03-08-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler
Water (H2O) come in various forms. It can come as mist or fog or tiny droplets. It can come as sleet or snow or freezing rain. It can come as hail. Water can appear as condensation, gently, like dew on a blade of grace. It can also come with a thundering, rushing force, like Niagara. But whatever form it’s in, water has the same basic constituency—snow or rain or ice, it’s all H2O.
Grace is like that. At its core—in its most basic elements—grace is the amazing gift of God, an undeserved gift flowing from God’s heart of love to meet your deepest need.
But grace also comes in many different ways, in many different forms. God’s grace adapts to the need of the moment or the specific situation. Sometimes grace might be a shoulder to cry on. Other times grace might be a strong hand to pull you through.
Grace can be gentle and compassionate, or it can be firm. Grace might be a gentle friend who cares, a forceful friend who confronts. Grace can be bold and “in your face.” Or it can be so subtle you hardly even notice it’s there—almost like background music that sets the mood.
Knowing that grace comes to us in many different forms, we should also know that we can share grace in many different ways.
In fact, God tells us that because we have received his gift of grace, we should give grace to others. We’re to be “distributors” of grace, pushing grace on down the line. Here’s what God tells us:
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 4:10-11, NIV).
Look at that phrase in v 10: “Grace in its various forms.” Some versions (like NASB or KJV) say “the manifold grace of God,” which is an unusual word for grace, because even though I’m no mechanic, the only “manifold” I know has to do with the exhaust system on an engine.
The dictionary says a manifold is “a pipe with several openings for funneling the flow of liquids or gasses…” but it goes on to say that “manifold” means “of many kinds; numerous and varied; having numerous different parts, features, or forms…”
So other English versions translate the word as …many-sided grace (AMP) …diversified grace (DLNT) …grace in many different ways (ERV) …as faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God (Ph)
When Peter wrote this letter in the first century, he used the Greek word ποικίλος (poikílos) which meant “of various colors, variegated, checkered; various, diverse, manifold.” Poikílas was used in a number of ways. One use was in regard to embroidery—many threads with many colors stitched together to make one design. In fact, poikílon was used in the LXX (ancient Greek translation of the OT) for Joseph’s “coat of many colors” (Gen 37:3).
So what does this suggest?
Just as a rainbow contains many different colors, so does God’s grace! Grace is multi-colored. It has many layers! It’s expressed in various ways, in numerous forms, in many different applications.
Think of a prism. One beam of light going into the prism is separated out into a whole array of rainbow colors. All those colors were there before; you just couldn’t distinguish them when they were all combined. Within one beam of white light are multiple shades of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and purples.
In the same way, God’s grace comes in many colors. Each different wave length of grace can be directed toward a different kind of need. When grace is applied to a specific situation, God has the precise color to match the need.
It’s like when you go down to the paint store. You don’t just say, “I need some green paint for the bedroom.” No. You have to look at a color palette with multiple shades of green. You can take home little cards with various greens to compare it with what you have or to see how it will blend with other colors in the room. Who knew there were so many greens?
So what color of grace do you need in your life? What color of grace can you share?
The Bible tells us that Jesus came to this world “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Last week we saw that Jesus sends his followers—you and me—into the world in the same way that he was sent! “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
In other words, to be sent as he was sent—if we’re going to follow him—we need to be truth speakers. And if we’re going to follow him, we also need to be grace givers.
So, what is the truth? The truth is that everyone is a sinner without hope—until grace comes.
What is grace? Grace is God’s gift—his infinite love—poured out in multiple ways on the undeserving.
Some people specialize in being truth speakers. Maybe you’ve met people like that. They seem to enjoy pointing out the flaws in others. Maybe they feel better about themselves when they can say that others are worse.
Like the gal who cut my hair this last week. She was raising my sideburns a bit and was trying to get them even, going from the right side to the left, then back to the right. Finally she stood behind me, looked at my reflection in the mirror, and announced, “Your ears are uneven.”
It’s a little more difficult to be a grace giver. Dispensing grace is harder than dispensing truth.
But Jesus came with both; he came “full of grace and truth.” He spoke the truth (“Repent!”), but he also dispensed grace. He poured out grace in many ways—in multiple colors so to speak:
- he touched the untouchable, he bandaged the broken,
- he healed the diseased, he lifted the fallen,
- he fed the hungry he gave rest to the burdened.
Each person Jesus had met presented another opportunity for grace.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at various ways our church can distribute grace.
Jesus delivered God’s grace in multiple ways, in multiple colors. He gave grace to an lonely, ostracized leper. He gave grace to a despised tax collector, whom others treated like a traitor. He gave grace to a woman with a tarnished reputation. He gave grace to a bunch of little kids whom the disciples had chased away. Each expression of grace came out as a different color.
But all those colors combined together on the cross to become the white light of salvation. God’s grace came as light to expel the world’s sin and darkness. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
He also said, “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). Jesus wants us to follow him—to bring light and to share grace.
I said before it can be difficult to be a grace giver. That’s because it’s natural to see flaws in others. It’s supernatural to give them grace.
So to become a grace giver, you’ll need some basic things in place. You will need to…
- Receive grace. You cannot give what you do not have. If you shut your heart to the good gifts God desires to give you, then when you open your heart to bless someone else, your heart will be empty. There will be no inner grace with which to grace others.
Think of yourself as a pipeline. A pipeline doesn’t produce the grace; it merely delivers it. But you can’t deliver what you haven’t received! At the beginning of the pipeline, grace must be poured into you. Otherwise, there’s no chance grace will come pouring out at the end of the pipeline. But if you’ve received grace, then grace can flow through you to others.
(Of course if there is a leak or a blockage along the way, then the grace won’t be delivered either. These other basic requirements will help prevent leaks or blocks in the pipeline.)
- Develop the right attitude. The verse says we must “serve.” We cannot give grace if we don’t have a servant attitude. If you only want others to wait on you, then you’re not going to have the attitude necessary to give grace. Your inner attitude will eventually come out.
Suppose you’re driving around town with a cup of coffee (not a travel mug). Everyone knows that in the spring, the roads are full of what? Pot-holes! So you sooner or later you hit a pot-hole. You can’t help it. And when you hit a pot-hole, the coffee in your cup is going to slosh out.
Life is full of pot-holes, and I promise you, you’re going to hit a few. When you do, your inner attitude is going to slosh out. If you have a selfish, me-first attitude, it won’t be grace that you spill on others. But if you have the right attitude—an attitude that is willing to serve and put the interests of others ahead of yourself—then you’re going to spill grace on the people around you.
- Practice being faithful. Once you acquire the right attitude, you can move on to the next step, which is being consistent.
When I’m in a good mood, everything has been going great, and I’m feeling great, and all my obligations are taken care of, and I have nothing better to do, well then it’s not too hard to extend grace to someone. But it hardly ever happens that way. Maybe never.
So we need to learn to be faithful, no matter what circumstance we’re in, no matter what the need of the moment. In fact, it’s when we’re stressed and things aren’t going so well that grace is seen more dramatically. Grace flows best through faithful, consistent, steady, reliable servants of God.
- Find your place. The verse says we are to be “stewards” of this multi-colored grace—which is just another way of saying we are to find our place as “managers” of God’s grace.
Remember, a manager is not the owner. It’s God’s grace, not ours. We don’t produce grace; we simply receive it—and pass it along. God entrusts grace into our hands.
A manager is entrusted with handling the affairs of the owner. If you were a produce manager at Walmart, you would order bananas and display the vegetables. But you can’t sell the store. A manager cannot sell the franchise. A manager is not the owner.
If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you know how each person in that society knows his place. Lord Grantham is the owner; Barrow is the butler. Barrow is not the owner. He oversees the servants and is responsible for running the household. But Lord Grantham is the owner, and he makes the final decisions. Barrow says, “As you wish, sir.” He knows his place.
It’s when we know our place, that we fit into God’s plan. It’s when we can say, “As you wish, Lord,” that we can be good stewards.
God gives gifts to each one. Your grace gift has a unique color—a specific hue. As a result, you will see things with a different color lens. When God’s grace flows through you, it will look different than when God’s grace flows through someone else.
As we move toward Easter and open our place to new friends—people we haven’t known before—I hope we can open our hearts as well—and that there will be all kinds of grace in our hearts to share!
It’s one thing to open our doors, offer a cup of coffee and a muffin, give a bulletin or brochure, or provide a spot to sit. It’s a whole lot more to share a smile, give some time, lend a sympathetic ear, offer a shoulder to cry on, or hold a hand in prayer.
Here’s a challenge for you over the next few weeks: Find someone here whom you don’t know and introduce yourself. Don’t say, “I’ve never seen you before. Is this your first time here?” (More than likely, they’re wondering the same thing about you.) Just say, “Hi! My name is ____. What’s your name?”
And if you know them from around town, don’t say, “What are you doing here?”
From there, you can talk about the weather. Or about kids. Or about jobs. Or about spring cleaning. If you’re really daring, you could ask, “Did you get anything out the pastor’s message today? —anything at all?”
There’s no reason why a person who comes through these doors for the first time should be able to get in and get out without at least one person talking to him or her in a warm, engaging way.
I know most of you have adequate conversational skills. I’ve seen you sitting or standing in your group of friends. Talking! (Except for a few of you who sit together while you’re texting other friends who aren’t sitting with you. Or maybe they are—and you’re just texting across the table.)
So here’s a challenge: If you talk to 9 friends at church—before you talk to friend #10, look around for a person who looks like they could use a friend. Talk to that one. Make that person your tenth friend.
I’d like to see a shift in culture here at Journey Christian Church. There is no way that all of us can meet everyone here on any given weekend. There’s just too many faces and names to manage. Inevitably, some people will slip through the cracks.
But though we can’t connect with everyone, we can connect with a few. And if we all do that, it’s far less likely that anyone will slip through the cracks.
We like to leave all the friendliness to the professionals. We pay the pastors to be friendly. Right? Then there are some who agree to be friendly for nothing. We call them “greeters,” and they hand out bulletins and hold the doors open for people and serve coffee.
I would like to develop an entire congregation of “greeters” who are always on the look out for people whom they can greet—a whole new culture.
As we lead up to Easter, I want us have a fresh encounter with God’s grace—so we each can be a dispenser of God’s grace. This church is to be like a great big container of grace. Push on the pump dispenser and grace should flow out.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (NIV)
Serve one another with the particular gifts God has given each of you, as faithful dispensers of the magnificently varied grace of God. (Phillips)
Use whatever gift you’ve received for the good of one another so that you can show yourselves to be good stewards of God’s grace in all its varieties. (Voice)
Use whatever gift you’ve received to serve others, faithfully dispensing God’s multi-colored graces in all its various forms. (My paraphrase)