Tough Grace in Tough Times
Do you walk away from God or do you draw closer to the Lord during tough times? Pastor Thian Chye looked back at how God's tough grace during a difficult time in his life has humbled him and enabled him to trust and submit to God.
Last weekend, we heard from our ministry staff, Yanadi, who preached on tough grace. What is tough grace? What was the outcome of that time when you experienced tough grace? Do you walk away from God or do you draw closer to the Lord? Are you in the midst of struggling with some difficult issues? What should you do?
As a church, we have been following the sermons series “Generations of Grace” through the Book of Genesis. We have learned many lessons on how the saints of old have lived and responded through tough grace in tough times. We have also learned how God, in His mercy, reaches out to them in every situation. In all of this, we see God’s hand at work. The LORD pours out His abundant grace towards His people despite their faithlessness and disobedience or even in their faithfulness and obedience. Abraham and Sarah, though they knew that God's promise of an offspring will only come through them, eventually took matters into their own hands. We also saw how Jacob cheated Esau of his birthright and even disguised as his hairy brother to deceive his father, Isaac, in order to receive his blessings. Or for Joseph's case, who by no fault of his, was thrown into the pit and sold by his brothers and later into prison and even forgotten by a fellow prisoner for his kindness. In spite of Joseph's tough times, he continued to cling to God and served Him faithfully.
Every reader of this article will have no problem in identifying with some of these characters mentioned, myself included. We have learned many precious lessons, but have we lived them out in our daily lives? Or are we just content with hearing and learning about these truths and choose to park it somewhere in our memory? I, too, am guilty of it.
Pastor Mark shared with us a couple of weeks ago of Joseph who continued to be God’s vessel of blessings while in difficult times. Joseph trusted that the God whom he and his forefathers believed in, is sovereign and good though he had no clue as to what was happening in his own life. He lived each day in God’s tough grace but chose to serve God faithfully in tough times. Even in prison, Joseph served as God’s vessel to interprete dreams and do well in the prison’s duties that were assigned to him.
Let me share with you how I struggled with a similar situation that called for tough or difficult grace in tough times. A few years ago, I was facing a life crisis and I was in great financial need. On the other hand, God was showing me the needs of the church—ministry needs. At that time, I was working as a taxi driver on a 12-hour shift, struggling to make ends meet, yet God was calling me to serve in an area of need in GBC. Every area of service to God, whether big or small, requires a great amount of time, effort and commitment. We often find ourselves drowning in the busyness of life or getting caught up with the distractions of this world. Even in our “good times”, we do struggle to serve God as well with our every “good reason”. Do I wait for things to be more settled or wait for my situation to turn in my favor before I start serving? In those times, I struggled a lot as I was focusing on my needs rather than God who is the Provider of my needs.
Sometimes, I even doubted if God knew what I was going through during those tough times or did my Heavenly Father care and know my needs? Did He hear my prayers? Why didn’t God take me out of that difficult situation so that I may have time and energy to devote and avail myself to serve Him and others? While receiving God’s tough grace, He taught me humility and what it meant to trust in Him, just like Joseph. By God’s grace, I stepped forward to serve in CG ministry and other areas. In order to serve, I had to forgo my weekends’ driving which meant lesser income, but this freed up my weekends for church life. I did struggle to obey but thanks be unto God, I submitted to His will, though I did not know what the outcome would be, just like Joseph. I chose to trust in God's providence for my needs and believe in God’s sovereignty and goodness for me in those tough times. Praise the Lord! That tough grace has led me to live a life of faithfulness and obedience unto Him but I am still in God’s sanctifying work of the Spirit in my life.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever situation that you are in right now, do not despair nor be discouraged. We have a covenantal God who is steadfast in love and faithful to His children even though we may fail Him in those tough times. In tough times with His tough grace, just like Joseph, we can draw near to God and serve Him faithfully. Let’s not wait “for things to get better” before we will live in obedience to His will. We all have been given a role to play in this body of Christ, whom we are members of one another. We are part of the greater plan of what God has for GBC and to a larger extent, God's plan for His creation! We focus not on our circumstances or failures, for we can trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness. Let us hold fast to God’s promise in Romans 8:28 which says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”