Two Sides of the Same Coin

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ…” (2 John 1:3)

Some things just seem to go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Macaroni and cheese. Grace and mercy.

Grace and mercy are like heads and tails—two sides of the same coin. Grace is receiving a blessing we did not deserve. Mercy is deserving a punishment, but not receiving it. When we were saved, our sins were forgiven. We deserved punishment, but instead received mercy. Also, when we were saved, we became a child of God, joint heirs with Jesus, and were given eternal life—which we in no way deserved but received by grace.

We certainly enjoy receiving grace and mercy for ourselves, but sometimes we find it hard to extend grace and mercy to others.

David found himself in just that situation in 1 Samuel, chapter 24. As you may remember, Saul was on a blood-thirsty quest to murder David. One day, Saul went into a cave to “relieve himself.” In a weird coincidence, David and his men were hiding in that very same cave.

When David’s men saw Saul in the cave, they urged David to kill Saul, saying this chance to defeat his enemy was an opportunity sent from God.

Put yourself in David’s shoes for just a minute. David knew Saul would certainly kill him if given a chance. Surely, justice would permit him to kill Saul. Surely, Saul deserved it. But David didn’t do it. Instead of justice, David extended mercy.

David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. As Saul left the cave, David shouted for Saul, and bowed before him. In this vulnerable position, David showed Saul the piece of cloth cut from his robe. Saul realized David could have killed him…but didn’t. Saul began to cry and thanked David for his kindness. Saul asked David not to kill his family when David became king, and David extended grace by agreeing to his request.

Reconciliation flows out of mercy and grace.

Our sense of justice sometimes blocks our expression of grace and mercy. We sometimes think, “serves them right,” or, “I can’t believe they did that.” We treat people harshly when we only look at what they deserve. Justice may scream for retaliation, but grace and mercy remind us the many times we were given something much different than what we deserved.

When tempted to hold a grudge, write someone off, or think less of someone because of their actions, stop and listen to grace and mercy. Remember how we were forgiven, our debt paid, and our soul saved when we were totally undeserving. God treats us with grace and mercy. Let’s demonstrate his character by showing grace and mercy to others.

Father God, Thank you for grace and mercy. You saw me when I was lost, forgave my sins, and gave me your peace. I was so undeserving. Thank you for not giving me what I deserved, but instead giving me grace and mercy. Help me remember to treat others the same way—not necessarily what they deserve, but what grace and mercy demands. Let me live in a way that shows your character to a lost world that they may come to know you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

How Did I End Up Here?

“I declare from the beginning how it will end and foretell from the start what has not yet happened. I decree that my purpose will stand, and I will fulfill my every plan.” (Isaiah 46:10)

First Samuel, chapter 22, finds David hiding in a cave. David, who was anointed by God to be a king, was now a fugitive pursued by a madman, hiding in a creepy cave, and in the company of outcasts. To call the situation bleak is an understatement. At some point, he must have looked around at his surroundings and circumstances and thought, “How did I end up here?”

Have you ever asked that question? Have you ever wondered how your road led to your current challenges, difficulty, and pain? Have you ever thought that perhaps God had forgotten about you?

Psalm 142 is, “A psalm of David, regarding his experience in the cave. A prayer.” It’s worth a slow read. In this psalm, David pours out his heart to God. He spills all his complaints and all his troubles. But in that creepy cave and in those dire circumstances, David writes these words: “Then I pray to you, oh Lord. I say, ‘You are my refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry for I am very low’” (Psalm 142:5-6).

Any of us may find ourselves in a cave experience, a time when our lives seem off course and our problems seem unsolvable. In the times when everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, the best thing we can do is to pour our hearts out to God. He alone sees the end from the beginning. He alone knows how to guide our steps, bring us out of the cave, and bring us into our destiny.

Whether we are in the cave because of our own mistakes, someone else’s actions, or led there by God, know that God will always bring good out of a bad season. As long as we hold fast to God, God will hold fast to us. His plan for our lives is sure.

God does good work in caves. It was in a cave that God breathed new life into Lazarus’s lifeless body. It was in a cave that God reassured Elijah when he felt forsaken and wanted to give up. And it was in a cave that the power of almighty God resurrected Jesus Christ and secured our salvation and our future in heaven. The cave may not be fun, but God does some of his best work in caves.  

David’s cave was only for a season. God’s plan for David to become king happened just as he said. Remember, friend, your cave is only a stop on your journey, not your destination. The cave is for a season, not forever. If you’re in a cave right now, pour your heart out to God. And look up. God does good work in caves.

Dear God, you are my refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry today. Use every circumstance in my life for my good, the good of others, and for your glory. When I face difficulty, I will neither fear nor fall because I know you are always at work in my life, and your plan for my life is perfect. Thank you for loving me, for redeeming me, and for ordering my steps. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Lean on Me

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Pastor Jentezen Franklin tells the story of a small country church. At the end of each service, the pastor always asked someone in the congregation to pray the benediction. There was one man, an old farmer, who the pastor called on occasionally to offer the concluding prayer. This man always finished his prayer by saying, “And, Lord, prop us up on our leaning side.”

When the pastor asked the farmer what he meant, the farmer told the pastor about an old barn on his farm. One day, the farmer noticed the old barn was starting to lean. It had weathered many years and many storms. The farmer knew the barn wouldn’t continue to stand without some support, so he made pine beams and used them to brace the barn. The farmer said, “It’s still leans, but it’s not falling down because I propped it up on its leaning side. Sometimes I’m like that old barn. I get to leaning toward anger, or fear, or hatred, and then I ask the Lord to prop me up on my leaning side.

We’re a lot like that old barn. Just like the Bill Withers song says, “We all need somebody to lean on.” We’re created to be leaners. It’s OK to lean on other people. Moses leaned on Aaron. David leaned on Jonathan. We aren’t meant to live in isolation. We’re meant to have people who support us along the way. It’s important to let others lean on us. Sometimes, we need to be the one who encourages and supports our friends and family. But, it’s not OK to lean on people instead of God.

After David killed Goliath, King Saul became jealous of David and determined to kill him. (We can read the story in 1 Samuel, chapter 19.) David desperately needed aid and support. But one by one, the people he leaned on most disappointed him. King Saul, who at one time loved David, now wanted him dead. David’s wife lied to King Saul about him. His mentor, Samuel tried to hide David, but Saul discovered his hiding place. David’s support system and his own efforts weren’t enough to prop him up.

David was reminded to lean on God.

Never confuse the help offered by friends or family with the supernatural deliverance available from God. People who love us are gifts from God, and they breathe support and encouragement into our lives. But ultimately, it is God’s victorious right hand that props us up, gives us strength, and keeps us from falling.

Dear God, there are times in my life when I need support. Thank you for friends and family who love me and support me. Help me be there to support others when they need someone to lean on. Most importantly, help me never forget that it is your power and love that holds me up and keeps me from falling. Let me learn to lean on you. In Jesus’s name, amen.