Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry - Ephesians 4:12

Falling Short of the Grace of God

Grace means unmerited or undeserved favor. God’s grace is freely given and not determined by what we do. If we can’t do anything to earn God’s grace or favor, is it possible to lose it? Is it possible to stray from the place of God’s favor? God’s favor is something we should all desire, seek and fear losing.

Jabez cried out for God’s hand (favor) to be upon his life. We read, “Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast (borders/territory), and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:10).

Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” This verse has as much to do with losing God’s grace and favor upon our lives as it does with salvation. Below are a few things that can cause us to fall short of God’s grace or favor.

Rejecting the One Through Whom Grace is Bestowed

More and more prominent people have been saying that although Jesus was a good teacher, there are many paths to God. If we agree that Jesus was a good teacher, it would stand to reason that we would also agree that He taught the truth about Himself. Jesus said no one can come to the Father but through Him (John 14:6).

Salvation comes by no other name but His (Acts 4:12). God’s favor is bestowed upon our lives through His grace and that alone (2 Corinthians 8:9). If we reject the one through whom grace is bestowed (Jesus and His teachings), we forfeit God’s grace, favor and ultimately the salvation He provides.

Depending on Works Rather than Grace

We are either saved by works or by grace. Paul said, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6). It’s either one or the other. It can’t be both. Galatians 5:4 says if we are seeking to be justified by the law or works then we are “severed from Christ and fallen from grace.” The blessings of God apply to this as well.

In Galatians 3:1-3 likens a dependency on works with that of witchcraft. He says, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God. For if righteousness came by the law, then Christ died in vain.” We must receive God’s favor in faith knowing we can’t do anything to be worthy of it, except trust in Jesus and walk by faith (Hebrews 10:38 and 2 Corinthians 5:7).

Refusing to Exercise Faith

In Hebrews 3:7-17 and Hebrews 10:26 the context is talking about faith. Throughout the Bible, faith had to be exercised to receive anything from God, whether salvation or a promise of blessing. Abram obeyed the voice of God leaving his homeland with the promise of God’s blessing (Genesis 12). The Word preached has to be mixed with faith to profit the hearers (Hebrews 4:2). The paralytic man was touched by the Master as a result of “Jesus seeing their faith” in action (Mark 2:5). Their active faith got Jesus’ attention which brought about both the paralytic’s forgiveness and healing. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17).

Wrong Believing Concerning Jesus (1 John 2:18-23)

There is only one Jesus who was God incarnate (Matthew 1:23, John 1:1, John 1:14, John 8:58-59, Exodus 3:14, John 5:18, John 10:3-33, Hebrews 1:8). There’s a false Jesus and a false gospel (1 Corinthians 11:3-5, Galatians 1:6-9). We must acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ. If we believe in any other Jesus than the one taught in scripture, which was God incarnate, we have the wrong Jesus and forfeit His grace and favor.

Spiritual Unfaithfulness (Hebrews 12:15-17)

There are three areas of spiritual unfaithfulness:

  1. Being more concerned with satisfying our flesh than the spirit. Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. He was more concerned with the immediate gratification of his flesh than his spiritual birthright. We must set our affection on things above (heavenly or spiritual) and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2).
  2. Idolatry. Idolatry is a major form of unfaithfulness (1 John 5:21). God wants to be first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). We have to live in the flesh, and God allows us to enjoy things, but He wants to be first in all that we do.
  3. Faith verses flesh. Romans 9:9-13 shows a stark contrast between Esau and Jacob. Jacob was a mamma’s boy and Esau was favored by their father. Esau was a man of the world and tried to please his father by the things he did. Jacob was (by definition of his name) a deceiver and did a lot more wrong than Esau. That said, Jacob was a child of promise. We can never please God in the flesh. Romans 8:8 says, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Faith is the only way to please God (Hebrews 10:38, Hebrews 11:6).

Giving Up

The only way the enemy can defeat us is by causing us to give up and quit (Hebrews 12:1-3). If we don’t give up, God will see us through to a successful conclusion (Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Satan whispers things like, “If God really cares about you He wouldn’t let these things happen” or “How can you think you are saved when you did that?” The devil is a liar. Stand on the fact that you are saved by your faith in Jesus, His grace and that alone. No matter how hard it gets, or how bad you mess up, simply don’t quit!

Failure to Yield to God’s Discipline (Hebrews 12:4-10)

God loves us like a good earthly father, but much more and in the purest of ways. We discipline our children for their good because we want them to be prosperous and successful. God does the same. He wants us to be blessed beyond measure (Jeremiah 29:11, James 1:17, Hebrews 9:11).

I always made sure my children understood what they were being disciplined for. If you are going through a rough time you may be wondering if God is disciplining you. If He is, He will let you know what you are doing wrong so you can correct it. He won’t leave you in the dark.

Ingratitude

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). Complaining and not being thankful definitely hinders the favor and blessings of God. That’s why there’s so much power in praise (Psalms 22:3, Psalm 100, Psalm 146:1-2, Acts 13:1-3). The opposite of gratitude is complaining. Philippians 2:14 says we should “do everything without complaining or arguing.” It’s easy to complain. We must replace negativity with thanksgiving and praise (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; Philippians 4:6-8).

Refusing to Listen to God

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25). God is always speaking, we simply must tune in to His voice. He speaks to us so we can walk in the light of His favor and blessing. When He speaks, whether through His Word or the Holy Spirit, we must be willing to walk in the light He gives us. Otherwise, what He says will not benefit us (John 7:17). “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).

Bitterness (Hebrews 12:15)

Bitterness is a poison that will not only destroy your life, but also affect the lives of those around you. It may be something someone did that torments you until it becomes a root of bitterness. No matter what the cause, bitterness keeps us from experiencing the grace and favor of God.

Forgiveness is giving up your right to hurt someone for hurting you. Bitterness and unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping it kills the other person. When we become bitter we say and do things we normally wouldn’t. For your sake, resist and reject bitterness.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Starting a new church or ministry is one of the most rewarding things you can do to advance the gospel, but it can also be very challenging. With over 40 years of church planting and ministry experience, Dr. Linton's passion is to encourage, support and equip pastors and church leaders.