I had to skip last week’s message due to computer problems.
My focus on grace arises in no small part from my imperfections magnified by a strong will. I have no doubt that I am a sinner in need of grace and I have a lifetime of sins and failures to prove the point.
Someone asked me recently how I was able to get through crises with equanimity. “I have acquired a lot of scars just by living,” I said. “Every one of those scars represents a lesson learned. Learn enough lessons and you know the crisis du jour will not be the end.”
I work with some wonderful young executives who are intelligent, well-trained and devoted to Christ in their service. No one really knows the scars of another unless they are on display somehow. But my young friends do not seem to have many, and that can be a can be a hindrance to them.
Sometimes I am working through a problem with one of them and I sense the heightened concern of someone who has never seen the far side of a failure – you know, the place where you tell God, “Thank you for your mercy in getting me through that tight spot, but please help me never do that again!”
“You’ve never been in trouble before, have you?” I ask.
“You have never made a big mistake or done something major for which you were criticized, punished and had to ask for mercy and forgiveness.”
“No,” they typically answer.
“I am sorry,” I said, because I have been in a lot of trouble of my own making and some that was not my making and it has taught me something that I could learn in no other way.”
“What is that?”
“God is merciful and his love is constant. Nothing we can do can make him love us less or more. He knows we will do the right thing for the right reason if we learn to trust his love for us as a sure thing and return that love. The relationship between God and us can withstand anything because his desire for us is fierce and strong.
“Another thing I’ve learned is that there is nothing he won’t bring us through. He knows what we need and will fix, replace, or move us past broken things. We live another day and make it through our darkest nights by his grace. With him, failure is never the last word.”
I am not trivializing their problems and concerns when I tell them these things. We face complex issues of finance and operations that would subject leaders of any age and experience to crushing stress. Some days we are reduced to praying for the Lord to show us handholds and footholds just to laboriously climb over the obstacles.
Recently, I talked to some of them about the strength I take from one of the most powerful Scripture verses I know – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps 23:1). This is a complete statement of God’s sovereign grace.
It all begins with our reverent acknowledgment of “The Lord.” The Hebrew word for “The Lord” in this context is Jehovah. David is writing about the Lord God Almighty, not some simpering comforter described in pre-printed calligraphy on the back of a funeral program.
To say, “The Lord” is to say we are under his authority, living by his power. Those who bow their knees and confess he is Lord are yielding to him in all things. This is our starting point for serving God well. As Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 1:7). Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way, “Start with God, the first step in learning is bowing down to God” (The Message).
David focuses the role of God in our lives by the statement, “The Lord is my shepherd” meaning One who rules over our lives with guidance, protection, healing, provision, and the close companionship of a loving friend who has our best interests in mind.
To pray, “The Lord is my shepherd” is to acknowledge that we are in a deep and true personal relationship with our God who loves us, and kindly reigns in our lives by always seeking and leading us to what is best for us.
Because “The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want,” David concluded. Here is a surprising but relevant point for leadership; the Hebrew word for “want” can be used in several meanings such as “lack,” “fail” or “lose.”
This has a special grace for those who fear failure. With the Lord Jehovah as our shepherd, ruler, guide, healer and provider, we will not be failures or losers. “I shall not want,” means the Lord’s purpose will be fulfilled in us and through us.
In the three-fold interlock of relationship, Our Shepherd unconditionally loves us, and we love him in return; we depend on him for our very life, and we obey his instructions to us as an expression of our love and gratitude. We can never be failures or losers in such a relationship.
The hymn writer Henry Baker described this truth—
The King of love my Shepherd is
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.
The radical question I asked my young friends, and I am asking you, is “Do you believe, truly believe, that the “Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Each of us must answer that question for ourselves. May the Lord, in his great mercy, lead us to the right answer. Amen.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alask