"I’ve fallen and can’t get up." Most of us have found that old commercial humorous. It’s not as comical, however, when it is referring to our spiritual life. Unfortunately, most Christians, at one time or another, have felt this way. We have fallen down spiritually and can’t see any way of getting back up. The feeling God has grown tired of our continual failures only compounds this problem.
I have found it important to be reminded of God’s "grace" (unmerited favor) every now and then. We usually think grace only pertains to salvation (God not giving sinners what they so richly deserve), but it also applies to the Christian who has stumbled. God does not give His fallen children what they so richly deserve.
When a Christian stumbles, he feels defeated and views himself as a loser. He feels like he has disappointed God by his inability to maintain a consistent Christian walk. This is especially true if he has failed in a particular area numerous times. A person who has failed many times feels like he deserves to be in the predicament he is in. He feels like he has no right to ask God for help.
The boy stands defiantly with his head cocked back and hands clenched. "Go ahead. Give it to me; I can take it."
The principal looks down at the young rebel. "How many times have you been here?"
The child sneers rebelliously, "Apparently, not enough."
The principal gives the boy a strange look and says, "You have been punished each time, have you not?"
"Yeah, I’ve been punished; if that's what you want to call it." He throws out his small chest and says, "Go ahead, I can take whatever you can dish out; I always have."
Carefully studying the boy's face, the principal says, "Are there any thoughts of punishment when you break these rules?"
"Nope; I do whatever I want. Ain't nothing you people gonna do to stop me neither."
The principal looks over at the teacher who is sitting nearby and asks, "What did he do this time?"
"Fighting. He took little Tommy and shoved his face into the sandbox."
The principal turns to look at the boy and asks, "Why? What did little Tommy do to you?"
"Nothin', I didn't like the way he was lookin at me; just like I don't like the way you're lookin at me now! In fact, if I thought I could do it, I'd shove your face into something."
The teacher stiffens and starts to rise, but a quick look from the principal stops him. He contemplates the child for a moment and then quietly says, "Today, my young student, is the day you will learn about grace."
"Grace? Isn't that what you old people do before you eat a meal? I don't need any of your stinkin' grace."
"Oh, but you do," says the principal. After studying the boy's face, he whispers, "Oh yes, you truly do need grace." The boy glared as the principal continued. "Grace, in its short definition, is unmerited favor. You can’t earn grace, my child. Grace is a gift and it’s always freely given. Grace means you will not be getting what you so richly deserve."
The boy looks puzzled. "Your not gonna whup me? You just gonna let me walk?"
The principal looks down at the unyielding child and says, "Yes, I am going to let you walk."
The boy studies the face of the principal and says, "No punishment at all? You’re not going to punish me even though I socked Tommy and shoved his face into the sandbox?"
"Oh, there has to be punishment. What you did was wrong and there will always be consequences for our actions. There will be punishment. Grace is not an excuse for doing wrong."
"I knew it," sneers the boy. Holding out his hands he says, "Let’s get on with it."
The principal nods toward the teacher and says, "Bring me the belt." The teacher presents the belt to the principal. He carefully folds it in two and hands it back to the teacher. He looks at the child and says, "I want you to count the blows." The principal slides out from behind his desk and walks over to the child.
The child stands defiantly with his hands outstretched. The principal gently moves the child’s expectant hands down to his sides. Turning to the teacher, the principal stretches out his own hands and quietly says, "Begin."
The belt slaps against the principal’s outstretched hands. Crack! The young boy jumps. Shock registers across his face, "One" he whispers. Crack! "Two." His voice raises an octave. Crack! "Three." He is unable to believe this. Crack! "Four." Big tears well up in the eyes of the young rebel. "Okay, stop! That's enough. Stop!" Crack! The belt continues to come down on the principal’s swollen hands. Crack! The child flinches with each blow. Tears start streaming down the child’s face. Crack! Crack! "No, please," the former rebel begs. "Stop. I’m the one who did it. I'm the one who deserves the punishment. Stop! Please stop," the boy sobs. Still the blows come. Crack! Crack!
Finally it is over. The principal, with sweat glistening across his forehead, turns to the former rebel and kneels down. Carefully cradling the child’s face with his swollen hands, the principal softly says, "This, my boy, is grace."
This story is an excellent example of God’s grace (unmerited favor). Just as the boy received the opposite of what he deserved, we too can receive the opposite of what we deserve.
Although some people feel that an Almighty God can "forgive and forget" our sins, He can’t. His holy and righteous nature demands He properly deal with our sins. Every transgression has to be punished. There are always consequences for our actions.
Fortunately for us, God stepped forward and was punished in our place. He bore the stripes we deserved. He was bruised and pierced in our place. God’s grace (unmerited favor) means we did not get what we so richly deserved.