EGR – Extra Grace Required

Unconditional love – the God-kind of love (agapé) is the greatest gift we can give another person. It allows someone to feel secure, be vulnerable, sense their worth, and discover who they really are. Most of us first experience this love when we are born again and the love of God is poured out into our very being.

Romans 5:5 ESV “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Once we have experienced and received unconditional love then we are able to walk in it and give it away.

Former United States president George W. Bush was heard saying to his daughter, “I love you, and there’s nothing you can do to keep me from loving you, so stop trying.” So true, Unconditional love can be tested, but it always passes the test. 

I think that all people long to have a consistent friend who loves them, believes in them, and is continually there for them no matter the circumstances. If you are willing to be that kind of person for others, not only will it expand your relational skills, it will also give you a more satisfying life. You will find yourself relating to others on a very personal level and knowing that you are having an impact in the lives of others. And, you will be aware that you are loved – listen to those words, “YOU ARE LOVED,” and that is so important in life and in relationships.

You may be thinking, I can’t do this with everyone, because some people are just difficult.” That’s very true – for all of us. In my circle of church leaders we call these people EGR’s – extra grace required. But remember we can all use extra grace from time to time. Maybe those who face the greatest challenges are the ones who have difficult people in their families. I raised 6 children on a pastor’s salary. We had a favourite saying, “We don’t go to the circus, we are one.” And every day a different child would be the ‘clown.’ I quickly discovered that family life is ground zero in learning how to deal with difficult people. There were many days when EGR was really needed.

So, we are called as believers to love one another. It is as simple and as difficult as that. It is both difficult and simple. In the end, our goal should be to treat others better than they treat us, to add value to them in a greater capacity than maybe they expect.

Nelson Mandela, the South African statesman, was a fantastic example of someone with high relational capabilities. It was said of him, “He was greater than his enemies deserved; greater than the leaders of foot-dragging Western countries who later rushed to eulogize him; greater than his family, squabbling over his legacy. ‘Deep down in every human heart,’ he wrote , ‘there is mercy and generosity.’” He was a living example of that truth.

Maybe we have not arrived at such a place – but it is certainly a goal worth striving for!

A Principle of Spiritual Growth

Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people and sharing with them Kingdom truths. The story is found in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 13. This is the start of several well known parables about the Kingdom. Well known but not always well understood.

I enjoy reading the parables and reflecting and meditating on them. There is so much truth wrapped into these short spiritual stories explaining powerful and dynamic spiritual principles using common, well known, everyday events and activities to explain profound spiritual Kingdom truths.

One of these truths that hit home a few days ago in my time studying the Bible reading the parables…

Matthew 13:10-15 NET “Then the disciples came to him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He replied, “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not. For whoever has will be given more, and will have an abundance. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. For this reason I speak to them in parables: Although they see they do not see, and although they hear they do not hear nor do they understand. And concerning them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ʻYou will listen carefully yet will never understand, you will look closely yet will never comprehend. For the heart of this people has become dull; they are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.ʼ” (quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10)

So Jesus is saying through this interaction regarding parables:

1> The ability to discern spiritual truths is a gift from God given to those He chooses.

2> Casual followers would not understand the parables on their own. Their spiritual ears and eyes are not yet open and so they cannot discern the truths that the parables are meant to reveal.

3> Committed followers – true disciples of Jesus – would comprehend truths as the parables are heard and then reflected upon.

4> When people receive God’s Word and fail to act upon it, they gradually become calloused in their hearts, losing spiritual sight and spiritual hearing. They need to be willing to act on what they have heard. When they do their spiritual eyes and ears remain open and their heart remains soft so as to continue to receive what God is speaking and revealing to them.

This, of course, means that casual or cultural Christians do not hear the voice of the Lord as they are not committed to following Jesus, taking up their cross daily, and obeying what they have read and heard. 

Even many who are born again who are not passionate about the things of the Lord will fail to hear and thus understand at a heart level.

In this regard Romans 12:11 speaks volumes: 

“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (ESV)

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord” 

“Don’t burn out; keep yourself fueled and aflame … cheerfully expectant…” (MSG)

“Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord.” (NET)

“Be enthusiastic to serve the Lord, keeping your passion toward him boiling hot! Radiate with the glow of the Holy Spirit and let him fill you with excitement as you serve him.” (TPT)

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” (NLT)

“… never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord” (Amp.)

You get the point. Being passive in your following of Jesus is simply not going to work. We need to be careful to keep the spiritual fires stirred and burning bright. Then we will hear and be doers of what we hear. And then the Spirit will continue to bring revelation as we read His Word. And, we will receive daily revelations (fresh manna)  as He speaks directly to our hearts.

A great principle and reminder of how to continue to grow spiritually as we follow the Lord.