by Zach Simons
Upon moving to Tallahassee last year, one thing that I was surprised to learn is that FSU has a traveling circus called the “Flying High Circus” where student performers rig all of their own equipment, set up the circus's tent, sew costumes, and produce their own lights and sound. Not only does FSU have a circus, but it is one of only two such collegiate circuses in the United States. Aly and I have not yet been to a show, but it’s something we hope to see in this coming year.
Yet, from those who have been, I hear that one of the primary acts is the flying trapeze performed by “The Flying Seminoles.” Watching a trapeze show can be breathtaking, and for good reason. The level of dexterity, timing, strength and endurance to pull it off is more than most of us understand. It’s this that causes us to marvel at a trapeze act and say, “How do they do that?”
In Christ, the church is meant to provoke such responses in the world around us. The surrounding communities should look at the church and say “How do they love each other like that? How do they face hardships with such hope and confidence? How do they joyfully engage with difficult people as they do?” It’s possible that, even as you read this, there’s a bit of self-righteousness tugging at your heart saying, “It’s because we’re awesome. Lot’s of practice and discipline!”
That would be wrong. The simple, but incredibly rich answer is this - God’s grace.
God’s grace is, in fact, so rich that we will be taking the next 3 weeks in our Sunday worship gatherings to simply scratch the surface of what grace means for us as followers of Jesus in a new sermon series entitled “Grace Abounding.” We’ll explore together the concepts of Saving Grace, Sanctifying Grace, and Preserving Grace.
Just as each trapeze artist learns the ropes over the safety of a net (a literal saving grace when they fall - and they will fall), we are secure in the blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our trespasses and the hope of new life. We are rescued by God in Jesus for a joyful eternity of worshiping him. Humanity’s fall into sin means that we were spiritually dead. But God rescued us from that fall, and gave us spiritual life in his Son to live for him.
While it’s true that discipline is incredibly important in the life of a Christian, just as it is in the life of a trapeze artist, we also recognize that even our growth as disciples of Christ is not something we muster on our own. It is also a gift of grace. Any strength or ability that we develop in our walk with the Lord is in spite of us, not because of us. This process is called “sanctification” and we also rely upon God’s grace through the Holy Spirit for the gifts of Christ-likeness.
Just as the trapeze artists endures the physical strain put upon them in the course of their training, Christians are preserved to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Even our ability to persevere through hardship and persecution is a gift of God’s grace. Our fear and weakness is removed, and an enduring, humble, confidence in Christ replaces it. We are not only rescued, and developed, but we are kept by God’s grace.