“This message is from the LORD, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and formed the human spirit. 'Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer.' " (Zechariah 12:1b, 10a NLT)
Of all the words and concepts in God's Word, I think "grace" has to be one of the most beautiful.
Grace. Unmerited favor. Getting something we don't deserve. Can't deserve. Haven't earned. Can't earn.
But of all the verses in the Bible that talk about grace, I think Jonah 2:8 has to be one of the most terrifying: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."
Forfeit. To willingly give up a prize that could be ours. To hand off a victory we only have to show up to claim.
It's as if we've run a race. We've made no effort and have come in last and are standing in the cool-down area. Someone hands us a participation medal. It's made of cheap plastic with a flimsy ribbon that's already fraying. It is no prize, but it's what we've earned. We latch onto it and look adoringly at it and think about what place of honor we'll put it in when we get home, when we're not wearing it around our neck.
Then the Spirit of grace comes up to us, holding out another medal. It is the grand prize. It is made of purest gold and hangs from a ribbon made of finest silk. "Here," the Spirit of grace says, "I want you to have this."
"No," we tell Him, clutching our cheap plastic trinket. "I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. Give it to someone else."
"Take it," the Spirit urges again. "I want you to have it. You don't have to earn it. You just have to take hold of it."
But we refuse. We will not let go of our imitation prize. We give up the true prize. We know we did not earn it. What we do not grasp is that we did not have to earn it.
What cheap token am I clinging to so that my hands are not free to take hold of the grace that could be mine? Pride? My own dreams and plans? Bitterness? An accomplishment? Comfort? Something good that is still not God, like my family?
That last bit is where things get really tricky. God leaves plenty of room in my heart to cherish and hold onto good things, like love for those closest to me. But there is only one throne in my heart, and He is the only One who belongs on it. Anything or anyone else I put there is my idol. And I do them no favors to seat them there. They cannot handle it. They cannot bear that weight. It's terrifying. But moved off that throne and given room to roam in my heart while God takes His rightful place, they can be what they should be to me: an outpouring of grace. Grace so beautiful.