The Pace of Grace

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:6

I’m one of those people who can easily fall into the tyranny of the urgent. The problem is most days are filled with what appears to be important tasks, things that must get done. Too often I find myself coming to the end of a day with a pen in my hand, scribbling down the “must do” list for the next day. In the back of my mind the words “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” are mulling around in a dense mental fog of self-pity. I know that this is not the way God desires me to live my life. It is not a lifestyle of faith working through love. Instead, it’s a lifestyle that leads to burnout.

This morning God did an interesting thing to show me the difference between a life of grace and a life of urgency. My day was full from the start. I knew I had an appointment after lunch, but I also knew that I needed to run, especially after eating calorie-laden-but-worth-every-bite cheesecake at my birthday party last night. The morning had quickly flown by with other tasks, so I grabbed by running shoes and prepared to walk out the door. Then the phone rang. I hesitated for a second but thought it wise to ignore the ringing because if I picked the phone up, I would probably lose my chance to run. As I was thinking this, my hand raised the receiver to my ear.

On the other end was a kind voice that identified herself as a representative of Ligonier Ministries. I responded politely but you can probably imagine what I was thinking. Oh no, they’re calling for a donation. Why did I pick up the phone? There’s no way I can end this call quickly. As these thoughts were running through my mind, the woman on the other end continued to talk about the various ministries of Ligonier, such as $5 Friday, RefNet, Ligonier Connect, Tabletalk, all of which Brian and I are quite familiar.

Then something incredibly wonderful happened. I explained that my husband and I were missionaries and that we would be leaving for Prague some time in 2017. The caller seemed fascinated and asked me several thoughtful questions. Then she said this: “Please let me pray for you right now.” I responded in the affirmative and she began to pray. She prayed for our preparations. She prayed for our ministry there. She prayed for our marriage. She prayed for the Czech church plant. She prayed for the spread of the Gospel in this cold, hard country. She prayed fervently and passionately. She prayed for an extended amount of time, and I was moved to tears as she prayed.

As the call ended and I hung up the phone, all I could think about was how anxious I had been to avoid this call. If I had walked out the door instead of lifting up the receiver, I would have missed this powerful moment in my life where God’s gracious community blessings flowed all over me. I stopped and thanked God for moving my hand to the phone and teaching me a much-needed lesson regarding my overly busy life.

I recently read an article by Professor David Murray titled, Grace-Paced Living in a Burnout Culture. Dr. Murray has also written a book on the subject of burnout. He writes:

Although no two burnouts are the same, as I’ve counseled increasing numbers of Christians through burnout, I’ve noticed that most of them have one thing in common: there’s a deficit of grace. It’s not that they don’t believe in grace. Many of them are well-grounded in “the doctrines of grace.” Many of them are pastors and preach grace powerfully every week. The “five solas” and the “five points” are their theological meat and drink. Yet grace is missing in five vital areas. There are five disconnects between theological grace and their daily lives.

He goes on to list the vital missing areas as grace motivates, grace moderates, grace multiplies, grace releases, and grace receives. His engaging style drives the point home in a gentle way: “We can learn how to live a grace-paced life in a burnout culture.” I want to connect those areas of grace that so easily get disconnected in my day-to-day blur of perpetual motion, and I’m thankful for the encouragement Dr. Murray sends my way in this helpful article.

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