FIRST-PERSON: Grace upon grace
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- The movie character Forrest Gump became famous for saying, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." That statement is profound in both its simplicity and its accuracy.
Like trying the various fillings and flavors in a box of chocolates, we don't know what each day of our lives will hold. But as believers in Jesus Christ, we have an assurance that He is with us, and we know that all that is good comes from Him. The Bible says that He opens His hand and satisfies His children with good things (Psalm 104:28).
John 1:16 drives this home with an unusual phrase: "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace." When you read that verse the first time, it sounds as though some words are missing. But the actual Greek phrase is grace "anti" grace. The word anti is a Greek preposition that can have several meanings. The New King James Version translates it "for," but most linguists prefer using the word "upon." Out of the fullness of His own grace, Jesus gives us grace upon grace, grace on top of grace.
Think of the ocean surf -- one wave coming after another in endless succession. In his commentary on John, the late scholar F.F. Bruce said those who follow Christ draw from the ocean of divine fullness grace upon grace -- one wave of grace being constantly replaced by a fresh one. "There is no limit to the supply of grace which God has placed at His people's disposal in Christ," Bruce observed.
It's like the clouds of Noah's day that kept pouring out rain; the granaries in Joseph's day that held endless reserves of grain; the rock in the wilderness that kept pouring out the water; the cruise of oil in Elijah's time that kept issuing oil; the cup in Psalm 23 that kept overflowing.
Forrest Gump's box of chocolates can't compare with that!
The New International Version simply says: "From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another."
Ephesians 1:3 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
Psalm 68:19 says similarly, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits."
Shame on us if we mope around all day like desolate wanderers in the bleak woods or barren moors. We can't always be happy, but a rod of joy should run down the backbone of our attitudes. Though life has its share of burdens, God has an endless variety of ways to bless us.
We're blessed, for example, with friendly people. Yes, there are plenty of grouches around in just about every setting, but someone is smiling right now not far from you. It might be at the corner market, in the softball bleachers, at a church function, or across the counter at Starbucks. But if you'll look for a smile, you'll find one pretty easily. And if you'll smile yourself (it happens when you tell the corners of your mouth to relax and twist upward), you'll discover a good many more smiling people.
We're blessed with natural beauty around us. Lift your eyes from this article and glance out a window. See the clouds or sunshine -- or if it's evening, the moon and stars. The wonder of God's creation is there for us to consider and appreciate. If there's a houseplant nearby, take a moment to study its leaves -- perhaps you will note for the first time how each one is uniquely designed for a specific purpose. Listen for a bird's song or look for flowers along the walkways as you go about your day. They were created for you to enjoy.
This is my Father's world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their Maker's praise.
We also see God's goodness in His providential alignment of life's circumstances. How wonderfully He weaves together the good and bad -- the sad and glad -- into a tapestry of praise. Look back over your life and notice how seemingly bad events have worked for your good.
Let's savor the moments we are given and thank Him for providing us with all things richly to enjoy.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.