff is moving around. Your massage is good. Things moved around, shook things up, but maybe you are feeling spiritually congested. Maybe you’re, like, “This is not exactly what I was hoping I would be feeling right now.”
Okay? Doesn’t it feel like you just had a massage? But all that junk is floating free. It’s getting ready to be and should be expelled. So don't leave your appointment groggy and cranky. There are some instructions you need to get.
I pray God has been doing and continues to do a deep work in your life and in my life during this conference and beyond it. And sometimes His deep work can feel so uncomfortable even if you know good things are happening. It is a beautiful thing to realize that we need to change, to expel some things. That realization comes from God.
And now I get to share the good news: The rest of your massage experience at Revive is going to get easier. Why? Because of grace. Grace.
It is because of God’s wonderful grace that we are convicted of sin and want to forsake it.
Because of His grace, our eyes are drawn to the things that are lodged in our lives that He wants us to be free from.
Because of His grace, we will be leaving here prepared to face whatever circumstances are awaiting us at home.
It’s even because of His grace that we want to be free.
Because of His grace, He sets us free to live grace fully.
The definition of grace (from dictionary.com) says “the free and unmerited favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestower of blessings.”
Oh, it's unmerited, all right. What unbelievable compassion from God to give us this sustaining gift so freely. It flows into us when we ask Him for it. It moves into every place where we need it. It’s the right temperature for all circumstances. It can be hot and malleable to meet us in the fire. It can be warm to heal and to comfort, cool to refresh. However we need it, it is always there when I ask for it, and it has never run dry yet.
There are two reasons, two reasons why you might really need this life giving grace right now.
The first one is grace for sin.
You, perhaps, feel a little overwhelmed at all God is showing you about your sin this weekend?
- You might need grace today because you’ve become aware of a sin that you have finally repented of. God’s grace is for you.
- Perhaps you’ve finally gotten the courage to confess a secret sin that has long been buried in your past. God’s grace is for you.
- Maybe you've become aware of a sin in your life that you didn't even know was a sin. God’s grace is for you.
- Maybe you’ve finally gotten the strength to throw off that sin that keeps entangling you. God’s grace is for you.
A second reason for life giving grace is grace for circumstances.
Maybe your heart quakes a little at the thought of going home because of some difficulties that you’re going through right now. Do you know that God’s grace can meet you where you are? That is wonderful news! His grace meets us right here, and then His grace moves us forward. We don't have to stay in this same spot stuck. God’s grace is for you.
- Maybe you are returning to a job that just doesn't feel right.
- Maybe you are returning to a troubled marriage.
- Maybe you are suddenly in a new and unfamiliar place and no one knows who you are, and you are not sure what to do about it.
- Maybe you've changed 6,237 diapers, and there is no end in sight. Well, there is an end, but it is a hind end. (laughter) It’s not the same thing. It's cute, but you need grace.
Be encouraged! Your awareness for your need for grace, that achiness and discomfort, it is the promise that good things are coming.
For me, all this waking up of deadened areas and sore spots, it kind of feels to me like the spiritual version of the flu symptoms you may feel after that massage appointment. Have you ever heard that? If you finish having a deep-tissue massage, they say, “Expect that kind of slightly pre-flu feeling.”
So, after that kind of experience, the massage therapist is using their post-massage voice like this.
And they say, “Make sure you drink lots of water to flush out the toxins in your system.”
And you're, like, “Uh-huh. Okay.”
And you know what happens right after that? They tell you you need to flush your system, and then they hand you an itty, bitty, little Dixie cup. Do you ever notice? Sometimes they’re the ones with the pointy bottoms. You’re trying to sign the check and not put down the water, and you’re trying to not spill it. So that's the little, little cup. Now it's very nice of them. You can see the huge water dispenser. They can't hand that to you, and then have you walk out. So they have to give it to you in a little, tiny cup.
God does not have to be restricted like that. He doesn't pass out tiny doses of grace. Right now, as you've become aware of your neediness, God is placing in front of you a hugevat of grace. (Straws are optional.) If you need to just stick your whole face in there, by all means please do so. Don't let decorum stop you.
I have had to do that, dipping into this vat of grace. I kept managing myself like a scuba diver. (Are they who tip over backwards? I don’t do boats in water very well.) But those ones, I feel like that's me dropping into God’s grace.
Last year we moved. We took our family and uprooted, and we moved to Phoenix, Arizona, from Pennsylvania. That was a huge move, super scary. I needed grace for so many things. I don't have time. You should just find me and ask me some things. But I’m going to try and just give you a short list of the different areas that I needed grace.
I needed grace for the stab of fear that came into my heart when we realized that God was wanting us to do this move.
I needed grace when I thought my family was dying in the week before we left because we all got salmonella. There are people listening right now whose hearts just dropped because they got salmonella, too. It was a salmonella party!
We could not go to each other's houses and celebrate. We just needed lots and lots and lots of toilet paper. (laughter) I truly thought my family was dying—that is an actual fear of mine, is that we would slowly all die from sickness. The Lord delivered me from that, but that's what was going on.
I needed grace for getting over to an exit on a Phoenix highway. You have to go over, like, eight lanes.
I needed grace when the shipping company . . . I found out some of them didn't ship to postal addresses. They only had to ship to houses. So things would be returned over and over.
My oldest was not homeschooling the first time, for the first time. Right as we moved.
We missed friends. We missed weddings. I don't know how many people decided in this past year they were going to get married right after we left, and we couldn't make it. I cried. I wrote so many declines. “We can’t make it.” That's all I did—crying. Births, my sister had a baby, other people had babies.
I needed grace for not having any close, deep friendships. I left deep friendships in Pennsylvania. I was able to keep up with some of them, but there weren't any where I was.
I needed grace for when I had to do laundry by hand because the house we moved into didn't have a washing machine that worked.
I needed grace for squinting in the sunlight in Arizona. It is beautiful, but when you come from State College, Pennsylvania, you can't see. Okay? I couldn't see. (laughter)
I really needed grace when I found out—and I asked the Lord for mercy . . . I said, “Please, the first time I see a scorpion, please let me have shoes on.” He was so nice. I did have shoes on. (laughter) It was a big scorpion. And because I didn't want it to be dead when my husband came, I stepped on one claw, so he could just sort of walk in circles. (laughter) It was great. I was, like, “Get over here! We have a huge scorpion, and I have shoes on! And I'm so happy.” (laughter)
I needed grace for all of those things. There were huge things and little things, but I think God was just trying to say, “I'm going to make you ask Me and ask Me and ask Me and ask Me until you get used to using this tool that you leave lying over there.”
I do so much without it. Do you know what I'm talking about? Can you feel that? Are you feeling that right now?
We're all at different levels of need, but we don't have to bother with comparison of those needs. That's how I am, and the Lord is teaching me not to do it.
There is no reason for you, with a stubbed-toe-level of need for grace, to look over at that lovely lady with her stretcher-level need for grace. You know what I mean? That lovely lady may be laying there, and she’s on a stretcher and her head is immobilized and strapped, and she’s waiting for grace. And you might suddenly feel sheepish because it’s just your toe. You know that feeling? I feel like that. I’m just, like, “It’s okay. I'll come. She needs it more than me.” You know? Like the Lord is maybe going to run out.
But that's not true. There is grace for you, and you, if you are the lovely lady lying on the stretcher. Don't try to crane your neck around and look at her making assessments. “What could she possibly need grace for? Come back when you've got real problems, sister.” (laughter) Don't do that. God’s grace is for her. God’s grace is for you. It is for us all. No condemnation.
So would you do something real quickly for me? Maybe you are a little sore in one or two places in your life, or maybe you feel like a mess from top to toe. If you are sensing that you need some grace right now, would you quietly just stand up, just stand up right now if you need grace in your life in some area—small, big, medium-sized. Thank you. Stand up wherever you are if you need grace.
I would like all of you to take a deep breath in and out. Say, “God’s grace is for me.” And then find someone near you and say, “God’s grace is for you.”
All right. Stay standing. I'm going to pray over us, and then we can sit.
Father God, I thank You. I thank You for Your grace. I thank You that it is so abundant, and that You want to give us to us, and that You don't want us to run dry. I thank You for the places we need grace and for Your mercy to help us apply it. In Jesus' name, amen.
You may have a seat.
Okay, let's talk about three ways to liberally apply grace.
The first way I want to talk about is flushing, like after the massage.
In James, chapter 4, verse 6, it says, “But he gives more grace.”
That is why Scripture says “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” This verse is generally used for the proud/humble comparison. You know what I mean? It’s, like, you can't get it unless you're humble.
But I would like to focus a minute on the grace part. There’s that little piece right in the beginning. It says that God gives us more grace. More. No danger of shortage. It’s there for us when we need more.
The Lord showed me that I was treating grace kind of like a round of antibiotics. (I was trying to think how to explain this.) You know what I mean. You have a very bad infection, and you are, like, “I hope I only need this much.” And so you take it for those days. And you take it, and you are like, “Oh, come on, kick it.” You hope you don't go in for a second round, right?
So I shouldn't keep needing grace. That's how I feel generally. Maybe you don't have a problem thinking this way, but I do. But I know that God will keep giving grace to us. I needed to learn that.
Now, the action that is required for us to open this endless reservoir of grace is humbling ourselves and learning to recognize that we need it and asking for it. So what does that look like?
Humbling ourselves to get the grace—that can look like many different things. Maybe it looks like you telling the person that you came with, or someone sitting next to you, that you can't stand your job.
Maybe that's what it is.
Maybe you need to admit that. It could turn out that the person that you are telling this to, that you've shared this with, has felt something similar. They may have beautiful wisdom and encouragement for you. That's grace.
Maybe humbling yourself looks like accepting that your marriage does need some work. Maybe it needs the help of a counselor right now. And maybe getting home, realizing what the necessary steps are that you need to take to get your marriage back on track towards healing and power, that's grace.
Perhaps you do too many things, and you say “yes” to everything. (This is me. The Lord has been teaching me about this for a long while now, and I think I'm starting to understand it.) Humbling yourself might look like admitting this problem of what I call “over yessing.” Yes to everything and owning that maybe you do way too much. It’s possible. And being able to come up with ways to extricate yourself from some commitments and from this habit of doing it all, that is grace, too.
Grace can be for the flushing out of the things in your life that the Lord has shown you to be toxic. Those things have been loosened up in the massage. Time to flush them out of your system with lots of grace.
In the short history that I have had with God Almighty, I’ve seen that He is so wonderful and so thorough. If He has pinpointed the pain, He will not just let it rattle around in there. He will flush it out by His grace.
The second way to apply grace that we're talking about today is for refueling. For refueling.
Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.”
This verse is coming right after the description of Jesus as our high priest, who knows exactly what we go through, what we're going through today. He understands, and He has made grace available to us at those times of need.
So, grace can be used in our lives for refueling, to fill us up that so we can do what is in front of us to do.
We want to advance, to move forward from this place where the hindrances and the stoppages have been flushed out, and we need fuel for the journey forward.
Sometimes your fuel might be used more quickly, depending on the terrain—when everything is, like, rough, bumpy, and uphill. You notice, if you have driven on areas like that, that you run out of gas much more quickly.
I tend to treat grace in these situations a little bit like I treat the gas in my car. My husband is helping me get over that. But I feel like each time it's a test of faith. “Will I find a gas station in time before my car dies? Jesus, anoint the fumes. Lord, anoint the fumes.” (Sounds of laughter.) That's not really a test of faith. I think it's just bad planning. But that is definitely how I live in that I'm hoping I can make it.
- We need grace for the everyday.
- We need it for the unusual.
- We need it for the plodding times.
- We need it for the rushing times.
- We need it for the hurrah times.
- And we need it for the boo.
Okay? All of it. We are journeying forward, and that looks different for each of us.
For you, is it time for you to start that company that the Lord has called you to build? Is it? Then the fuel for that is grace.
Are you now the one taking care of your aging parents? Is that a new thing for you? Is that part of your journey? Then your fuel for that is grace.
Are you and your family moving thousands of miles to parts heretofore unknown? Grace is your fuel.
Is part of your journey trying to figure out what on earth to feed your child now that she wants solid food? That's a pain. I don't know if you guys have all experienced that, but it is. Sometimes you don't know what to do.
Listening to stories at bedtime, just as you’re pulling the door shut, you’ve given hugs and kisses and prayer. And they’re like, “I just want to tell you one more thing real quick.” You need grace for that.
Stuffing a puffy toddler into the car seat, I needed lots of grace for that. (laughter) Okay? Lots of grace.
Here is how to find that grace for fuel: We have to use it to press forward, and we do this by approaching the throne of grace, and we are to do so confidently.
Now, I hope you see that the word confidence here is not the same as pride, because we use confidence to reflect ourselves, like, approach the throne of grace with confidence.
Confidence, according to one Mariam Webster’s definitions, is “faith and belief that one will act in a right, proper or effective way.”
Faith and belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way. This is not certainty in your own ability to get what you are looking for. This is a strong belief that the one you are approaching will give you what He said He would. This God we serve always acts in a right, proper, and effective way because He understands what you’re going through, and He wants to give you grace in your time of need. You are not supposed to do it empty.
The third way to use grace that we're talking about today is by giving it away generously. Applying it liberally to other people.
Ephesians chapter 1, verses 7 to 8, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
First of all, this verse is coming out of a gorgeous list in Ephesians chapter 1 of some spectacular things God has chosen to give us, but I want you to notice a certain word, and that’s the word “lavished.” The redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, we have those because of the riches of God’s grace. His grace is pure treasure. And then He lavishes it on us.
Here are some synonyms for lavish: Excessive, exorbitant, over extravagant.
When you hear words like these, I feel they generally tip towards descriptions of irresponsibility and wastefulness. I think of, maybe, like a party that just went way over the top.
I imagine if we were somehow to watch God dishing out His grace, is it possible that He would appear to be a bit wasteful with how generously He pours out grace for us?
Let's look really quickly at Colossians chapter 4. Colossians chapter 4, verses 5 and 6, “Be wise in the way you act we act towards outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
So how we act towards people who don't know God, how we talk to them, our conversations should be full of grace. Why? Well, we’re going to jump to 1 Peter chapter 4, and we’ll talk about it.
First Peter 4:10 says this, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
We are stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Stewards—(time for another definition). A steward means “one appointed to supervise the provision and distribution of food and drink in an institution.”
You know what that means? The food and drink you . . . As a steward distributes, it’s not from you. It’s going through your hands to the people who need it, but you get to choose how much. That's what a steward does.
All the gifts we have received, like it says in 1 Peter, we should use to serve others because He has given us charge of distributing His grace. We've been appointed to look carefully over how His grace is being doled out. And because our King is lavish, and His storehouse will never run out, we don't get to be stingy or closed fisted with His grace. We need to pour it out. He doesn't use Dixie cups, and we don’t use Dixie cups. Okay?
Who in your life needs grace right now? Is it your husband? Is it a child? A friend? Is it your parents? Maybe it’s a perfect stranger. When we fuel up on the over-extravagant grace God has for us, we should lavish it upon the people around us whether they need grace for sin, grace for circumstances, whether they need a flushing, a refueling, whatever the need is. And then they, by the grace of God, can in turn generously distribute His grace to those around them.
We need to ask for His grace. God wants to give it to you for all of your times of need, big need, little need. It doesn't matter. We can apply His grace liberally to our lives because God gives grace.
Now, I am Nigerian. I am Igbo. And one of the best presents my parents gave me was to have me be able to speak Igbo. They taught it to me. I’m first-generation American, so I was born here in the States, so that was difficult, but they went ahead and taught it to me.
Now, my youngest sister, after she was born, her name is the grace of God.. And right after she was born, that kind of sparked a lot of songs about grace. And I want to sing one over you as we are ending our time together. I'm going to sing that song in Igbo. The translation is saying that God’s grace is abundantly rich toward me.
In just a few moments I’m going to have you all join in small groups of people around you and tell the Lord what you need His grace for. That's what I want you to do. But first I want you to stand up, please, while I sing this song over you. Okay?
Now I want you to turn to the people near you, and I want you to pray. Tell the Lord, “I need Your grace for . . .” and say whatever it is, please. So take a few moments to do that. Tell Him you need His grace. It is there for you. It will not run out. Ask Him for it. Ask Him for it. He will give you His grace. Amen.