I know a young woman who has made a remarkable journey from a normal, upper middle class upbringing to a normal, upper middle class college education to living on the streets for five years as a heroin addict. Today she is fully recovered. She owns her own business, enjoys a happy marriage, and is a strong and passionate voice for others dealing with drug use. Her pain, suffering, and struggles are now employed in helping others understand addiction and recovery. To me, she embodies the possibility of complete and total transformation that comes through the grace of God. We do recover!
I thought of her this morning as I read Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. Paul underwent a tremendous transformation of his own, going from being a murdering persecutor of Christ’s church to being one of its strongest advocates. Most of what we understand about theology comes from Paul’s letters, and his work in taking the gospel all over the known world speaks for itself. He is the reason we have the church today, and his words still have relevance thousands of years after he wrote them.
1 Corinthians 15 (Common English Bible)
15 Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. 2 You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing.
3 I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, 4 he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. 5 He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, 6 and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time. 9 I’m the least important of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church.
10 I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me. 11 So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach and this is what you have believed.
“I am what I am because of God’s grace.” Can’t we all say that? Where would you be without it? I know I would be lost. Paul gives God credit for the hard work he put in, realizing that is grace alone that enables us to do good works.
Is God calling you to transform some aspect of your life? Are you engaging in something harmful that requires a stepping away and giving it over to him? Are your relationships in need of repair? Do you need God’s grace to move on with your life in a new direction?
Lucky for us, God’s grace is abundant, amazing, and free to all who seek it. If addicts can recover and murderers can be redeemed, your situation can be changed if you yield to his will and his mercy. You are not alone!
God’s grace is ENOUGH.
“I am what I am because of God’s grace.” Actually, my usual words are slightly different, especially to those who question my oddities. “For better or worse, this is the way the Lord chose to make me.”
Amen to that!