For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Dear God, the idea of salvation through faith vs. works is still a difficult one for all of us. I am a big proponent of the idea that our brains are hard-wired by the age of three, meaning that whatever we know in the first three years is hard to change for the rest of our lives. In this case, for most of us, our parents expect us to perform in one way or another, rewarding good performance and disciplining bad performance. After three years of conditioning to this, how can we not expect the same of you.
The ministerial association asked me to preach at a community-wide Thanksgiving service in a few weeks. I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic I want to choose and what I want to say. My topic is going to be finding you in tragedy, and being thankful for what you do for us in the midst of strife. One of the ideas that will undoubtedly come up is whether or not you cause negative things in our lives or simply work through them when they happen. Do you reward and discipline us based on our behavior, or simply pour out your blessings continuously, supporting us in the difficult times as well as the good—they just look different. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think this verse will work as one of the verses I will use. It reminds us that our relationship with you has little to do with works because you simply cannot tolerate the best of us without grace.
Father, use me during this sermon in a few weeks as well as today. Use me as I work with our staff and board. Use me as I present to a group of donors who are coming to hear about the Center. Use me as I meet with patients, do my work, and represent the Center. Use me as I love my wife and parent my children. Use me as I write, speak, and, most importantly, listen. To the best of my ability, I offer myself to you.