Change by the Means of Grace
If this is God’s world, then all things are in God’s hands, and all things can work unto our good.
The obvious means of God doing us good are those which are called the means of grace. Some of these are public ministry: hearing the Word of God preached and taught, partaking of the sacraments, worshipping together, and public prayer.
And then there’s one public form of God’s grace that I think rarely gets mentioned: the model of other people. There are so many things that we see in other people that we can learn from. It could be an attitude that we observe in another person, perhaps the way a parent treats a child, and we learn something. That is a means of grace simply by observation. So the role of other people who know and love you is vital.
Those are all the public means of grace.
It’s the hardships that give our meditation on Scripture traction and make our prayers real.
Then there are the private means of grace that include our personal reading of Scripture (pondering, meditating), our personal prayer, and more. Martin Luther said he had three masters personally. The first two are these private means of grace: meditation on Scripture and prayer.
The third means of grace he called the touchstone, the thing that proves the reality of who you are and what you’re becoming, and it’s one that we don’t often think of: suffering. Affliction. In his language, tentatio—the squeeze of life, the hardships. It’s the hardships that give our meditation on Scripture traction and make our prayers real. The Psalms, for example, are born out of hardship and pain and threat and affliction.
And then there are other means of grace, like God’s creation. I can’t think how many times seeing something happening in the sky—a cloud, a hawk, a sunset, a sunrise, a star, a comet, a meteor—has pulled me out of myself into a bigger world. That’s the essence of what God is seeking to do in our whole lives.
We live with a God who has many, many, many ways of meeting us, and it’s good to become aware of them all.