The Amazing Grace Cycle
“All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again” (Eccl. 1:7).
Thus, the Preacher of Ecclesiastes succinctly described the water cycle. In doing so, he thought he was describing the weariness of life. In reality, he was describing the genius of God. Water droplets gather as clouds. When the droplets become heavy enough, they fall to earth as rain or snow, sleet or hail. On earth, the water flows into rivulets, streams, rivers and oceans. Also, it evaporates, rising as water vapor to start the cycle again.
In the physical realm, water continually flows. It flows down, out, up–and then repeats. The cycle isn’t pointless. Quite the opposite, it’s essential for all living things.
In the spiritual realm, grace continually flows from the Father in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit, empowering everything of eternal value that anyone ever becomes and does.
Grace flows. In a cycle essential for all spiritual life, grace flows down, out, up – and then repeats. God initiates that flow. But how fully it impacts families, communities and nations hinges on how fully God’s people cooperate with him, how fully you and I get in on the flow.
As grace flows down, you choose whether to receive it. You receive grace as you cry out from your inmost being with humility and faith. You receive grace as you allow it to do its deep work in you, re-creating the true identity God has given you.
As grace flows out, you choose whether to conduct it. You conduct grace as you steward what God has given to you for others, generously employing gifts he’s given you to benefit them. Also, you get in on the outward flow by receiving what others conduct into your life.
As grace flows up, you choose whether to release it. You release grace by applauding the Giver, praising and thanking him with your lips and your life.
For 20 years, God has been teaching me what it looks like to live in the flow of his grace. He’s revealed much through two surprising passages: 2 Corinthians 9:8-15 and the book of Esther. Recently, he led me to write an e-book, telling what I’ve learned.
The rain comes down from heaven. The day I finished drafting The Esther Blessing: Grace to Reign in Life, I watched the rain fall, gently, persistently. Evening, morning and afternoon, it pattered against the windows and soaked into the ground.
The water flows into rivulets, streams, lakes and oceans. The day the rain just kept coming, the previously dry creek bed behind our house filled nearly to overflowing. As I invited God’s people to cooperate fully in conducting grace, I watched the newly surging creek waters flow past.
The water evaporates, rising upward to form clouds and come back down again. The morning after the all-day rain, I stepped out onto our back porch to refill our bird feeder. I gasped to see an ethereal mist rising from the ground. The sun peered through the treetops, calling the soggy land to release the water droplets skyward. The earth responded with a resounding yes!
What a beautiful sign and wonder God had sent! Stunned, I stood silently, watching the earth itself praise the Creator. Then, I began to sing the praise song, “How can I keep from singing?”
Before I sang, a fine, translucent vapor rose about knee-high from the winter-white grass all across our back yard. As I praised the Lord, the mist visibly increased and intensified. By the end of my song, it had literally formed a cloud–a glory-cloud shimmering in the sunlight–that filled our lawn and extended far above my head. Undone, I stood in awe.
Continually, the Lord God accomplishes the wonder of the water cycle. Continually, the Lord God accomplishes the amazing cycle of grace:
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work... You will be made rich in every way [as grace flows down] so that you can be generous on every occasion [as grace flows out], and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God [as grace flows up!]... Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:8, 11, 15).