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Keith Wishum: Count on grace, not greatness

Someone offers a $20-bill to anyone who raises a hand. Would your hand go up? What if he crumpled the bill up in his hand? Would you still want it? What if he stomped on it? If it were old and dirty with a corner torn off, would you still accept it? Why?
Isn’t it because, no matter how bad it looks, the bill still has value? It’s still worth $20.
That’s the way God sees us. Why can’t we?
We tend to value only what’s new and looks good. Then, if we don’t look great and have the best stuff, we feel less valuable —  and less happy.
As a student, when were you happiest? When you got a good grade, and were praised by your parents and teachers? As an employee, are you happiest when you finish the project on time or when you fail to make the sale?
Don’t we take the same approach with our personal lives? We feel best about ourselves when we are young, trim, and in shape. We are upbeat when we’re wearing that favorite outfit that gets us a compliment.
Here’s the problem with this approach to happiness: it won’t work! Some of us never have the right stuff. We never have a good hair day. We won’t ever be smooth, cool, or graceful. Even those who seem to have the right stuff don’t have it all the time. The best of people have bad days and make horrible mistakes. And, even on our best day, there is always somebody a little better.
If we base our happiness on external successes, we doom ourselves to many days of misery. When those external factors fail us (and they will fail us), where can we turn?
To grace. We must learn to count on grace, not greatness. The apostle Paul enjoyed outstanding credentials and a meteoric career, but left it all. He counted all that as nothing “compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
Paul, who had learned the secret of being happy regardless of his circumstances, could be happy regardless of his failures, too. His value, and his joy, came by grace, not by greatness.
I may be old, wrinkled, stomped-on, and rough around the edges, but God still found me valuable enough to die for. You too, my valuable friend, you, too.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.