“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.“ 1 Corinthians 15:10A
About a year and a half ago, I posted a status on my Facebook page that explained what this verse meant to me. It came at a difficult season in my life and encouraged me to believe that God wasn’t finished with my heart. But now? Now it means even more.
Last week, the leader of my Bible study explained to me that during her college years, she lived from semester-to semester. “I just gotta make it through these months,” she told herself, “then I’ll make it. Then things will get better.” However, life taught her that even when one obstacle is overcome, there is another one waiting right around the corner.
She learned that there is no finish line, no break, and no checkpoint where everything is easy-going from there. It was a hard lesson, as it is for us all….because honestly, we want to believe in heaven in earth. Or at least that one day, someday over the rainbow, we will have conquered our faults and perfected our weaknesses and circumstances will all be ordered for our happiness.
1 Corinthians 15:10 hits at that desire. And you know where it points our attention? Not to the past, which we see as a graveyard of mistakes, or to the future, which we hope will be the coming-out of glory and perfection. It points us to the present. “By the grace of God I am what I am…” Paul writes. Notice he doesn’t say “I was what I was” or “I will be what I will be.” The verb am is in the present tense, in the right-now. That being said, God’s grace in our lives is hitting home today. Not just tomorrow, and not yesterday, but today. He has used every prayer prayed, every work done, every word said, and every idea believed to bring you to right now. His grace is just as manifest in your life right now as it was in the past and as it will be in the future. It follows that that grace “was not in vain.” It doesn’t get to the present and give up because of struggles. It doesn’t look to the past and quit because of failures. It is an all-encompassing grace that starts something and then finishes it. Imagine taking a flight where the pilot is with you at the first boarding call, and then he transfers to the next flight with you. At your destination he is waiting in the taxi cab, at your hotel he is the manager, and at each sightseeing location he is your tour guide. When you finally head back to the airport, guess who is waiting by the ramp? The same pilot. That is who Jesus is. He is not a seasonal trend, or a homie who hits you up once a month. He begins with you and ends with you, and no one in His program ever gets sent home alone.
What does this mean? Well, it means that who you will be in the future, in eternity, is very important–it is the point of the gospel. But God’s grace has brought you to a point in time….today. Grace has made you who you are right now. You with all your shortcomings, and mess-ups, and sins, and struggles, and depression, and discouragement. You, if you are one of his chosen, are a product of grace, not only in the future, but right now. The means of grace (the cross) was accomplished in the past, it will be perfected in the future, but today…TODAY….you are a testimony of its power. And that power won’t fail you. It isn’t vain, it isn’t purposeless, it isn’t meaningless. It won’t abandon you half-way through. The One who gave you grace doesn’t have the fickle heart of humans. His plan for you when he saved you is the same one in action today, and it will be the same one you will rejoice in for all of eternity.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.“