At the heart of stewardship is receiving. With open hands we give, but our hands have to be open first to receive, first and foremost, the gift of redemption that God has given us. And that gift is all about grace. Best-selling author Philip Yancey talks about the apostle Paul’s reliance on grace.
Paul knew better than anyone who has ever lived that grace comes undeserved, at God’s initiative and not our own. Knocked flat on the ground on the way to Damascus he never recovered from the impact of grace … Paul harped on grace because he knew what could happen if we believe we have earned God’s love. In the dark times, if perhaps we badly fail God, or if for no good reason we simply feel unloved, we would stand on shaky ground. We would fear that God might stop loving us when he discovers the real truth about us. Paul—the “chief of sinners” he once called himself—knew beyond doubt that God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.
Periods of doubt and darkness are no respecters of persons. English preacher and author John Bunyan (1628–1688) experienced a time of doubt and temptation in which he became so aware of his sinfulness that he began to doubt his salvation. But God brought to his mind the awareness of grace.
Now I sunk and fell in my spirit; and was giving up all for lost; but as I was walking up and down in the house, as a man in a most woeful state, that word of God took hold of my heart, Ye are “[justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Ro 3:24)].” But oh, what a turn it made upon me! Now was I as one awakened out of some troublesome sleep and dream, and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul, but behold My Son is by Me, and upon him I look, and not on thee, and will deal with thee according as I am pleased with him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind, and made to understand that God could justify a sinner at any time.
Theologian and ethicist Lewis B. Smedes (1921–2002) explains why we call grace amazing.
Grace is amazing because it works against the grain of common sense. Hard-nosed common sense will tell you that you are too wrong to meet the standards of a holy God; pardoning grace tells you that it’s all right in spite of so much that is wrong. Realistic common sense tells you that you are too weak, too harassed, too human to change for the better; grace gives you power to send you on your way to being a better person. Plain common sense may tell you that you are caught in a rut of fate or futility; grace promises that you can trust God to have a better tomorrow for you than the day you have made for yourself.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.