The Gift of Sustaining Grace

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I walk into Bible study hesitantly. This week we are talking about prayer. I’m not sure how honest I should be.

While I see tremendous value in prayer, I’ve had my own struggles with it.  Especially when people talk about their miraculous answers.  The ones that happen immediately after they’ve prayed. For the first time. When I’ve prayed about something for years. And nothing has changed.

Some of my prayers have remained unanswered for decades.

I share this with my group, tentative about saying it aloud. My disappointment sounds so unspiritual, so faithless, so shallow.

But then Florence says something that refocuses my attention. Immediately I know that these words are for me. “You never hear anyone in the Bible complaining about the parting of the Red Sea. Everyone loves delivering grace. But the Israelites, like us, were not satisfied with manna. We all complain about sustaining grace.”

We all complain about sustaining grace.

Her words hit me hard. I can scarcely pay attention to the rest of the discussion as I ponder them.

Were my prayers for deliverance answered with the gift of sustenance? Do I not see that that was an answer too? And often just as miraculous?

Why am I not grateful for manna? The everyday grace of God.

When I tell Florence how her words are staying with me, how they are changing everything for me, she writes me this:

I remember being stunned by the realization of how much I love deliverance and how little I appreciate sustenance. Essentially, saying “Where is the victory in sustenance – it sounds like just getting by.” Wasn’t I scorning grace?

Scorning grace. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing?

In waiting for the huge monumental deliverance- the kind where I can put my issue to bed and never have to pray about it again- I’ve overlooked the grace that keeps drawing me to Him. The prayers that may appear unanswered, but actually are fulfilled in ways that keep me dependent, tethered, needy.

The children of Israel were familiar with the gift of dependence. Manna dropped from heaven so they wouldn’t starve as they wandered in the wilderness. But they needed God to provide it daily; they weren’t able to hoard it. And thus they couldn’t avoid total dependence on God.

The Israelites were given bread so that they would rely on God and live by His word. But like me, they often disdained it.

Manna was bland, unexciting, monotonous. It wasn’t what they asked for. It wasn’t extraordinary or gloriously victorious like the parting of the Red Sea, the fall of Jericho, the healing of Naaman. It didn’t impress people.

Manna simply provided for their needs. When they were in the desert.

I know how they felt. I often feel that way as well. I don’t appreciate the way God sustains me through the day with His unfailing love. The times He strengthens me when I’m needy and weak. The hope He gives me through His precious Word.

I want miraculous deliverance. Not ordinary sustenance. 

But as I look back over my life, I see God has delivered me and answered some prayers with a resounding “yes” in jaw-dropping, inexplicable ways. I remember those answers with gratitude and awe.

But the answers of “wait” or “no” have done a far deeper work in my soul. They have kept me connected to the Giver and not His gifts. They have forced me to seek Him. And in seeking Him, I have found a supernatural joy beyond all comparison.  

A joy not based on my circumstances. Not based on my deliverance. Simply based on His tender presence.

Delivering grace or sustaining grace. Which is more precious?

In delivering grace, we see God’s glory. Everyone can see the miracle that He has wrought for us. And usually our lives are easier. We have what we asked for. And we thank God for it.

But after a while, we go back to the business of living. New difficulties come up. And we may even forget about what He’s done since we aren’t continuously going back to Him.

Sustaining grace also showcases God’s glory. But with sustaining grace, people can see the miracle He has wrought in us. Our lives are easier because our perspective is different.

With sustaining grace, we must continually go back to God. This grace is not a one-time thing, like manna was not a one-time event. We need it every day. And it keeps us dependent on God.

With sustaining grace, we get more of Jesus. His comfort, His nearness, His very presence.

Both delivering grace and sustaining grace are essential in the Christian life. They are interconnected.

Delivering grace is vital. We need to pray for it. It’s biblical.

Life can be relentlessly hard, and we need to know that deliverance is possible. That our prayers are effective. That our situation can change. Without the possibility of deliverance, we’d lose hope. We might stop praying. We could succumb to total despair.

But it is in the asking, even begging, for deliverance and in the subsequent waiting for it, that we get sustaining grace. The grace to press on in the blazing heat. And this grace is accompanied by the intimate presence of the living God.

So when I am sustained but not delivered, God is inviting me to see the miracle I have received. It is a more precious answer to prayer than I ever realized.

Manna, my daily bread, the Bread of Life Himself. He alone sustains me in the desert.

 

 

Adapted from a post from the Archives
  • September 3, 2015 - 6:25 pm

    loren - Hi Vaneetha

    Thank you for writing about the value of appreciating sustaining grace. Often times, when i hear stories on how miraculously God has delivered people out of their troubles,I ask God: “How about me?” This blog made me realize that thanking Him for sustaining me moment by moment and day by day is far more important than seeking simply seeking for a miracle to happen to me.

    Jesus happened to us and His life, death, and resurrection alone is a wonderful miracle and gift for us. He is our ultimate deliverer from all our sins and troubles. No deliverance from any problem can be greater than the deliverance Jesus gave us when He rescued us from sin and ultimate death.

    God bless you 😊ReplyCancel

    • September 4, 2015 - 12:41 pm

      Vaneetha - I agree, Loren. Its so easy to overlook sustaining grace- I often do- but He does beautifully sustain us moment by moment…ReplyCancel

  • September 6, 2015 - 9:49 am

    Rani - Hi Vaneetha,

    As always what a blessing to read this article. Praise God for opening my eyes to see how valuable His Sustaining Grace is.

    Am amazed and more and more in awe of our Saviour .

    God bless !

    RaniReplyCancel

  • September 6, 2015 - 4:01 pm

    Effie Darlene Barba - So true. Then there are the times when His answer are raging storms through which He again draws us into His Bosom of love. Sometimes He rips from our hands the counterfeit joys we are clinging to, so that we might find our Joy in Him. That too is Amazing Grace.
    I wrote this poem yesterday and hope you are encouraged by it as well.

    Joy, Eternally
    By Effie Darlene Barba

    Without the sorrows would I see?
    Your beauty rare—Your love for me
    Or would this heart be satisfied
    With lesser things that build my pride

    Your love for me so great and grand
    Allowed each tear as You had planned
    That I might seek Your lovely face
    Eager to feel your arms of grace

    And now, this Joy that fills my chest
    Is mine because in You I rest
    Your Glory lights my every trail
    My treasure precious without fail

    I thought my heart would break in two
    Until Your Love came into view
    What mystery is Your Grace Divine
    My Darkest hour Your light did shine

    This Joy, this hope, this love that’s mine
    I feel Your spirit intertwine
    Within my heart to nourish me
    With all of You eternallyReplyCancel

    • September 7, 2015 - 12:27 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing, Barbara. It is all amazing grace!ReplyCancel

  • October 13, 2015 - 7:08 pm

    Christine - So blessed by this post and this entire blog! I struggle to trust God sometimes when I don’t see an answer for some of the deepest longings and prayers in my life, but I’m reminded that He has been so faithful in every day of my life. It reminds me of a quote by Spurgeon, “We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and our blessings in sand.” God has really been speaking to my heart through these posts—keep writing! 🙂

    ~ChristineReplyCancel

    • October 13, 2015 - 9:16 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Christine! And I love that Spurgeon quote!ReplyCancel

  • October 27, 2015 - 5:37 pm

    Stephanie - Wow, thank you for writing on sustaining grace. Never looked at it this way, and its quite humbling. God bless!!ReplyCancel

    • October 27, 2015 - 10:18 pm

      Vaneetha - Seeing sustaining grace in my life has made all the difference, as well. I realize what a blessing it is!ReplyCancel

  • December 8, 2015 - 11:39 pm

    Julie - The last few weeks have been particularly trying. This post has been thought provoking and encouraging. My perspective has new hope giving direction now. Thank you so much, Vaneetha. What a Godsend.ReplyCancel

  • March 16, 2016 - 4:46 pm

    Jennifer Bernardo - Hi Vaneetha,

    I really love your new site, it is very lovely. I too love the article on sustaining grace verses delivering grace. I am in a season of sustaining grace. Praise GOD he sustains me every day.I need to praise and thank him more for the sustaining grace.

    GOD Bless you Vaneetha.ReplyCancel

    • March 17, 2016 - 1:19 pm

      Vaneetha - That’s something I need to remind myself of daily, Jennifer. Thank you for writing.ReplyCancel

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