Quitting (unabridged)

Have you ever wanted to quit?

As a kid growing up we didn't have much in the way of material goods. Dad was a school teacher and Mom stayed home to be sure the four of us got started off on the right foot. In an effort to stretch our family dollars as far as they'd go, resourcefulness became one of my Dad's great qualities.

In keeping with family ingenuity, we decided one time that it would be nice to build a barbecue pit in the back yard—out of used bricks that Dad and I collected from a vacant lot. My job was to knock the old mortar off the bricks. I worked an eternity in my third grade sense of time, swinging the hammer onto a cold chisel positioned against the mortar.

With one fateful swing, my hammer glanced off the chisel. My middle knuckle and the brick met in a mismatched duel.

It was my first experience of getting dizzy with pain. The skin and the blood and the dirt and the mortar all mixed together—out behind the garage.

I left the tools beside the brick pile and went inside. Mom patched me up and Dad reassured me, "You're doing a good job and making great progress." I didn't say it, but inside I wanted to quit. But that wasn't an option. I eventually finished and Dad and I built a nice barbecue pit behind our house on Clegurne Rd.

I am indebted to my folks for making sure I learned the value of finishing a task and doing it right. Even today—many years later—the scar on my middle knuckle reminds me of an incident that seared into my mind this invaluable maxim: Stopping short is not an option.

I ran across Hebrews 12:15 again today: "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God."

Grace is somewhat captured in the acrostic, God's Riches At Christ's Expense. But while clever, this definition misses the relational and personal reality that grace is a person, the person of Jesus Christ.

When considering grace, we must think relationally, not conceptually. The person of Jesus Christ—grace personified—is a courageous endowment of God.

He is opposed to legalism.

He shows us God in full measure.

Solomon records that God gives grace—the person of Jesus—to the afflicted (Pro. 3:34). In all candor, when I’m afflicted my first inclination is to want deliverance, and sometimes God does deliver. But God always gives the grace of Jesus during affliction.

The cost of grace is our Father’s willingness to invest everything in grace. It cost the life of our Elder Brother to convey grace. We live in grace when we exemplify a resolute, Spirit-empowered strength regardless of circumstances that declares, “I will not fall short of grace and rely upon my own resourcefulness.”

Falling short of the grace of God can mean opting for legalism; it can mean demanding deliverance; it can mean relying upon your own ingenuity instead of allowing Christ to live His life through you; it can mean choosing your righteousness instead of accepting His; it can mean opting for religion’s ritual instead of relationship. And, any number of other things.

Satan’s list of temptations to dissuade us and distract us from grace is long. In the moment, in the crux of whatever afflicts us, it is enticing to select one of his rationalizations as reasonable...and fall short.  

To stop short of grace is to stop short of Jesus Christ and Him alone. Nothing more, nothing less.

To stop short of grace can also mean adding to Jesus Christ—as if He is insufficient in and of Himself. Remember: One of the central tenets of our faith is, Christ and Christ alone, i.e. sola Christos.

As people of grace, we must stay focused. We cannot add to Jesus Christ and we cannot take away from Him. Attempting either is to fall short of grace.

Stopping short is not an option. It wasn't an option when I was cleaning bricks. It isn’t an option in living a life of grace.