In my early days of aviation I was flying alone late one night in a small plane. The fog had become so thick that I wasn’t able to complete my approaches to the runway at Orlando Executive Airport. Because of the headwinds that I had failed to consider in my planning, I was down to just a few minutes of fuel remaining. After two attempted approaches, my next plan was to try Orlando International nearby because it had two parallel runways close together. The plan was, even if I couldn’t see the runway at the bottom of the approach, I at least could still plan on landing straight ahead on whatever ground I happened to encounter between the runways. By doing this, so I reasoned, I would have a fair amount of certainty that the area between the runways would be less cluttered with deadly obstacles like buildings and trees. Also, fire and rescue vehicles would be readily available and could easily come to my aid. I felt pretty comfortable with my prospects with this plan, but I didn’t feel comfortable that I had enough fuel to see it through. So, there I was.
As I flew along it was quiet on the radio except for a conversation between a controller and a pilot on the ground somewhere. The pilot was asking the controller to call a friend to come pick him up because the only phone available on the field where he was sitting at the time was inside a locked office. The controller was refusing to make the call and kept explaining that it would set a bad precedent. But the pilot was determined and insisted that at that late hour the controller was not busy and only talking to one other airplane, which was me, and that he had the time to help. Then all of the sudden the controller interrupted himself mid-sentence. “Wait a minute!” he said, “What are the weather conditions where you are?” The pilot told him that it was clear. The controller then came right back to me and said that the weather was clear at Kissimmee Airport and that I could make a visual landing there. I asked him to vector me to the airport and in just a few minutes, by the grace of God, I was safe on the ground.
We generally think of that word grace as not counting our sins against us. But grace means so much more. In this particular instance it meant saving me from an eternity of Hell-fires, for if I had exhausted my gas the prospects for surviving wouldn’t have been at all good. To be saved by God, you see, we must also survive until the moment of salvation, and it’s only by His grace that that happens. I can recount a lot of close calls in my life, and those are only the ones that I’m aware of. But by God’s grace, He allowed me to survive. There’re other ways of understanding grace that were present toward me long before I was adopted into the Body of Christ, all of which were part and parcel to the sovereignty of God. Why me? I have no idea. But I could give you a book’s worth of reasons why not. I don’t know why.
This grace that I received, even while a heathen, was still an act of being saved by grace. In fact, every aspect of my life, even before salvation, was grace, even as it is with every other human being that God saves. When we focus on ourselves, and the things that our flesh demands, it’s tempting for us to see grace in a corrupted sense. That is, we see it as a permission slip to give in to our every carnal desire and then claim it to be under grace. Now, while it’s true that we are covered by grace when we do succumb to temptation, it’s not true that grace exists so that we can indulge the flesh. Beware of those who preach grace in this way. There are many. Grace is much much larger than this and the expression of it through the Logos, which is the Word, is an expression that not only demands but invites contemplation.
So, dear children, I pray that you would set out to grasp this thing called grace. I pray that the expression of its reality would not be corrupted in your understanding of it, nor mine. And I pray that our Father in Heaven would grant us the wisdom to know the expression of grace through the Son in an ever-increasing way.