My last post highlighted how it can feel to do ‘spiritual exercises’ when it falls flat and seems like a big farce. The obvious question following such a post is; ‘why bother then, if it all seems like a ludicrous waste of time?’
My answer to that is to look for ‘evidences of grace’ a phrase which comes from a message by C.J. Mahaney called Pastoral Character & Loving People which is based on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. As we know, the church at Corinth was at least as messed up as our modern ones are, yet Paul could still say:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
(1 Corinthians 1:4 ESV)
Despite having wrongheaded ideas on many basic aspects of living as Christians, Paul could see enough evidence of the grace of God at work in the folks in the Corinthian church to be able to sincerely thank God. This is an excellent way to view any Christian, especially those we may not like. It is also encouraging to look for the evidences of grace in your own life.
As CJ says, “Most people are more aware of the absence of God than the presence of God. Most people are more aware of the presence of sin than evidences of grace. What a privilege and joy it is in pastoral ministry…to turn one’s attention to ways in which God is at work, because so often people are unaware of God’s work. And much of God’s work in our lives is quiet; it’s not ‘spectacular.’ It’s rarely obvious to the individual, and normally it’s incremental and takes place over a lengthy period of time.” (excerpted from a post on the Acts 29 Blog by Scott Thomas).
What might such evidence look like? A few examples might be: do you want to know Jesus more than you do now? Do you know that God has called you to be His child? Do you recall a time when you hungered for Christ and loved to worship Him? Are you aware of sin in your life? If you could answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, God’s grace is working in you. Even the negative sign of being aware of sin is actually evidence of God’s grace in making you aware that it is sin and not allowing you to rationalize away what you are doing.
Another way to notice the evidences of grace in your own life and other people is to have a look at the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 and notice ways in which God is growing you in these things: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There are many characteristics of Christian transformation listed in the New Testament, they are not there as rules of law to strive for, but as signposts to encourage us that we are indeed being transformed into the likeness of Christ and to urge us on to grow even more. (See Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 4:20-24).