I want to start by sharing a fascinating story with you. I heard it told recently in a podcast by Eric Ludy, and I can’t shake it out of my memory because it really impacted me!!! This is my “debriefing” of his sermon and my thoughts on the topic of the grace. I hope you’re equally fascinated and prompted to continue reflecting on it long after reading.
In the 1860’s a well-known civil war took place in the United States. When slavery was abolished by Abraham Lincoln, it was a huge, history-defining moment. The slaves drove the cotton industry, which at that time accounted for over 60% of American exports- this represented a value of over $200 million per year. In other words…big money.
After the abolishment of slavery, the slaves were (in reality) still slaves, just no longer to slave owners. They were still slaves to cotton. Though they were emancipated from slavery, they were still enslaved. As soon as each of them received their small plot of land, they immediately turned to the only thing they had ever known: Cotton. It’s what they learned, knew, and had built their lives around. Their lives were run by cotton. Europe economy was being run by cotton at that time, and in America it just seemed like the most common sense option to grow cotton to export…that was what put money in your pocket. It’s all they knew how to plant, grow, and harvest. It was a cyclical pattern they couldn’t get out of.
Without the slaves, there was potential economic crisis in America with no clear solution in sight. An entire workforce emancipated- no longer controlled and yet no where to go. They have no skills or knowledge beyond cotton. When cotton is all you know, it’s all you do even after you’ve been freed.
In 1861 a baby named George was born into slavery in Missouri. In 1863 all slaves were freed. So, George is technically “saved” from cotton but was actually living in a good slave home at that time. So these slave owners adopted him as their own and gave him a good education. Their names were Moses and Susan Carver. Fast forward many years, and George is now 31 years old. You might know him historically as George Washington Carver. He grows up with a passion to help those whose lives were still enslaved to cotton. He sees these people, born like him, and he recognizes that they still have no hope. They still only know to plant, grow, and harvest cotton. They also aren’t well-educated enough to know or create new solutions or opportunities. So George fought hard for more education. He became a Botanist.
Now let’s back up a bit again. In 1892 a beetle arrived in the States…this beetle was called a boll weevil. They infest and feed on the cotton crops, killing them as a result. Cotton is already a plant that causes soil to grow weaker and weaker with each year, depleting the soil of nutrients, and now on top of that the boll weevil shows up. Given the destructive effect on the soil, this is not a very sustainable future in agriculture.
Now fast forward again to the 1890’s. George Washington Carver offers a solution: The peanut. During this time, no one knew what a peanut was. It didn’t even exist in the almanac of possible crops. George was a man of deep faith and had been praying on behalf of his people and asking God to show him what a possible solution might be, that would allow for their freedom. Freedom from living under the rule of cotton. God showed him the peanut.
People thought he was crazy. The idea of changing from something they know (cotton) to something completely radical and unfamiliar (the peanut) was laughable. They wanted to know what the heck they could do with this peanut.
As a botanist, George knew that the peanut would enrich the soil and implant nutrients back into the soil, which the cotton had stolen from it. He learned how to plant and grow the peanuts, but now he needed to figure out what to do with them.
So although George had a solution here, it didn’t seem to have a commercial value to it yet. People didn’t see how it could benefit them to make the switch from cotton to peanuts. George set out to find the true power of the peanut. He was a man of great prayer. He brought this before God and asked Him, “what is your purpose for this peanut?”. George would look at every aspect of a plant and ask questions most of us wouldn’t think to ask- questions of purpose for every single part. And God answered that prayer.
Over 300 inventions were created using the peanut. Peanut butter, soap, milk, oil, paper, flour, cosmetics, dyes, paints, nitroglycerin, house-cleaning products… He was inspired with ingredients and recipes. It was an entire new industry. George now had 300 different ways that these former slaves could be free. This changed the course of history.
Now, we might think it would be absolutely crazy for any of those slaves to look at those 300 options and still choose cotton, right? But isn’t that what we do when we choose sin over Christ…?
If you haven’t yet made the connection, this is a story of grace!!! WE are those slaves. This is such a parallel to the gospel written right within the history of America. It’s absolutely beautiful. We are the slaves. Cotton represents the sins of the flesh. Boll weevil is the sin eating away at us, destroying and depleting. George Washington Carver is a picture of Jesus. And those peanuts? They’re grace.
Your salvation, your emancipation from slavery, was done legally (written in the blood of Jesus!) before you were even born. That which sets you free was already accomplished, however you’re still born in slavery. Born subservient to something called sin.
There is a perfect supply that God has made for each of us to be truly free. When we enter into Christ, our lives hidden in Him, we also enter into His supply. Into His fullness. He already did the work on the cross, and He’s already invited you into His resurrection, so you are entered into His storehouse of GRACE! Everything you need for living like Christ is in that storehouse. Everything.
When we’re saved, we come to Jesus broken. Do we suddenly know how to live righteously? Do we know how to love fully? How to show patience? How to turn the other cheek? How to be faithful? No. We know how to sin. But how ridiculous is it that we so often continue to wallow in our issues and struggles rather than accept the gift of grace, God’s provision?
God’s grace isn’t just a “hug”. His grace hugs us and then lifts us up and out of our current state. He’s in the mission of giving life and restoration. Loving us in our sin, but not enough to leave us there.
It takes a lot of faith to give up everything you know- all of your defaults and human understanding- to choose that which Christ offers you. To enter into the fullness of Christ, to have everything you need to be free and whole, you need to forsake your previous way. That which you’re familiar with. It’s hard. Boy, is it ever. But why wouldn’t you forsake that which is killing you in order to receive that which gives you life?
Most people are labouring on a daily basis to solve their own problems. To make their cotton crop grow better, to make the soil better. But no matter how hard they try this cycle is destructive and will keep robbing them of life, just like the cotton robbed the soil of all of its nutrients.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them- yet not I, but the grace of God that was within me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10
The secret of the gospel is that it’s not based on YOUR effort to try to solve this. It’s based on God’s effort 2000 years ago. These “peanuts” that God offers us, His grace, are not dependent on our working and growing and planting and harvesting. GOD plants, He grows, and He harvests that which did on the cross, and then supplies it to us. It’s not by your work that you bring about grace. You actually need to forsake your own doing, and allow HIS doing to work for you. That doesn’t mean being passive! We’re not called to a life of passivity as Christians, but an active life of faith. By faith, we need to reach into the bowl of peanuts and take that which God has already placed before us and allow it to work for us.
Through His fullness, His supply, we’re enabled to do things we could never do on our own. Grace is literally power to live. We don’t have that power in and of ourselves. That power is in Jesus Christ. Called grace. He is labouring and supplying, and we just need to reach out and “take the peanuts”.
Think of a baby attached to its mother by the umbilical cord.. THAT is a picture of how closely God wants us to abide with Him. He can literally supply our every need when we abide in Him. Jesus came to earth, He lived among his beloved people, and he created a way for true freedom. He accomplished the work on the cross. He’s supplied us with everything we need to be set free from our sin. Our cyclical pattern of defeat. but we must CHOOSE to stop turning back to our old way. We must choose to give up that sin.
How to hinder harvesting from His fullness:
1) Know about God’s gift of grace, His fullness, but still choose that which destroys you. Choosing sin, or choosing your fulfillment in ways other than Christ
2) Being convinced that you’re better able to provide for your needs than God can
3) Thinking you don’t deserve His grace and trying to earn it
The best response: Allow Christ to change you. Believe that He has ALL you need. Lean into His provision. Walk in step with the Spirit. Walk in close communion with Jesus every single day so you aren’t trying to do it without His grace.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Sufficient doesn’t just mean “good enough”, but “always enough that it will never run out for what you need”. He doesn’t just want us to survive, but to THRIVE.
I hope you are feeling inspired to venture deeper into this topic!! My desire was to share more of what I learned, but even more, to prompt reflection and point you to Christ, who is the giver of this grace. This really changes how I celebrate Christmas this year. If God’s deep love for us hadn’t driven Him to send Jesus to be born into our world, we wouldn’t have received our freedom from slavery. And without His daily grace, we wouldn’t be able to be truly free, continuing to live in Christ and be sanctified more into His image.
I hope you’ll join me in this prayer:
Lord, show me how your grace is at play here. Remind me that you know anything and everything I will ever go through in life, and that you’ve already supplied for that need on the cross. I’m only just beginning to understand how your grace enables me. How it empowers me every single day. How it supplies me with what I need to fight temptation. It supplies me with what I need to have joy in difficult circumstances. It supplies me with peace amidst the chaos. It supplies me with the compassion and empathy I need to love others. It supplies me with what I need to love my husband well. It supplies me with the comfort I need when I’m discouraged or in pain. It supplies me with a deeper understanding of Your Word. It supplies me with everything I’m incapable of by my own works and strength. Continue to teach me more about Your grace. More about the fullness found in You. I love you, Jesus. Thank you that You are Grace.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:4-10