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A Blog Post by Mike Marshall

• Mike Marshall

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A couple years ago Mike Marshall did a blog for us on God's grace. He mentions the change of heart he had at the funeral of a deceased friend. It seemed a fitting blog to post this week as we mourn his loss but celebrate God's grace at work in his life.

On most Sundays, the content of the message preached or of a song sung during worship leads me to some sort of meditation. I don't know exactly why, aside from God's leading, but this is one I think I am supposed to share. Often when Jim speaks of God's grace or mentions his own conversion and I see the heartfelt response he has to what God has done in his life, it brings afresh a similar response in me and that is a very good thing because it renews in me the joy of my salvation. Thanks for that, Jim.

A Meditation on God's Grace

When the apostle Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh, God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you." At times, God gives each of us such an answer. Understanding its full meaning and how it applies to each individual situation is not easy. But I do know something of what it does mean for all of us.

We need to remember Whose grace it is and hold on to that even if we don't know in what form that grace will be manifested. He is the One Who is all-wise and sovereign, all-knowing and good, both just and merciful, not far off but near, and He is for us!

He is the God Who created the universe out of nothing with the power of His word and nothing is too hard for Him!

He is our Father of Whom we never need ask, "Are You able", but only, "If You please?"

And if we were to ask of Him, "Lord, if You please,

Take from me a fate worse than death (wrath and judgment) and give me in its place a glorious inheritance beyond imagination (salvation and eternity with Him);
And while You're at it, if You please, transform me from enemy to adopted son;
And, if You please, never allow any suffering to come my way that is not used for good, no tear, no pain, no harm, no sorrow that does not in some way get used for good by You and bring You glory;
And, if You please, never allow any temptation to come my way that is too much for me to bear;
And, if You please, never leave me nor forsake me."

And after all of this, if the Lord were to answer yes and do so because of His Son, because of His grace, then God's grace is sufficient indeed! Yet, we would not even know to ask for these things had He Himself not told us of them, nor could we ask for these things were it not for His making it possible. . . . . grace indeed!

Honor and praise and glory be to our God, who just as He never was not, so shall He always be!

From "Why?" to "Why me?"

About a year or so after I came to the Lord, my cousin, with whom I had been sharing the gospel over a number of months, was killed. He was 19. To my knowledge, he did not put his trust in Christ before his death. I thought I had seen some signs that he was moving in that direction and wondered if only he had been given more time . . . . He was as close to me as a brother and I wondered, why did God save me and not him. Added to my grief and sorrow was much anger as I lamented, "Why me, and not him!?"

But I was horrified by something else, realizing that the attitude of my heart toward God was not simply, "Why?" but "How dare You!" I knew that was not a good place to be.

I was on my way to the funeral and wanted and asked God just to take that anger away instantly and miraculously, but that was not to be. My train ride back home from New Jersey to Maryland was a long one with no relief from that inner turmoil. Even as I tried to focus on praying for my aunt and my other relatives, the anger would resurface. It was like a prison from which there would be no early release.

At the funeral, my aunt seemed to keep her composure amazingly well. After the minister finished his words at the burial site, my aunt who had not said very much up to that point, cried out my cousins name, threw herself on his now closed casket and begged him not to leave her!

Then it hit me. For how many others had I and those I was with, in the gangs, caused this kind of suffering and pain?! Is this what we had done? I did not feel worthy to stand on the same ground as my aunt, nor did I feel worthy to have been a pall bearer. I looked around at each one assembled there and at the pain and sorrow on their faces and thought again, to how many did we bring upon suffering like this? But God showed His grace to me, the chief of sinners!? I wept for my aunt; I wept over my cousin; I wept because of my sin. Then I realized that previously when I was asking, "Why me and not him?" I should have been asking "Why HIM and not me?" (Christ on the cross paying for my sin, and not I paying for it myself). That was the more important question. To that second question, I knew the answer. God's grace!

Then the anger was gone.

It was as though the enemy had been pointing at my cousin's casket trying to fuel my anger, saying "look at what God has done" and I was able to point to the cross and say to the enemy in rebuke, "No, you look at what God has done!!" and that was enough to send the enemy running. It was enough to set me free.

I have no detailed answer to that first question. However, I think that the answer to that first question is somehow contained within the second question and the sufficiency of God's grace.

Mike Marshall (August 11, 1966 - August 8, 2014)

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