Prevenient grace is divine grace which precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin, prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer.
Looking back upon my relatively short life of 30 years, I can point to a time when even as a sinner, the grace of God was my support. It has led me to a strong belief in prevenient grace, or in the language of the modern vulgar, the preceding grace. Yes, this preceding grace allows for God to call the sinner, but it is more than that, it a grace that lifts a sinner to the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, often times giving the sinner support and surrounding him in preparation of the love of Jesus Christ.
It is this type of grace that uplifted me in during the latter half of 1995. I was 17 then, living in Mississippi with my grandfather – my mother unable to take care of even herself due to alcoholism. On June 23rd of that year, at approximately 2 in the afternoon, I found my grandfather dead, and he had been some time since he had been missing since before dawn. I cannot express to you the love and appreciation that I have for my grandfather that I have to even this day. He was a solid force in my life and even today I think about my short time with him.
I was sitting in Church on Saturday night just a few Months later on September 16th listening to a minister. For the life of me, I cannot remember the sermon, but I do remember thinking to myself that if my mother would but her that message, she would give up her sinful life, which by this time was consumed by alcohol and drugs, and really make a start for God. You see, it was just a few days before that I had told my mother that due to her constant let downs, her constant lies, and her life, I wished nothing else to do with her – going so far as tell her in my triumphant and condescending 17 year old voice that the next time she saw me would be at her funeral and she would lucky if I showed up. That Saturday afternoon, again about 2pm, she crossed the yellow line, killing not just herself, but another person as well. See, I didn’t know this as I sat there listening to that sermon about the need for God and praying that I would have a chance to tell my mother about it, praying that she would listen this time. It was not until about 9pm that I was told by my then pastor’s wife who had helped to raise me almost from my birth.
Then, in December of that year, my then-pastor’s wife was overtaken and destroyed in her battle with cancer. That pastor did not believe in doctors, so for the months, possibly years, that she was being eaten up inside, everyone simply thought that she would get better. By the time that someone finally took her to the hospital, it was too late. She passed quietly from this world in the middle of December. She had always been there for me, and had through her pain comforted me through the death of my grandfather and my mother. A few years before she could see that I was sick and invited me to stay at their house for the night. The next morning, I awoke to a feverish day. Unbeknown to anyone but me, and now you, she took me to town to get me some Tylenol, facing the wrath of her husband, because she felt that common sense easily went along with faith.
It was the previous year that I was fortunate enough to spend some time with my grandfather’s sister, my Aunt. We talked for a long time, and as we shared a few things she shared with me the single most important Psalm to her. It had helped her through life’s troubles many times.
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
As I set there and read that, I thought that it was a decent Psalm, really paying no attention to it until the time that I needed it. With each death, and with each reading, that Psalm provided me with strength and knowledge that no matter how bad it was, God was still there. There were times that it seemed that I had made my bed in hell while other times I prayed that I would wake up from the horrible nightmare that had suddenly become my life. No, it was not like my life was all that easy before, but this year, well, this year had shaken me, and often times, even now, I still wonder how I made it through.
There were times after the deaths that life got pretty difficult, and often times I wish that God would have taken the other parent. Often times, during that time, I would wish that God would simply have taken me. But, He took me by the hand and led me to a place of rest. I was serving Him, but I know some of the Truth, some bit about God. I was still a sinner and need of His Grace, but so many times through that horrible years and subsequent years, there was a preceding Grace calling me unto Him, leading me and protecting me.
I still was able to get into plenty of trouble, plenty of heartaches, and plenty of sorrow, but I can stand here today and turning around, see God’s grace calling me to Him.
I realize that this is not a normal post on this blog, but it is still my blog and I am still finding it’s voice. Grace is what Jesus Christ brought first of all – not doctrine. His first call was for repentance, not for theological discussion. He sought to bring the very words of Life to the sinners, not to debate bible version. He called the false prophets out, but in doing so, He protected the sheep from their venom. He taught grace and truth and brought to people God. This man Christ Jesus was rewarded for His efforts with the cross, the needed sacrifice that would truly bring us grace, but before that He had spent at least 3 years imparting to the Apostles a preceding grace and lifted them out of Judaism and the dead vine until they were ready for the Day.
For so long in my life, I have subsisted on nothing but the grace of God and have subsisted because of the Grace of God. It is by His hand that I have beed led safe thus far and it is because of this grace, that I at the perfect time found the call to repentance only natural, and so very sweet. I have let my God down many times, and most likely will do so a few more times, but I know that He is always there, and He has never let me down.
I thank my God for His Grace, for His mercy, and for His patience as I travel along.