The Provision for Discipleship: The Grace of God
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
—Jesus, 2 Corinthians 12:9
As important as spiritual disciplines are to our spiritual growth, you and I can’t cause our spiritual growth any more than a farmer can cause his crops to grow. The best a farmer can do is to understand and submit to the natural laws God has established. The farmer can cultivate the soil, plant good seed, tend the plants, and harvest the crops when it’s time. If he is a good farmer, he will do these things diligently and in the proper order. Still, he can’t make the plants grow. In fact, he can’t even fully explain how it happens.
The same is true of our spiritual growth. Though we eagerly do those things that are known to foster spiritual growth, we can’t make growth happen. At most, the practice of spiritual disciplines opens us more fully to Christ’s work in our lives. And ultimately it’s his work that produces the spiritual growth we desire. The apostle Paul reminds us that it was God who began a good work in us and it is he who will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
The Bible has a word for this mysterious, growth-inducing power of God at work in us. That word is grace. So, when the apostle Paul was at the end of his rope, Christ told him, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It always is.
God’s grace is his unmerited favor, and it manifests itself toward us in many different ways. Yes, his grace is the basis of our forgiveness. But it’s more than that. His grace is behind every blessing we’ll ever receive. In fact, his grace is behind every positive step we’ll ever take on our journey with Christ. So Peter says, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Without Christ’s grace there can be no spiritual progress.
Charles Spurgeon says,
Every good thing that is in a Christian not merely begins but progresses and is consummated by the fostering grace of God, through Jesus Christ. If my finger were on the golden latch of paradise, and my foot were on its jasper threshold, I should not take the last step so as to enter heaven unless the grace which brought me so far should enable me fully and fairly to complete my pilgrimage.
This grace of Christ at work in us is his way of enabling our progress as his disciples. So, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon, vol. 15 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1908), 291.