Read Acts 9:1-8; Philippians 3:3-9; Romans 9:1-5
Just the other day, my husband was commenting that it is now July, and we have not yet needed to water the lawn. Usually by this time, especially in this semi-arid part of South Dakota, we have already needed to perform this job a few times. The key to doing this task successfully is, of course, getting the sprinkler and the water pressure just right so that everything gets watered and nothing is missed. It is my job to adjust the water, turning it up and down, and my husband moves the sprinkler, so as much of the yard is watered as possible. We have been known to water the neighbor's lawn just a bit in order to do the best job possible on our own. Suffice it to say that the goal always is to get the water into every corner of the yard so that no plant withers for lack of moisture. We have often said that no one waters like the Lord. His rain reaches into every corner, even the little nooks and crannies we might miss.
Isn't that what grace is like? When God pours it into a life, it is like a wonderful sweet soaking rain that softens even the driest soil. Let's illustrate this point with the life of Saul, whom we know better as the apostle Paul.
When the Bible first mentions his name, even prior to our passage in Acts 9, Saul was watching and agreeing to the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:54-60. Although, he probably wasn't aware of it, he was about to be confronted with God's grace. We know that he was reminded of God's grace toward his people as Stephen boldly pointed out the many times in their history, Israel had failed to receive those the Lord had continually sent to help and instruct them. And how God's grace poured out of that Spirit-filled man, when instead of anger toward those who opposed him, Stephen ask God not to count their sin against them. That day, God's sweet rain fell onto the hard heart of Saul at a most unexpected time. The beauty of grace is that it is always undeserved and is poured out in many surprising and varied ways.
In Acts 9:1-8, God delivered His grace to Saul in one of these unexpected ways. This was the time when grace shattered that man's hard heart. Yes, the Lord got Saul's attention with the bright light which knocked him down, but imagine God's further work as Jesus' words penetrated Saul's heart. When Saul was persecuting and harming Christians, Saul had not only harmed people, he had also been persecuting Jesus. Grace soaked into Saul's heart, revealing how wrong he had been each time he had acted against someone who belonged to the Savior. We can only imagine how painful it was for Saul to see himself as he was. Yet, he also received the knowledge of how much Jesus loved him. God's grace overtook Saul that day, changing the whole direction of his life.
In Philippians 3:3-9, we see another result of God's poured out grace. In these verses, we are reminded how grace saturated every corner of Paul's pride in his own accomplishments and righteousness. His list of human achievements was long and looked good on paper, or should I say papyrus? Yet, because of the Lord's work in his life, the apostle knew that the banner of his own worthiness belonged in the trash, never to be waved again. Instead, he relished the covering of grace that totally obliterated everything he had boasted in, leaving him joyfully and proudly displaying the banner of God's righteousness and all that Jesus had done for him, Galatians 6:14.
So far, we have looked at Paul's life and how God's grace taught him about God's heart and his own inability to contribute in any way toward his own right standing with God. However, in Romans 9:1-5, we see the beautiful overflow of grace. Paul's heart was so filled with what God had done for him that he longed for others to be drenched with that same grace. These verses spill over with God's love, expressed through Paul to the apostle's fellow countrymen. Although they often rejected Paul's message and stirred up trouble against him, Paul wanted the unbelievable beauty of grace that he had come to know, to change their lives too. It was his desire that his own past would be a platform on which he could stand and tell both Jews and Gentiles how amazing God's grace truly is, 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
This world is filled with parched corners, places and lives that need God's grace. If we, like Paul have received this precious gift, we will be nourished by it and we will want to see it poured out where it is needed. People try to fill their own nooks and crannies, but only the unmerited favor of God can change lives now and for eternity, John 10:10. If we had lived when Saul was throwing Christians into prison, could we have imagined how God's grace could change a murderous heart into one that resonated with the love of Jesus? That was surely God's grace on display. The wonderful truth is that when the Lord watered every part of us and made us new, 2 Corinthians 5:17, we also became vessels of His grace.
Lord, nourish us with Your grace. Let it overflow into the lives of the people You place in our paths.