Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Circle of Grace

by Nancy Grisham

During college and into my late twenties I lived a broken Christian life. I had come to faith in Christ at the age of 6. However, I tried to keep my relationship with Him by being good – really good.

Since no one is good enough to be a Christian, I lived in constant spiritual defeat. I was caught in the serial vortex of repentance, forgiveness, rededicating, and trying harder – over and over – only to fail.

It was exhausting. I quit trying to be a Christian and settled for defeat.

Grace People

Grace often shows up packaged in people.

In college, one of my roommates named Jan loved Jesus. I remember coming into the room at night and there was Jan, lamp on, head in her Bible, connecting with God. I had too much pride to have an honest conversation with her about my fears that my salvation didn’t “take”.

Still, Jan’s kindness and her life had a powerful influence on me during my college years. She gave me hope when she talked about having a “simple faith.”

In a critical season of life, I saw grace in a friend named Jan.

When I started my career, a sharp young co-worker introduced himself to me with, “Hi, my name’s Jerry. I’m a Christian.”

As I worked with Jerry, I realized that he wasn’t trying to be a Christian. He just loved Jesus. That love splashed on the rest of us. He worked hard, accepted us, helped us laugh, and never “preached” to us.

For two and a half years, grace worked one desk over in a man named Jerry.

Bold Grace

When I was 28 years old, my awayness from God began to weigh on me. I did what any recovering Christian might do. I told God, “I’m going to try being a Christian one more time.”

I visited my former co-worker Jerry’s church for two Sundays in a row. Each time, I bolted for the door as soon as the service ended. The second service I remember thinking, “This is the last time I will ever step foot in a church.” I meant it.

That Sunday, an elderly man in the choir had watched the struggle on my face. As I bolted for the door, he raced out to catch up with me. He grabbed my elbow and asked, “Would you like to go back inside and pray?”

I went inside and knelt down at the altar. I asked Jesus to forgive me for all of my sins and take control of my life.

That day, bold grace ran after me.

Grace to Grow

Jerry’s wife, Nancy, began teaching me about having a personal relationship with Jesus, the role of the Bible in growing spiritually, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

About two weeks later I confided to Nancy, “I’m afraid this commitment I’ve made to Christ won’t stick either.”

She threw back her head, laughed, and said, “Oh Nancy, don’t you know you’re saved by grace and you’re kept by grace?”

No, I didn’t. But for the first time I sensed there was hope for me that didn’t depend on me.

That year, grace breezed through my life in a friend named Nancy. She taught me how to grow in grace!

Bring It Full Circle

How does anyone come to live in the circle of grace – receiving grace from God and releasing it to people?

Grace comes through trusting Jesus for salvation and in salvation. As we trust Him, He strengthens us through His Word, energizes us by His Spirit, and makes us fully alive.

Faith allows God’s grace to work in us and through us.

One of the most grace-filled people I know is a friend named Lynda. Recently, she was walking out of the restroom at her church and noticed a nicely dressed, pretty woman. Lynda stopped, turned to her, and said, “You are such a pretty woman.”

Later in the service the woman found Lynda and told her, ”My husband recently left me. Every time I look in the mirror I say to myself, ‘No wonder your husband left you. You are so ugly.’ I know God heard what I’d been saying to myself and the Holy Spirit came to lift me up today.”

That day, grace came full circle.

We live in a world that desperately needs to see Jesus in us and hear about Him through us.

As Lynda says, “Don’t make a project of trying to show grace today.”

Grace is not a project. It is a process of receiving and releasing grace through faith in Christ – in the hope that the circle will be unbroken.

Nancy Grisham, Livin Ignited
Nancy Grisham (@nancygrisham) is a speaker and founder of Livin' Ignited. She is author of Thriving: Trusting God for Life to the Fullest, has frequently taught at Willow Creek Community Church mid-week classes and served as the evangelism pastor in a church of 6,500 people led by Stuart Briscoe.


  1. LOVE the thought that grace is a process and not a "project"! Thank you for the beautiful illustrations and explanation, Nancy!

    1. Wendie, thanks for reading, commenting, and living this message of grace!

  2. This is such a FREEDOM word- thanks for sharing these stories. They stir my heart to love people with the love I've been given.

    1. Hi Francie, YES! Grace is such a freedom word. Thanks for reading and commenting!