Today is the last day of 2019 and, amazingly, the last day of the decade. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the beginning of a New Year and the birth of 2020. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time believing that it’s actually 2020. Much has happened over the last 10 years. And, as every aging boomer bemoans, “Where has all the time gone?”
The verse we are using to help focus our prayers today is Ephesians 3:1-2, which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.
Tomorrow we will be looking at the word dispensation and all the truths we can discover from Paul’s use of it. (Spoiler: They are quite challenging and convicting). But for today, I’d like to focus on the phrase “the grace of God which was given to me for you.” And specifically, the words grace and given.
Time For Looking Back
Gratitude is a dying character trait in our current culture. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by entitlement and narcissism. But this should never be the case when it comes to the grace we have received from our Lord. Grace is a gift, freely given and without merit. And all we are entitled to as sinful, unredeemed humanity is eternal separation from our God. As people of God, it would do us well to always remember that distinction.
It is customary, on New Year’s Eve, to pause and reflect back on the things that have happened to us, both good and bad, during the last year or so and the many lessons we have learned. If we do this in secular life, how much more the need in our spiritual lives. Our Scripture speaks about “the grace of God which was given” to each of us. Grace (cháris) is defined as “unearned and unmerited favor” and means “to rejoice, particularly in that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude.” It also means a “favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving-kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the goodness and benevolence of the Giver (God).” Now read that again slowly. Outloud. This is what has been freely given to us from God.
There is a great difference between mercy and grace. Mercy is not receiving something we deserve, like condemnation and eternal judgment from a righteous God. And Grace is exactly the opposite, the receiving of the wonderful blessings of God we truly don’t deserve.
Ask yourself these questions:
What have you received from the Lord this last year, or maybe this last decade, that you didn’t deserve?
How has He blessed you?
What prayers has He answered for you that you had long since thought would never be answered?
Has He proven Himself faithful?
Has He always been true and honest with you?
Has His Word ever returned to you void? (Isaiah 55:11).
Or has His Word always proved to be steadfast, unmovable, inerrant, and true?
As we remember the events of this past year, both good and bad, let’s take a few minutes and praise Him for His faithfulness to us regardless of our sporadic faithfulness to Him. Let’s thank Him for not giving us what we deserve, but giving us “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). So take a deep breath, rest for a second, relax, and let your mind wander back to the events of 2019 that caused you the most worry and sleepless nights. Do you remember them? How about the dark times you had in 2018? Or maybe 2017? Or even earlier than that?
Remember five years ago the major concern and fear and doubt in your mind you thought would never get resolved? Can you even remember what it was? Or has God mercifully blotted that memory out of your mind by the wonderful things He did to take care of His child— which is you! Have you thanked Him for all He has done for you recently?
Time to Pray
Today, as you get ready to focus your prayers on His Word, allow the phrase “the grace of God which was given for you” resonate deep in your soul. Spend some time in His presence, quiet, reflective, just thinking about all the wonderful things He has done for you this last year for no other reason than His love for you.
Then quietly, turn those thoughts into prayers of gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise. Speak your prayer verbally so the angels can rejoice with you in praising the Father. Praise Him for all He has done. Praise Him for never changing and for always being the same, “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Let your lips bring forth glorious words of adulation to the very God who has sustained you and has given your life value and worth.
Spend as much time as needed fellowshipping with Him today. Don’t be in a hurry to leave. Nothing you have to do is more important or pressing than this. End this year on a high note with the Lord. Finish well today so you can begin strong tomorrow.
And I’ll see you next year.