Most Christians understand grace as God’s unmerited favor. We can’t earn it. It’s a gift, and God bestows it on whom He will. The funny thing is that in some Christian circles, grace has sort of a bad name. Since there are those who would misuse grace as a license to sin, others have heard so much about that kind of “greasy grace” that they have forgotten the blessings of true grace. On the tightrope of life, grace is not the net that allows for reckless behavior. It’s the pole that enables us to keep the center of our mass over the narrow rope.
The Flying Wallendas
The Wallendas are a family of tightrope walkers. For eight generations and for over a hundred years, the family has been performing death-defying feats of balance on the high wire. Starting in Germany with Karl Wallenda in 1905, the family worked circuses across Europe, Cuba, and the United States. They thrilled audiences with their acts done mostly without a net.
In 1948, patriarch Karl Wallenda debuted the now-famous seven-person pyramid (shown below). From 1948 to 1962, there were no incidents. In 1962, an accident with the seven-person pyramid caused two men’s deaths and one man to be paralyzed. It was by no means the only accident in the family’s eight generations of performers, but it was by far the worst. Still, the show went on. In 1998, new generations of Wallendas performed the seven-person pyramid without a hitch. The family’s website has lots of information and pictures as well as upcoming show dates.
Balance Is in the Pole
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the trick to balancing on a high wire is to “lower your body’s center of gravity toward the wire.” You do that by dropping your hips and bending your knees. Since the wire itself tends to rotate, it’s important to position the body so it fights against that. Holding a long pole spreads out your body mass and improves your ability to fight those rotational forces. It helps you move farther along the rope with each step, and if you do start to slip, it can absorb any wobble and give you a little more time to correct your balance.
Grace is Strong’s Concordance number 5485. It does mean “favor,” but it also means “the divine influence upon the heart.” It is what:
- Draws us – John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
- Saves us – Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”(Also Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 2:11-12, 2 Timothy 1:9).
- Keeps us – 2 Corinthians 12:9 “And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
It’s also the goodness that God gives to all people, saved or not.
- Psalm 104:14 “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that He may bring forth food out of the earth.”
- Matthew 5:45b “… for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
- Luke 6:35b “…for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
Grace is Not the Net; It’s the Pole
In the tightrope walk of life, grace is not the net but the pole. It’s not the mechanism that will catch us when we fall, allowing us to be careless. It’s “divine enablement,” or the ability to make it safely across the wire to complete the feat. It empowers us, stabilizes us, and centers us to travel the narrow way to get to the other side.
Grace Is Not the Net
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our sins. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” The moment we are born again, we are white as snow, cleansed from all unrighteousness. From that point, we aren’t supposed to live in sin. 1 John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” But if we do sin, God’s grace gives us the ability to confess and repent to become clean again. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But sin-confess-repent was not meant to be the vicious cycle by which we live our lives. Paul tells us not to take grace lightly, not to try to use it as a net for reckless living.
- Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
- Romans 6:15: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
Grace isn’t the net. Think about it. The net doesn’t get the tightrope walker to the other side. If a walker were to fall, the person would still have to climb back up, reposition on the rope, and continue the journey. Grace isn’t what catches us when we fall. It’s what enables us to stay balanced upright on the wire (even when we wobble).
Grace is the Pole
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”Jude 24
Watch Nik Wallenda cross the Little Colorado River Gorge in northeastern Arizona. He walked on a two-inch thick steel cable 1,500 feet above the river near the Grand Canyon, praising Jesus all the way! (Note: Nik Wallenda is no longer a part of the Wallenda troupe but has since branched out on his own. See his website here.)
Notice that he began at one side and ended on the other side, walking a very thin rope. As Christians, we, too, are on a narrow strand. We can’t turn to the right or the left. We must stay focused forward, centered on the way. Nik’s pole increased his momentum, decreased his wobble, and lowered his center of gravity to keep his body mass over the rope. Grace does the same for us.
Grace is the power that moves us forward.
- Ephesians 3:20 “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
- Hebrews 12:28 “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
- 2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
It provides stability.
- Romans 14:4 “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, He shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
- 1 Peter 5:10 “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
It keeps us centered above the narrow way.
- 1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
- 2 Peter 1:2-3 “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”
And allows us to make it to the other side
- Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
- 2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”
- Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
- Luke 1:37 “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Grace Is Not the Net; Grace is the Pole
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”Hebrews 4:16
Grace isn’t the net that allows us to be reckless in sin. It’s the pole, the divine enablement, that makes it possible to stay on the narrow way and get to the other side. If you’re caught in a cycle of sin, confession, and repentance, pray for God’s grace to help you never to do it again. We must stand on the promises in God’s Word. He will empower us, stabilize us, and keep us centered along our journey. In the death-defying feat that is the Christian life, we must trust the grace God provided for us and keep our eyes ever fixed on “the other side.”
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