Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:1-13
When you’re going through tough times, it can be hard to see God at work in your life. Sometimes you begin to question whether He’s really paying attention to your prayers. Sometimes you begin to question if He’s even there at all.
If you’re going through a tough time in your life right now, I want to encourage you that God is hearing your prayers. He does care. And He really is there. You may even find that God is at work doing the most important work He’s ever done in your life.
It was at such a time as this that Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish minister who was imprisoned for his faith back in the 1600’s, wrote to a friend about a truth he had discovered during that extremely difficult time. He wrote:
“I see that grace groweth best in winter.”
When I think of the people I know who are among the most gracious, I realize that they are often the people who have been through some of the hardest circumstances in life.
The Apostle Paul was one of those people. Even though he was frequently beaten, robbed, imprisoned and left for dead, Paul didn’t let those things crush his spirit. Instead, he put his faith in Christ even more. The more he suffered, the more he seemed to grow in grace.
Listen to how Paul described himself, both in terms of his own feelings of brokenness, and the grace that God had given him in his life:
“Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things” (Ephesians 3:8-9).
Compare this description of himself with two other descriptions he gave in two of his other letters.
The author J.I. Packer notes that in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, written about 54 AD, Paul referred to himself as “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9). By the time he wrote his letter to the Ephesians, about 7 years later in 61 AD, Paul called himself “the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8). But by the time he wrote his letter to Timothy, about 4 years after that in 65 AD, Paul described himself as the “chief of all sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
As Paul continued to walk with God through all those years of suffering, he went from considering himself as the least of the apostles, to the least of all God’s people, to the chief of all sinners. It seems that the closer he got to God, the more aware he became of his own sinfulness. No wonder his letters are so filled with grace, using the word “grace” over 80 times throughout his letters in the New Testament. He truly saw God’s grace at work in his own life and wanted to extend that grace to all those around him.
Paul knew the secret of how to handle suffering: keep looking up. Keep trusting in God to work things out for His glory. Paul said as much to the Ephesians, encouraging them to keep coming to God freely and confidently, not being discouraged by Paul’s own sufferings:
“In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory” (Ephesians 3:12-13).
Paul saw that his suffering was not in vain, but would serve God’s purpose in the end. As he wrote in his letter to the Romans:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Whatever you’re facing today, keep putting your faith in Christ. Keep trusting Him that He will work all things for your good as you continue to love Him, no matter how hard it may seem at the time. Grace, it seems, truly does grow best in winter.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your grace that You have showered upon me, even in the difficult times. I pray that You would help me to see that You’re still at work in my life, even when things look like they’re falling apart. Help me to keep turning to You during this time, growing closer to You and growing deeper in Your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.