Enabling Grace

An amazing real life illustration of how God’s grace enables us to do what we couldn’t due to crippling fears. No Christians are exempted from such fears as we attempt to cross the gap between heaven and earth, a much greater challenge than the illustration this article attempts to show. What we learn from the rock climbing event as told in this story may be life transforming.

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Moaning Cave in Jackson, CA

Families with young children in our church have started a tradition for the past few years when we got together every Martin Luther King holiday at a some remote location for the kids to spend some time together and outdoors away from their regular routines. This year we went back to the Moaning Cave in Jackson, CA, where we let the kids enjoy the outdoors sport of rock climbing. It was there that God gave me an inspiration to write this article, a great illustration of God's empowering grace.

The paralyzing fear

The kids were at this rock climbing facility two years ago. Both our twin girls never made it to the top then, but for some reason they exhibited a deeper level of fear at this year’s event. Carissa got up to about 5 feet above ground then she just hung there. I was closer to her trying to figure out how to help her up the rock, but I also noticed Theony was watching us near by. I knew she was trying to figure out if she could learn from what that might work for Carissa so she could apply it herself.

I forgot how long, it just seemed like a long time, Carissa was stuck in one place unable to move in any direction. After a while I realized she needed to feel how the cable supports her so I began to try to encourage her to let herself go. Her fingers, palms, arms, and probably other parts of her body grew progressively tired, but still she didn’t let go. She continued to cling on to the small grips protruding out from the rock for dear life.

I just knew in my heart, if she let go, she would feel the cable’s powerful upward pull slowing her descent. That upward pull would provide the assurance that she would not get a hard fall. I continued to try encouraging her to let go to no avail. The rock climbing guide lady chimed in by telling her that the cable could support up two thousand pounds. Still she clung to the rock.

Other folks tried to show her what other grip points for her to grab with her already very tired fingers, or where to rest her weary feet. But the instructions from others didn’t help the matter one bit as she got more frustrated. She simply couldn’t move. But I wasn’t frustrated. I knew what she was facing, because I had been there during a very trying time in my life. It seemed as if God’s love was pouring out in my heart to wait, for the right moment.

Trusting the cable

Carissa must come to a place when she learned she could trust the cable, that it would not cause any harm to come to her. Once she got there, I knew she would be able to make it to the top, and to enjoy the journey at the same time.

After what seemed like a long time, I began to try more than just talk, I let her feel my support with my hands and shoulders under her weight, and continued to encourage her to let go of the rock. Letting go she did, but probably by now she had no strength left to hold on.

Though Carissa had gotten safely on the ground, she descended with my support instead of letting her full weight ride on the cable to experience its working against gravity in her favor. I knew she needed to develop this trust on the cable before she could reach the top, if she still has it in her to try again.

After getting down safely on the ground, she began to ask me to massage her hands, wrists, and arms. After recovering somewhat, though Carissa’s hands were still shaking, she asked the guide to put the harness back on her. This time I knew what I had to do. As soon as she was barely two feet above ground, I asked her to let go. She did, and she felt the upward tug of the powerful cable. Then after a few tries like that, climbing a short distance up, letting herself drop, she learned to trust the cable, and then the bell at the twenty foot high peak was all of a sudden within her reach and she made more trips up and down the rock.

God is our mighty cable

As many of us witnessed Carissa’s struggle that day, we can draw many great lessons especially as leaders, pastors, and Sunday School teachers in our church. You are the one who are tasked with the job of helping such ones like Carissa to ascend the rock of their faith.

Did Carissa find the verbal instructions on how she could ascend the rock helpful? Not one bit. They actually made her more frustrated. All the helpers around her did not see the magnitude of her fear. Telling her to stop being afraid would not take away her fear. Telling her about the myriad grips on the rock’s surface would make her panic. Getting angry with her would increase her pain.

Now let us imagine many Christians in our church are like Carissa. But climbing the rock is nothing compared with ascending the stairway to heaven. While the cable helps Carissa climb, it took our Lord Jesus to leave heaven and be crucified on the cross to get us up there. Now which is harder? Then why are many leaders still trying to make the same mistakes like when we tried to help Carissa ascend the rock? Do you know how useless those tips are? I know, because they are useless to me. And we saw it before our very eyes at the foot of the tall rocky challenge. The tips may be useful to those who have overcome the core stumbling block, which is the fear of falling as in the case of Carissa, but they are not essential, or even necessary in helping the children to ascend to the top. But if the core issue is not addressed, ten thousand tips will not be of any use.

Once Carissa found for herself that she could trust the cable, the rest is history. This cable is like God’s Grace, Mercies, and Faithfulness all combined whose tensile strength is increased by the power that created the universe and treated with the blood of the Son of God and guaranteed with an oath directly from the One in Whom there is no shadow of turning (Hebrews 6:13).

If we know how the knowledge of the trustworthy cable helps Carissa, why are folks afraid of letting Christians know of the amazing scarlett cord of redemption (Joshua 2:18)? Many folks are afraid that if they know of this cord they will be given a license to sin, but did we see this during Carissa’s struggle? What happened after she learned of the “grace” of the cable? Did she squander this knowledge? Did she find it an excuse to quit? No, she found strength, she felt an irresistible urge to reach for the stars. Like Carissa, Christians who discovered God’s grace—cable—become slave of righteousness (Romans 6:18), they can’t resist doing good, to get to the peak of what God has in store for them. My advise to church leaders is you should take advantage of God’s cable of grace to let Christians know that He would not let them fall.

NOTES: not letting them fall—not in the sense that they won’t get into worldly troubles, but in the sense that their eternal inheritance is secure.

Living in fear is burdensome

Let’s suppose someone tries to motivate Carissa to climb to the top using fear or rewards: Don’t let go, because if you do, you’d fall and hurt real bad. If you get to the top, there will be a great reward waiting for you. Or using shame, or cheers, or pep talks? None of those things would have worked for Carissa as her fear was too overwhelming. And yet this strategy is often used to motivate Christians. They might work for worldly goals, but for something as impossible as having our sins wiped as white as snow, for becoming children of God, they will not achieve their desired goal. Especially this is Kingdom’s economy we’re talking about where there are no nerit-based rewards, but grace-based gifts.

This time next year, if God is willing that we’ll be back at that rock, what will Carissa remember that will allow her to scale that rock again? Nothing except that wonderful sense of peace about the very strong cable. So it is with God’s grace in the lives of Christians. What that will motivate them to scale the height of their faith are not the do’s and the dont’s, but God’s seven billion times seven forgiveness of their short comings.

Many Christians struggle much like Carissa did. Their ascending to the height as far as heaven while being motivated by fear proves too much for them, the fear that God might lose His patience with their many trips and falls. Year by year they wait for a revival meeting, a “bồi linh” event, only to be disappointed, while the specifications of God’s grace’s tensile strength is clearly shown the wonderful scriptures that will more than revive them if they know where to look, and only if they look from the eyes of their faith and not their abilities. God gives us 52 Sundays a year with 52 chances to proclaim through sermons and Sunday School lessons to grow people’s faith as they learn of God’s cable. Let us not leave this wonderful job to others.

The true objective

For worldy pursuit, there is nothing wrong with setting a goal, and then work out steps leading to it. There are myriad examples in daily life. However things might be turned upside down in the spiritual realm. Jesus gives us plenty of “for the kingdom of God is like …” where priorities and values are the opposite of what we expect.

Had our objective been to teach kids like Carissa the power of the cable to support her, she would have discovered that she could get to the top with it. The getting to the top is an added bonus as she might even find that the floating down with the support of the cable might actually be more fun. But if the objective is to get to the top, it compounds her discouragement upon failure.

The apostle Paul uses all he has in his toolbox to teach us the true objective: Jesus. He’d tell us to fix our eyes upon Him. Even Jesus told us to fix our eyes upon Himself like the Hebrews of old were to fix their eyes upon the bronze snake when they were bitten by snakes in the desert. Once the Christians grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18), other things will be added unto them, from lips that cannot stop talking about their Savior, to radiant countenance as their burden is lifted, to hearts overflowing with living water from the throne of God where fruit will spring forth.

What is the most important thing in your ministry?

Additional thoughts

There are as many life’s challenges as there are people on earth. This article just attempts to show a general principle that once a core issue is resolved, other problems may go away as a result. However I believe the Bible is not written with its main objectives to deal with worldly issues, but to deal with the core issue of our sin nature which came as a consequence of our separation from God. In 1 Cor 15:19 the apostle Paul wrote this: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And many of us have memorized Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”

If the steel cable addresses Carissa’s core issue of the fear of falling, then eternal security addresses our core issue of the falling short of God’s glory. It’s the same with ministries, if we take advantage of the opportunities God gives us through sermons, Sunday School lessons, etc., to ground those God gives us to minister to, not in the superficial details as illustrated in the grip points on the rock wall and their ability, or lack thereof, but in God’s ability through the cross of Christ, we’d rightly deal with the core issue: our need of God’s righteousness—which cannot be restored to us through any of our efforts, even our most righteous deeds.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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