Strength or Grace?

Luke 4:1-15

What is your relationship with grace?  For many believers, grace is the only reason we are here.  Here’s the process, “I screwed up, I asked God to forgive me and now I can get into heaven.  Thank God!”  If that sounds hollow to you, I want you to know that I agree.  In fact, as I reflect on my own life, I can see more places where I rely on God’s grace than I do his strength.  Is that OK?

When I think of God’s strength, I think of it as divine intervention.  This was true in college when I didn’t study for the test.  I’d say a quick prayer for intervention, asking for him to guide my pen and to give me the wisdom to write down the right answers.  Funny, I don’t recall a single time that it worked.  Why not?  Because that is not how God typically delivers his strength.  If we want to be spiritually tough, we have to develop it.  Just like a muscle.

Athletes know how to develop muscles.  At the basic level, it’s consistent training.  What if you want to be an Olympic athlete?  I think we all have an idea of the training and commitment it takes to compete at this level.  There is one thing we can be 100% certain of.  Not even one of this year’s Olympic athletes decided not to train.  In other words, they did not rely on luck or the natural talent that they were born with.  Instead, they trained with all of their heart in order to build confidence and endurance with the intention of victory.  This works for our spiritual fitness too.

I don’t know of a better example of spiritual confidence, endurance and victory than Luke 4:1-15.  You know the story.  Jesus has been in the wilderness for 40 days.  He’s hungry.  He’s tired.  He’s been continually harassed by the Devil.  This is where it gets interesting.  Jesus does not ask for relief like I would.  In fact, he shows no sign of weakness.  There is no indication of breakdown.  Instead, he is confident in what he believes.   Jesus skillfully deflects the devil’s temptation with memorized scripture (v4).  But it does not end there.  Jesus’ training is proven again in verse 8 when he successfully navigates the devil’s false promise, being confident in the better possession that God had already promised.

There is victory at the end of this story.  No, it did not come from a lightning bolt or a clap of thunder.  It came from Jesus’ spiritual toughness.  He was a spiritual Olympian.  His hard-fought victory came from his spiritual strength.  He trained for this.  In fact, it’s in his training and preparation that I see the miracle.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still in need of grace.  This grace lives in God’s charge and promises that he will never leave us, nor will he forsake us

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV)