God says that his grace is a free gift, both the one-time act of justification and the continuing sanctification through the Spirit. He also says that His Spirit is like an eternal spring of water, founting inside of us, that provides sustenance for daily life. My interest today is whether we as Christians actually take that to heart in day-to-day activities. Do we think we only need a certain amount of God’s grace on a day to day basis, after which we can manage life on our own?
We use lots of items every day, and some are more useful than others. Economists have a term for how useful something is, called “marginal utility.” Connected to this is the idea of “diminishing marginal utility,” which is what I’m more interested in. Let me explain. Imagine that I offer to give you a Ferrari worth mega dollars, with only one string attached: you cannot sell it or give it away- it stays with you. You like your Ferrari and are very grateful for the gift, driving it around, zooming about the countryside, showing it off. It’s brilliant. You’ve never been happier in your whole life. But what if I offer to give you three more Ferraris, with the same caveat - only you can drive them. Now what do you do? Sure, you like your Ferrari and all, but you can only drive one at a time (already expensive in and of itself), and you can’t sell the extras for money or give them to friends as gifts. What about if I offer to give you seven more cars? Ten more? You wouldn’t know what to do with all of them, and you’d turn my offer down. This is what I mean by diminishing marginal utility. The usefulness of an item (the Ferrari, in this case) diminishes as you acquire more of them. Value of an item is not just limited to what it’s “worth,” but also by your ability to use it.
My concern is that too often I treat God’s grace like an Ferrari: one is really nice, but what would I do with more? A little bit of grace is nice for justification and adoption and one-time occurrences like that, but wouldn’t more grace just complicate things? I can only handle so much on my plate. ‘Me relying on God for strength in daily tasks is one thing, but there’s no need to get too crazy and help lead that church ministry, talk to that person about Jesus, memorize parts of the Bible, or give money to world missions,’ we say. We’re tempted to minimize grace offered for sanctification and growth in Christ, because we only have so much time. It would be God like directing cars to someone who would turn around and stash them in a garage. We’re already plenty busy.
But I think that when God prompts Christians to do something, we need to do it. That inkling feeling (from the Spirit within us) to talk to the new person at church; that recurring thought to send money to your missionary friends in Asia; your wife’s suggestion to invite the new couple across the street over for dinner: these (and myriad others) are all things that God might prompt you to do. You know these are good things, but you say in your heart, “I don’t want to, because what if that goes somewhere? What if that new person wants to talk longer, or the couple across the street wants to come over more often? Where am I going to find the time for that? And what if I need that money for problems in the future?”
In a way, this is thinking about the future without God, and there is a problem with that: it disobeys God. Part of loving Him “with all our heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30) is using our resources to do what he tells us, when he tells us to do it, because when he tells us to do something, he promises to provide the grace necessary to do it (2 Cor. 12:9). We need to include God as we think through the future, assured that he will act for our eternal good (Rom 8:28) and equip us for the good works that he prepared for us ahead of time (Eph. 2:10).
Grace is not like a Ferrari because grace has no diminishing utility. If God, through the promptings of the Spirit, offers us more grace, we will be able to use that grace for good works. There is no disconnect between how much we have and how much we can use - it won’t just sit in a garage, collecting dust. God didn’t call us to a little bit of life in Him - he called us to abundant life, and so we, in faith, should ask God to give us more than we could ever hope for or imagine so that we receive the privilege of adding to the work of His kingdom. God promises that we will be able to use what he offers us, if only we gladly receive it. So, the next time the Spirit prompts you to do something, step out in faith and receive the empowering grace of God, confident that He will use it for your joy and His glory.