You can waste grace. Yes you can. We can treat grace as something we relied on once, but now we can manage life relying on our own experience and skills. We can feel that grace is something for the future, when we’re old, or when a crisis comes. Either way, if that’s you, then heed the warning; you might be wandering your way out of the Christian life. Discipleship is a moment by moment reliance upon the grace of God. The day for trusting and following is today (v.1-2).
This message couldn’t be more urgent. And so its messengers cannot work too hard, or sacrifice too much, for others to grasp it. Look at Paul. What you read in vv.3-10 is no misery-fest. Paul isn’t seeking pity, nor applause, nor a pay-rise. He’s saying, “this is how the Gospel compels me. This is the life I’m privileged to live. It’s not easy – in fact, it often feels terrible; but I can do nothing else, because the message of Christ is so important. And what I do, I do in the power of the grace of God.”
Read back over that list, and let those hardships register: violence, prison, slander, rejection, poverty, insecurity. And then trace of life of Christ in Paul, and see endurance, love, joy, eternal wealth. Be realistic, not romantic, about your discipleship: if you want to love and serve Jesus much, you must be prepared to suffer much. You will. But thereagain, your love for Jesus will find depths of reality you didn’t know were possible. Paul has no greater joy than when God’s people open their hearts to the Gospel and join its servants in sacrificial living (vv.11-13). How about you?
If the Gospel is this precious, and compelling, we must be sure to guard our hearts for Christ alone. For all that we share with those who aren’t saved, if a love for them steals our hearts, we really are in trouble (vv.14-15). This is not a council of separation, of believers having only Christian friends. What nonsense, and what a disaster if that happens! It is, though, a command that we keep our hearts for Christ first. God is not glorified when we give our hearts and lives to anyone in His place (vv.16-18). All true children of the Father hear His command.