Paul opens his second letter to the Corinthians by wishing the best for his readers. He sends, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This address appears often in Paul’s letters. It is his favorite wish for Christians. Hughes says, “It is impossible for us today to hear the word play here—Paul always replaced the Greek word for ‘Hello’ (charein) with the Christian term for ‘grace’ (charis). So when Paul’s readers expected ‘Hello,’ Paul wished them “Grace.”[1] I need grace. You need grace. We all need grace.

I’ve been watching way too much Fox News and am becoming familiar with the commercials they will run over and over. One of them has a celebrity telling those of us on social security to call a toll-free number to see if we qualify for a special benefit. Then he says, “you should get what you deserve.” I hate that phrase and am so glad that God doesn’t give me what I deserve. God is not a vindictive God who is out to get us. Back in Exodus 34:6-7, we read that God is, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” This is what God is like. He’s not a policeman hiding behind a billboard waiting to catch us speeding. He’s not a boss looking over our shoulder trying to get the most out of us he can. No, that God is gracious means he is favorably inclined toward us. That he wants to show favor to us. To do what is best for us. This is how God wants us to see Him. He has our best interest foremost in mind regardless of our circumstances in life. He may allow suffering and even Job-like trials in our life, but they are tests. Will we continue to see him as a kind and loving God even though we have hardships? I think this is what saving faith is. It’s not believing that God exists. Even the demons do that. It’s always trusting in his good intentions towards us even when it doesn’t look like it. I don’t think Jesus was meant to be a simple illustration showing us how to live. He’s much more than that, but through the Passion, we see the perfect example of holding on to one’s faith while suffering.

Understanding God as the God of Grace will lead us into green, peaceful pastures with still waters. One web article on grace says, “Grace always brings benefits, and one of these benefits is reflected in the word ‘peace’ which the Apostle always associates with God’s grace. In fact, the order is significant. First grace and then peace. Until we know and appropriate grace, we can’t experience peace.”[2] Once we accept God’s gracious gift of His son, Jesus, we can truly experience peace. The Bible is full of God’s promises regarding His graciousness to sinners. As we appropriate these promises “as they relate us to God’s love and care, we can experience the peace of eternal security, the peace of good conscience, the peace knowing god’s will, the peace of knowing that God will supply, and personal peace in many other practical ways.”

[1] Hughes, R. Kent. 2006. 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.