First, let’s look at what the Lord told Zerubbabel. As governor of Judah for the first wave of exiles who returned under the edict of Cyrus, Zerubbabel was responsible for rebuilding the temple. The land had been devastated, and those who returned were among the poorest of the Jewish captives. In the natural, how could they rebuild the temple? King Solomon had used costly materials to build the first temple, and he had hired expert craftsmen. That first temple was a glorious and expensive sight.
Zerubbabel was not only dealing with poor economic conditions, he faced opposition from neighboring Samaria and discouragement and apathy from the people. However, the Lord gave Zerubbabel a prophetic word through Zechariah: “. . . ‘Not by might [your natural abilities] nor by power [numerical strength] but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts’” (Zech. 4:6). Zerubbabel wasn’t to put his trust—his faith—in his or any other person’s abilities or resources. The temple would be rebuilt by God’s Spirit.
Furthermore, the Lord instructed Zerubbabel to shout to the great mountain of opposition, “Grace, grace!” (Zech. 4:7) Isn’t that interesting! He wasn’t to shout “Faith, faith.” He was to shout “Grace, grace.” He was to proclaim the power of God to his opposition. By faith he was to trust in God’s grace to accomplish the impossible.
Now let’s look at Paul’s experience. When he sought the Lord about his thorn in the flesh, the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength [power] is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Often we think that the Lord was telling Paul to “grin and bear it,” but He was actually telling Paul to trust in His grace—His power—to bring him through the issue and into victory. Paul wasn’t to trust in his faith or his ability to overcome. He was to put his faith in God’s grace to give him the victory.
The writer of Hebrews calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29). So grace is more than God’s unmerited favor. It is His power to take care of everything that is beyond our natural, human ability.
That is why Paul would go on to say that he would gladly boast in his infirmities (2 Cor. 12:9). He wasn’t implying that he was excited about the sufferings and was going to brag about them to everybody he met. Paul meant that he could rejoice because he was experiencing another opportunity to receive grace and not do life and ministry by his own efforts, something he had excelled at before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The more helpless he was, the more he would depend on God’s grace. Consequently, Paul wasn’t frustrated with his ministry because he wasn’t doing it in his own strength.
Often when we are going through hard times, we think we need more faith, but faith isn’t the power that causes us to overcome. Grace is God’s goodness and power that enables us to be victorious. Faith is the way we appropriate what God’s grace has already done for us. As Bill Winston said at Family Church Conference 2014, “Faith connects you with God’s ability.”
That is why one commentator calls faith and grace inseparable companions that “together provide the antithesis to any suggestion of human merit. God’s act of grace is the ground of salvation and faith is the means by which it becomes effective in a person’s life.”
Faith and grace are like two sides of the same coin. You can’t spend just one side of the coin. When you are going to buy something, you use the whole coin.
Your walk with the Lord depends on both faith and grace. You can’t have one without the other.
If we’re not careful, we tend to think that all we need is faith. After all, scripture does say that without faith it is impossible to please God. However, scripture also says, “Being justified freely BY HIS GRACE [my emphasis] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. . .” (Rom. 3:24).
Salvation, and its many benefits, doesn’t come because we have faith. Salvation comes because of God’s grace. We receive His salvation by faith. I like how Joyce Meyer says it: “Faith is not the price that buys God’s blessings; it is the hand that receives His blessings.”
God is the source of salvation. It is His grace gift to us. Faith means that we quit trying to justify ourselves and willingly accept what God’s grace has done for us in Christ.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines grace this way: “Grace is the attitude on God’s part that proceeds entirely from within Himself and is conditioned in no way by anything in the objects of His favor.” In other words, God doesn’t look at our behavior and then decide on the basis of our behavior to bestow His grace upon us. If God acted that way, it wouldn’t be grace. It would be the law.
Some people argue that preaching on grace gives people a license to sin. First of all, people don’t need a license or permission to sin. They’ll sin with or without permission from anybody. Secondly, if preaching on grace is giving people permission to sin, then why did Peter exhort us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18)?
In the preceding verses of 2 Peter 3, Peter had encouraged the believers to remain steadfast in their faith and not compromise their testimony of Christ. He told them to “be diligent to be found by Him [Jesus] in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). Peter would not have exhorted them to grow in grace if grace would cause them to sin. No, he told them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ because that would keep them spotless and blameless.
Growing in the grace of Jesus Christ and in the knowledge of Him strengthens our relationship with the Lord. When we are growing in grace, we are growing in the revelation of God’s great love—how much He loves us and does for us in spite of ourselves. When we understand how much He loves us, we don’t want to sin. Instead we want to be worthy of Him and His great love. Thus, growing in grace encourages and empowers us to walk in righteousness.
Until we see Jesus face to face, none of us will walk perfectly, without sin, on this earth. Only Jesus did that. Even though we will never be perfect in this life, the Father God still pours out upon us daily His grace, His abundant provision, His tender mercies, His loving care.
Lest we think that He is giving us abundant grace because we think our faith is perfect—and that is turning faith into works!—He gives us grace even when our faith isn’t perfect. Remember, the father who asked Jesus to heal His son? Jesus told him, “If you can believe, all things are possible” (Mark 9:23). The man quickly replied, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Faith keeps its eyes on God’s willingness to meet our needs, even when we don’t operate perfectly in faith.
When I am in faith that means that I have taken all the weight off of myself and placed it all on the Lord. I am trusting in His grace—power and ability—to do what needs to be done. I am trusting in His wisdom and knowledge to do it when it needs to be done. I am trusting in His goodness and love to do it in the way that it needs to be done.
Faith isn’t the power that delivers. It is the attitude that sustains us and keeps us firmly rooted and ground in God until God’s power in the form of His grace delivers us.
As the old song says, “Keep the switch of faith turned on.” Just remember that faith is the SWITCH—not the power. God’s grace is the power.