KEY THOT: Faith starts us off in our Christian walk with God. Through faith, we have made peace with God because we have been "justified by faith". In other words, because of our faith in Christ, we have been set been set free from guilt and condemnation. We have also gained "access by faith into this grace we stand". The grace of God is the unsearchable riches of God in Christ: it's the experience of divine power and presence in our lives. So, faith plugs us into the supernatural resources to help us defeat sin and Satan. But access is not the end of the journey, but only the beginning. Faith is like the password to gain access into the Father's heavenly Grace-Bank. Gaining access into God's grace is not the point. The point is to learn how to draw upon this "grace" for our daily life
Paul's description of how God helps us draw upon this resources may surprise us: "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (v.3-4). In other words, the only way God can teach and compel us to draw upon His infinite resources is to allow trials that lead to suffering to enter into our life. It's only when we suffer as a result of our weaknesses, that we will call upon God by faith so that we can experience His grace in us: But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
This power will produce in us the Christ-like fruit marked by endurance (perseverance), character (godliness) and hope (positive optimism). We know we have learned to draw on God's power and presence when our lives are marked by by these characteristics, especially the positive optimism of hope. Negativism in our thinking and criticism in our talking reveal the flip-side of this truth--that we have not learned to draw on God's Grace-Bank to meet difficulties and challenges we face.
Even this is not the end of our spiritual maturity. It's as we are filled with hope that God can pour into our hearts His ultimate grace--which is love: "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (v.5). This agape love is the ultimate goal of our spiritual maturity. It is the only motive that will compel us into the self-less ministry of proclaiming the Gospel: "for Christ's love compels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).
And Christ's love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So, the more we walk by faith and hope, the greater we experience of God's love in our hearts and the more we are filled with the Holy Spirit. When that happens, proclaiming Christ is no longer a duty but a passion motivated by compassion for the lost sheep.
Abba-Father, thank You through faith in Christ, we have now made peace with You. And having gained access into Your Grace-bank, we ask that You teach us how to draw upon its riches whenever we face trials in our life and work, so that the Holy Spirit might fill us with Your love. Amen.