grace /grās/ n. 1. a divinely given talent or blessing. 2. the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and bestowal of blessings. 3. courteous goodwill. 4. mercy, clemency or pardon. 5. a virtue coming from God.
Isn’t grace a beautiful thing? I had never thought very deeply about what the word means until this past weekend. I attended the Extraordinary Women’s Conference in Roanoke, VA with some amazing women from my church, and the theme this year was Amazing Grace. The event started out with bagpipes and Liberty’s Gospel Choir playing and singing “Amazing Grace” and it was beautiful. But so much more beautiful that the song and the singer’s voices and the sounds of the instruments is the story behind the song. It’s a story of our redeeming God and the grace he has poured out on each one of us, even the worst of sinners. I had heard this story before and every time I hear it, it becomes more beautiful and powerful in my mind, so I wanted to share it with you.
So, a man named John Newton, who had grown up on ships for most of his life, became the captain of a slave ship. When we think of a captain, we think of a jolly sailor; John was not this kind of man–he was brutal and packed the slaves in like sardines, throwing the sick overboard. In 1748, he was on a journey back to his home when a great storm arose on the sea. He thought his life was going to be over. There was absolutely no reasonable chance that he could get through the stormy seas. Newton, who had declared himself to be an atheist, decided to pray to God for deliverance. Sure enough, God led their ship to shore safely, and John converted to Christianity. Although he converted, he did keep selling slaves for years following his conversion, but he treated them kindly, not realizing until later in his life just how bad the whole concept was. During his learning and growing in Christianity, he began preaching, became a minister, and wrote hymn after hymn, publishing a miraculous book of 280 of them–one of them being “Amazing Grace.”
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home…
How beautiful these words of the redeemed are! I love being able to see not just John’s story but the story of every single person who has accepted Christ in these lyrics he wrote. We have all received amazing grace. We were all lost until we met Jesus. We have conquered trials and will continue to do so, until God’s grace leads us to heaven. THAT IS SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR. AMEN? AMEN. Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the grace, the amazing grace, that you have given each and every one of us. Thank you for helping us through every single battle we face. Thank you for the promise that you will lead us safely home to you. In your name we pray, Amen!