How much grace has God bestowed upon you? What are you doing with
the grace God has given you? Are you letting Godís grace be
given to you in vain? While working on a sermon regarding obeying
the gospel, I read I
Corinthians 15. While reading this passage, one statement
had a profound impact on me. I want to share it with you and I
hope I can impress you with its power. In I
Corinthians 15:9-10, Paul claims that God had been
gracious to him. In this verse, he is not talking about the saving
grace of God, but rather the grace that God bestowed making Paul
an apostle. Paul said, ďBy the grace of God I am what I am.Ē
He was an apostle because of Godís grace. Then he wrote the
profound statement to which we must direct our attention. Paul
said, ďHis grace toward me was not in vain.Ē In other words,
God bestowed His grace on Paul and Paul was fruitful with it. God
has bestowed all manner of grace to each of usówe must not let
Godís grace be given to us in vain. Examine these two verses and
notice four key attitudes that Paul had which allowed Godís
grace to be fruitful in Paulís life.
Paul recognized how unworthy he was.
Paul was a gifted man, even before becoming a Christian. He
was a leader among men and an example for his countrymen in
Judaism. According to Acts
22:3, Paul declared that he was schooled at the feet of
one of the great Jewish teachers, Gamaliel. In Galatians
1:14, Paul expressed how advanced he was in comparison to
his peers. In Philippians
3:4-6, he demonstrated how much he could boast as a Jew.
How easily Paul could have seen himself as worthy of apostleship.
How easily could Paul have looked back and stated that he was
chosen to be an apostle because of his awesome abilities.
Paul, however, knew his real situation much better than
that. Paul recognized how unworthy he was. In I
Corinthians 15:9, he said he was the least of the
apostles. He claimed he was unworthy to be an apostle. Why?
Because he had persecuted the church. He had used his abilities to
fight against God. He had been an enemy of the One he professed to
serve. He knew what his sins meant. All the giftedness and ability
in the world meant nothing, because he had used it to sin. Godís
grace was able to bear fruit in Paulís life because he
understood how unworthy he was of Godís grace. Of course, his
unworthiness is what made it grace.
What about us? Can Godís grace bear fruit in our lives?
Or do we believe we are somehow worthy of Godís benefits? How do
you look at your life? It is far too easy for us to believe that
we were actually pretty good, especially if we were brought up
ďin church.Ē We do not like to hear how unworthy we are in our
modern society. We want to focus on self-esteem. We do not want
anyone to feel guilty. We do not want anyone to feel responsible
for sin. We do not want anyone to feel unworthy of anything. But
if Godís grace will be able to bear fruit in our lives, we must
recognize our unworthiness. Paul describes what we were before
Christ entered our lives in Romans
3:10-18 and in Ephesians 2:1-3. We were
unworthy and, of course, that is what makes Godís benefits
toward us grace.
Paul acknowledged Godís grace in his life.
Paul declared in I
Corinthians 15:10 that he was an apostle by the grace of
God. Paul followed the instruction of Proverbs
3:6, acknowledging God in all his ways. In this passage,
he recognizes Godís grace in making him an apostle. In I
Timothy 1:12, Paul said that Jesus enabled him to work. In
3:7-8, Paul recognized Godís grace in allowing him to
preach to the Gentiles. In I
Corinthians 3:5-7, Paul recognized that even the very
opportunities to teach were bestowed by Godís grace. In Ephesians
6:19, Paul wanted the Ephesians to pray that God bestow
His grace to help him speak boldly. When teaching on Mars Hill in Acts
17:28, Paul recognized that even the ability to live and
move came from Godís grace.
Godís grace was not in vain in Paulís life because Paul
recognized the benefits, abilities and opportunities for what they
were, the grace of God. They were not abilities he had because of
his own power. They were gifts. Thus, Paul recognized that his
abilities, resources and opportunities were not his own to do with
as he wanted. They were gifts from God over which he was a steward
and he should use them properly.
What about us? Do we recognize Godís grace in our lives?
Do we acknowledge God in all our ways? No matter who you are or
how you have lived, God has bestowed grace upon you. Matthew
5:45 demonstrates this. Notice what Paul taught in Romans
12:3-8. Each ability you have is a gift from God. Do not
view this list as exhaustiveóit is an exemplary list. Any
ability you have comes from Godóit is a gift over which God has
left you as a steward. Can you speak? Can you work? Can you serve?
Can you give? Can you do anything? That is Godís grace in your
life. Everything you have is a gift from God. Do you have a house?
Do you have cars? Do you have money? That is Godís grace in your
life and you are a steward of those abilities and possessions. How
are you using them? Godís grace is bestowed in vain to most
people simply because they never recognize what they have is
Godís gift to them to be used in His service. If you want
Godís grace to be fruitful in your life, then take note of all
the benefits God has given you. Quit spending your time looking at
what He has granted to othersólook at what He has given to you.
Recognize your unworthiness of it and recognize His grace.
Paul worked hard.
Here is where the rubber hits the road. When God bestowed
His grace upon Paul, Paul worked. Not only that, he worked hard.
Despite his recognition of how unworthy he was, even in comparison
to the others, he worked hard. He did not sit back and lament his
past sins. He did not rest saying he could never do any good for
the Lord because of how bad he had been. He did not bemoan what
others may have had more than he did. He took the grace that had
been given to him and he worked for the Lord. Paul was arguably
the greatest worker for the Lordís cause in the first century.
Why did he work so hard? He explained in Philippians
3:7-14. He counted all things as rubbish in comparison to
knowing the Lord. He wanted to go to heaven more than he wanted
anything else. And his excitement that God would let him was
overwhelming. His joy to be a part of Godís plan after all he
had done against it was phenomenal. Why would he do anything other
than work for this gracious God who had done so much for such a
pathetic sinner? Isnít that the kind of service our gracious God
What about us? How hard are we working for the Lord? He has
bestowed us with so much grace. Are we using it to work hard,
serving Him? Or are we burying His grace in the pursuit of less
worthy goals? Remember the parable of the talents in Matthew
25:14-30. Do not spend your time worrying about who has
more talents. Do not spend your time thinking about all the things
you cannot do or wish you could. Spend your time doing what you
can. Work hard with what God has given you. Labor abundantly. As
Peter wrote in I
Peter 4:10-11, use your gifts as good stewards of the
manifold grace of God, working hard so that God can be glorified
in everything you do.
Paul acknowledged Godís grace in his life.
Do not be shocked that this point is the same as the
second. Here we find the reason why Godís grace was continually
fruitful in Paulís life. After Paul had worked hard and labored
more abundantly than the other apostles, Paul still acknowledged
Godís grace. If he worked harder than the other apostles, it was
simply because God gave him more ability. If his work bore more
fruit, it was simply because of Godís grace. He was not better
than anyone else. His work was not better. God was the one who was
working, whether it was him or the other apostles. God was the one
who was really responsible for all the work Paul could do and had
When you have recognized your unworthinessÖ When you have
acknowledged Godís grace in your lifeÖ When you have worked
hard as a good steward of Godís grace, do not praise yourself.
Do not glorify yourself. Glorify God and recognize His grace
continuing in your life (Matthew
It does not matter who you are. It does not matter what you
think about your life. God has bestowed grace on top of grace on
top of grace in your life. And it is grace because you are
unworthy of it. The question is will Godís grace bear fruit to
His glory in your life, or will it die on the vine having been
given to you in vain. Learn from Paulís example. Work hard and
glorify God, acknowledging His grace. I pray that when we stand
before God in judgment He can say to us, ďMy grace was not given
to you in vain.Ē
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ