In Philippians 1, Paul gives thanks for partners in the Gospel, but he doesn’t stop with what the people of Philippi have given him. He goes further towards what we all have been given through Christ, joining together as…
Partakers of Grace (6-7) 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,[d] both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
Grace is a word thrown around a lot, but that we rarely unpack. If you got a theological dictionary out it would talk about unmerited favor or a gift unearned. Let me give you a scenario to help bring this into clarity. You’ve probably gone for walks with little kids before as a parent or grandparent. You set off and ask them if they want to walk or ride in the stroller, and almost every time the answer seems to be, “I’ll do it myself.” So they set off handling it on their own. Then consistently they start to run out of steam—they think back to the ground that was covered and it is too much, they turn to you with their arms wide open and ask “Can you hold me?” Right there we come to the concept of grace—you are going to pick them up, not because they’ve earned it, but because you love them, because leaving them behind in the woods isn’t an option. So you pick them up and hold them close. Then the beauty of grace starts to play out. That all of a sudden where we go, they go.Maybe you came here this morning just a little bit deflated or disconnected. You have a story, a past, a chapter that you wish you could cut out, regrets that seem to eclipse the future—what God shows us—what Paul articulated as we are saved by grace through faith—is that we don’t have to earn God’s love, but God’s love earns us a connection with him. He picked us up through Jesus death on the cross taking our place, he picks us up giving us the Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us. Now we are no longer restricted to our power, but become a demonstration of God’s power through us. Wherever God is working, we can now work! Wherever God is leading, we can now follow. That whether you are at your best or worse—we eat together at the same table—partakers of grace. When your vision becomes vexing—we eat at the table of grace. When your sin seems to submarine you—we come back to eat from the table of grace, meaning that carried by God the best is always yet to come!
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him the songs she wanted sung at her funeral, the scriptures she wanted read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything seemed in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
“There’s one thing more,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.
The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork. The best is yet to come.” As the pastor hugged the woman for the final time, he realized that she understood God’s gift better than he had.
As believers in Christ, we can declare the same, the best is yet to come! Think about Paul in chains—and he has the fork in his hand. Paul who has been shipwrecked, but the fork is there. Stoned, still holding that fork, abandoned—but he still have the fork. When the world called him a fool, he remembered the fork, “For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle and teacher, and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed; because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day. ” (2 Timothy 1:11-12).” Do you have your fork ready? What a gift that we are able to go out into a crazy, frantic, and hurting world and live like no one else because we have our fork in hand. We have the promise and power of Christ, we have the partnership with the Holy Spirit, we have the community with one another.