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FIRST-PERSON: Grace amid our weakness

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–The phone rang late at night. It was obvious by the caller’s slurred, emotional words that he was drinking heavily.

“I heard you speak at a church the other day. It was the first time I had been in a church in years, but I went because my wife kept insisting that I go.

“I can’t get your message off my mind. You kept saying that God’s grace is sufficient. You said that it was sufficient for me!” the stranger agonized. “Do you really think His grace is sufficient for me? I’ve wasted my whole life … mistreated my family, done every terrible thing you can imagine. God doesn’t really love a drunk like me, does He?”

Every word was punctuated with the man’s unquenchable grief over the many dark deeds during the course of his lifetime. His guilt broke out of his soul like a tidal wave.

He continued his mournful tale, hesitating constantly to cry aloud. “That message meant so much to me. It was better than anything I had ever heard. God’s grace is sufficient for even me, you said!”

“It’s not who we were yesterday that counts with the Lord, but who we are today, brother” was our response. “Jesus’ shed blood can wash away all those sins. You heard the sermon correctly. God’s grace is sufficient for you!”

He had found hope in the message, but it was totally impossible to reason with the drunken friend. He was trapped in a personal hell of his own making, a prisoner of the bottle that had been his constant companion for years. And the consequences of his misdeeds weighed heavily on his shoulders.

We have reminded our listeners often that when we make serious mistakes, the consequences can linger throughout our lives on this earth. There is often a price to be paid not only by the one who has perpetuated the sin, but often by innocent persons who surround him. But God’s forgiveness can be ours if we repent and turn from our wicked ways. His grace is sufficient to wash us white as snow in His sight.

Months passed, and there was no word from the man. Late one night, his voice was on the answering machine. He identified himself and pleaded for a return call. From the tone of his urgent voice, it was quite obvious he was drunk.

He answered the return call and began to refer to his favorite message again. “Are you sure that His grace is sufficient for a sinner who has wasted nearly 70 years?” he asked once again. “I love what you said, brother, about God’s grace!” Once again he began to rehash his long list of drastic shortcomings, as if they were proof that he did not qualify for God’s matchless grace.

“If I take Jesus into my heart, will He really forgive me?”

All the words of assurance that he, too, could become a member of the family of God could not convince him to launch out in faith, trusting in the Lord. After all, alcohol ruled his life. And this monster clouded his mind.

So many times we have reminded seriously addicted persons that they must replace those terrifying dependencies with something stronger. The answer to their dilemmas is clearly a lasting trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

God’s grace is certainly more than sufficient for any of us, but we must claim it as our own. We cannot afford to continually abuse the second chances offered by our Lord. And once we let go and let God, we cannot afford to wallow in the reminders of a dark past evidenced by lingering consequences.

We continue to pray for a miracle in the life of this brother, promising God that we are willing to be a part of that miracle. As we seek His direction, we pray that this man’s “rock bottom” will not be a tragedy from which he cannot recover.

Our Lord’s words were clear to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, “In your weakness my strength is made perfect!”
Ted Stone & Philip Barber speak in Southern Baptist church pulpits across the nation about drug and alcohol abuse and are coauthors of two books on the subject, “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores. Inquiries should be addressed to Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, N.C. 27702, or telephone (919) 477-1581.

    About the Author

  • Ted G. Stone & Philip D. Barber