So here we all are in the middle of one of the biggest global crises in modern history. I wonder how this tectonic disturbance to ‘normal life’ has affected you? Certainly, it is shaking all of us. And for some of you, things are tough, very tough – with only dark cloudy question marks looming on the horizon.
Perhaps you watched Andrea Bocelli singing that famous hymn live to the world from Milan a few week’s back, on Easter Sunday (you can watch it below). As this moving production flashed real-time aerial views from the hauntingly empty streets of cities across the world (including Cape Town!), I found myself thinking about the well-known story of the hymn writer, John Newton.
A selfish, ungodly sailor and cruel slave-trader, Newton found himself crying out to God for mercy one night as he clung on to the sinking remains of his severely storm-damaged ship in the Northern Atlantic. His life was spared. But besides experiencing God’s mercy that night, he also tasted the unexpected sweetness of Amazing Grace as he bowed to Jesus as Lord and Saviour for the first time.
“How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!”
He was changed forever. Even in his 80’s, shortly before he died, Newton remained amazed by God’s grace: “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.”
Mercy can be defined as not getting what we do deserve. Based on his life up to that point, Newton deserved to die that night, but God spared him. That’s mercy. Grace, on the other hand, is getting what we don’t deserve. Despite our sinfulness, God through Jesus gives us unconditional love, royal identity, freedom, authority and eternity. That’s grace! In that great book What’s so Amazing about Grace? Philip Yancey put it like this: “Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.”
Like Newton on that storm-tossed sea, our nation and our families certainly need to cry out for mercy at this time of great suffering. And we know (and have already seen) that God is able to miraculously protect South Africa if we humble ourselves and call out to Him. But may our nation also be surprised and forever changed by the power of His amazing grace during this unique time in history!
This grace starts to pour out over our hurting communities as we, His children already living in grace, carry it, speak it and demonstrate it daily in our hearts, words and actions. And His grace is enough! No matter what you feel like and what you have or haven’t done. It’s enough for you – and it’s also enough for those who you are called to be Jesus to during this storm.
Why not pray, even now as you are reading this, that God will show you and remind you of those that He might be encouraging you to reach out to this coming week. You can be sure that their world is shaking and thundering and they are desperately needing to hear that ‘sweet sound’ of His Amazing Grace.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
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This is taken from our May/June ARISE publication.