True story… When I was in my thirties, I decided to return to college to complete my degree. When the guidance counselor informed me that I needed a statistics class to meet the math requirements, my heart skipped a few beats. Although I enjoyed math, statistics seemed a subject more suited for the elite brainiacs of the world. Definitely not a title I had ever given myself. But regardless of how ill-equipped I felt, the guidance counselor made it clear… to get the diploma I had to pass the course!
The first week of class was truly mind-numbing. Had the instructor been speaking a lost language from the jungles of South America, it could not have been more difficult. I was grasping absolutely nothing. And my first test score confirmed it with a glowing “F.” As you can imagine, my nerves were a bit rattled. So I decided to study harder and take better notes. Surely things had to improve at some point.
After two more weeks of dumb-founded blank stares and another devastating test score, the Category 5 panic took over. How could this be happening? I am a member of The National Honor Society. My GPA is near perfection. I am not an F student. It must be the instructor’s teaching style. That’s it! That’s the cause of the problem. The professor just needs to change the way he is teaching.
So with bold confidence (sometimes known as blind presumption produced from panic) I confronted my professor and informed him of my dilemma. “You see, Sir, we are now entering the third week of class. I am studying everything you have assigned. I never miss a lecture and take copious notes. Yet my test scores are Ds and Fs.”
I further explained that I was on track to graduate Magna Cum Laude, and had never struggled this much with any of my courses. “It is my conclusion that your teaching style is the cause of my confusion. You simply must teach in a way that I can understand the material!”
I only wish there had been a camera to share with you the look I received as he shook his head and politely walked away. He said nothing, offered nothing, and helped me with nothing! Did he just walk away from me? Was I not clear about my problem? Who does this guy think he is? The nerve! The rude arrogance!
Okay. I know what you’re thinking. My situation was not exactly a matter of life and death. Maybe I could have sucked it up and swallowed a D for the course. But I just could not take D for an answer. All my hard work, all the studying to keep up my GPA, graduating with honors… all of it was falling off a cliff. From what my natural eyes could see, I had neither the time nor the resources to turn it around. My goose was cooked!
If you ever have an opportunity to read II Chronicles 20, I highly recommend it, especially verses 1-30. Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say that King Jehosaphat (and with a name like that you definitely need God!) was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Based on what his natural eyes could see, there seemed neither the time nor resources to turn the situation around. His goose was cooked and so was all of Israel.
But the Bible says that in the midst of his dilemma, he inquired of the Lord. Basically, King Jehosaphat chose to call upon the grace of God in his hour of need. He put his faith in God, in God’s limitless ability and power, rather than his limitations or the supposed bigness of the situation he was facing.
So I made a decision to employ the same strategy. Driving home that evening I chose to inquire of the Lord. Then God began to speak to my heart about my attitude and belief system. He showed me the false judgments I had made concerning who I was, what I had and what I could achieve. And he showed me how I had placed limitations on myself concerning my ability to understand statistics. Because I saw myself after the flesh and not after the spirit, I was responding to the situation in the same manner.
By making a judgment that statistics was for “elite brainiacs” I had also placed limitation on what God could do in and through me by the power of his grace. No surprise that I was receiving according to my beliefs and expectations.
Thankfully, I was able understand the benefit of seeing myself as God saw me… after the spirit, with the same wisdom, understanding and ability as Christ himself. Rather than hoping for the instructor to shift his teaching style, I needed to shift my thinking style. I needed to think with the mind of Christ. I needed to see myself after the spirit. I needed to understand who I was, what I had and what I could achieve by God’s grace and power on the inside of me. This is what I prayed.
“Heavenly Father, I bring you my limitations concerning this situation. And I also surrender any judgments I have made about who I am, what I can do and what I can have based on my human limitations. Although my natural mind can’t comprehend the challenge before me, thank you that I am not limited by my human limitation. Because your spirit lives in me I have the mind of Christ. Replace my feeble limited ability with your strength and ability in this situation, by the power of your grace… the power of your spirit at work in me. Father, let your grace abound in me greater than this circumstance and difficulty. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
Two days later I was back in the classroom. As usual the instructor began his lecture with equations that covered every square inch of two entire chalkboards. And, as usual, I sat there, clueless and lost, understanding nothing. Then I remembered my prayer and chose to call on the grace of God in the midst of my inadequacy. I silently inquired of the Lord again. “Father, give me the ability… your ability, by your grace to understand what this man is saying. I’ve got nothing, Lord. But that’s okay because you know this subject more than anyone. You are the creator of mathematics. So as an act of faith I choose to put my faith in the wisdom and understanding that your grace has already provided to me through the spirit of Jesus that lives in me. I absolutely renounce my own limitations with this situation and receive the limitless resources of your grace towards me as a free gift!” Amen.
Suddenly, in an instant, I saw it! It was as if a switch was turned on in my mind and a waterfall of understanding began to flow. In a matter of seconds I went from comprehending nothing to comprehending everything, as if I had always known it. It took all my composure not to leap from the chair with overwhelming excitement! From a metaphorical sense, it was like being completely blind one minute and then receiving perfect vision the next! It was a miracle of grace.
From that moment on everything changed. My understanding of the subject was almost entertaining. I finished the homework assignments with little to no effort. I scored a B on the next test, then A’s on all the others. To top it off, I scored 100 on the final exam and completed the course with a glowing yet grateful “A.” The instructor actually called me a Geek! Coming from someone with a doctorate in mathematics, it was one of the nicest compliments I had ever received.
Romans 5:20 tell us, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more.” Basically that means where the philosophy and belief systems of this world abounds, where the self-imposed limitations abound, where unbelief and bitterness and prejudice abounds, where self loathing and cynicism and false humility abounds, where fear and worry and depression and pride abounds, grace is already made available to overcome it. For anyone who puts their faith in Christ… for the believer, the limitless provisions of grace already exist to overcome every situation, every circumstance, every challenge, and every perplexing condition, by the power of Christ that lives in them.
But in order to access it, we have to ask and believe. 2 Peter 1:3 puts it this way, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of him…” That means everything we need for this life (present and future) is already available to us because of God’s spirit that lives in us. It means our born again spirit is perfect and lacking nothing (James 1:4). Putting faith in what God’s grace has provided is the means by which we gain access. It’s how we renew our minds. It’s how we can walk after the spirit. It’s how we overcome the impossible.
It is also how we live as more than conquerors. It’s how we maintain our confidence. It’s how we fix our hope on God. It’s how we can love the unlovable. It’s how we offer forgiveness to those who have wounded us. It’s how we experience healing in the midst of pain; courage in the face of fear; joy in the time of sorrow; peace in the midst of tribulation and supernatural wisdom for every situation.
What I’m trying to say is… Grace is God’s part. Faith is our part. Abounding is when they are working together. When we put our faith in what God’s grace has already provided, we are given the “Ability to Abound” through his power, provision and promises. Faith appropriates what God has already done by grace. It’s not something we have to go and get. We simply need to put our faith in what we already have and then start living like it.
Rather than fretting over circumstances or striving to change someone else, we can simply ask God for the ability to put our faith in his grace greater than the situation or difficulty. We need to let the Word of God paint a picture in our hearts and minds concerning who we are, what we have and what we can do because of God’s grace and power on the inside of us.
That is the message of Ephesians 1:17-21. It is the prayer Saint Paul continually prayed for the church in Ephesus:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
When we place our faith in the finished work of God’s grace we can experience what Saint Paul also describes in Acts 17:28, “In him we live and move and have our being.” As sons and daughters of The King, we need to expect different results than what the world has to offer. We need to expect different results than the limitations of our human existence. We need to expect different results than what our experiences have tempted us to believe. We need to let the Cross of Jesus not only speak to us about salvation, but also allow it to serve as a reminder that God never expected us to live this life in our own strength. God wants us to enjoy the ability to abound in him.
Want to know a prayer God will always answer? Are you ready? “Heavenly Father, give me more faith to believe in the power of your grace.” In fact, Ephesians 1:17-21 is a prayer you can pray for yourself every day. That’s what I am doing this year and the results are truly remarkable!
Just know that whatever difficulty or limitation is presently abounding in your life, the solution is to ask for more faith to believe in the provision of God’s grace that already lives in you. The way out is to take your limitations to the cross and ask Him for a specific anointing (or measure of Grace) to exceed the current challenge. Remember, our limitations are just that; our human natural fleshly limitations. But God’s power has no limitations. Putting our faith in his unlimited ability is how we abound no matter what the natural world around us might indicate.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)