â€“ Henry Neufeld
1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you gentilesâ€”2you have surely heard how the stewardship of Godâ€™s grace, given to me, was for you! â€” Ephesians 3:1-2 (HN)
Paulâ€™s thinking sometimes gets ahead of his grammar, and Iâ€™ve tried to reproduce that in my translation of todayâ€™s text. â€œSurely you understand,â€ says Paul, â€œthat the grace Iâ€™ve gotten was for you.â€ Letâ€™s think about that!
Christmas is a time to receive gifts. Then we come to New Yearâ€™s Day, and itâ€™s a time to make resolutions. Many of those resolutions will be broken, but many of them will be kept. Often we make excuses not to make any new resolutions because weâ€™ve broken them so many times. But thatâ€™s also a part of grace. Grace letâ€™s you do it all over again!
But thereâ€™s something else that I want us to focus on here. Paul says that he has received grace. He has received a gift. One thing I like to remind people of when I teach about Godâ€™s gifts is that Christians are gifted people. Gifts are not given only to some special folks. Everybody who is in the body of Christ has gifts.
Now I could add that every human being alive has gifts as well. So whatâ€™s so special about being a Christian? Well, one very special thing is that we are not given our gifts to hold onto. We are given our gifts to serve. Itâ€™s not so much what your abilities are, or what talents you have, or what spiritual gifts you have received. The question is this: What are you going to do about it?
For Paul, Godâ€™s grace came crashing down on him (I think thatâ€™s a good image!) on the road to Damascus. Now Paul could have said, â€œThis is wonderful! I think Iâ€™ll sit around and kind of wallow around in this grace. Iâ€™ll attend meetings with the Christians, and Iâ€™ll just be blessed.â€
Imagine what would have happened if Paul had done that. Itâ€™s quite possible there would be no Christian church, because of all the apostles, Paul was the one who truly spread the Christian message around the world. He received a gift, but he knew that the real difference between a follower of Jesus and everyone else was not how much he had received, but what he was going to do with it.
So let me suggest something for this New Yearâ€™s Day. This isnâ€™t a specific resolution, but rather a type of resolution. How have you been gifted by God? Donâ€™t worry about distinguishing talents, gifts, abilities, or any other words we use to describe what we have. It all comes from God, no matter how we get it. Make a listâ€”mentally or on paper it doesnâ€™t matterâ€”of what you have received.
Then ask yourself this: For whom did God give this to me? Who am I supposed to benefit with this?
Resolve that Godâ€™s grace, in all its forms, will keep flowing from you to bless the world.
1As we work together, we make this appeal: Donâ€™t receive Godâ€™s grace for nothing! â€” 2 Corinthians 6:1 (HN)