God’s Common Grace
Despite the fact that we live in a very fractured world infected with sins of all forms, God’s beautiful grace not only lavishes the lives of believers but it is extended towards non-believers as well. I will refer to this form of grace as God’s Common Grace and, as will be explored below, it exemplifies God’s sovereignty and His all-the-time goodness which is, simply put, impossible to contain, even in a world hostile to God.
In Acts 14:17, Paul and Barnabas frustratingly tell the people in Lystra and Derbe:
“Yet He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy“
This message was delivered predominantly towards the non-believing Jews, rejecting the Gospel Message given by the apostles Paul and Barnabas, who sought to stir up and confuse the believing Gentiles through poisoning their minds(Acts 14:2). Interestingly, despite blatant rebellion towards God, this group of Jewish non-believers are given the provision of favorable weather for abundant crops, leading to ample food, in addition to joy-filled hearts. Evidently then, even non-believers are able to experience a certain measure of happiness. Notwithstanding, this degree of happiness still originates from God, Who is of course the primary source of happiness. Remarkably, His Grace extends even towards those who suppress the Truth and have exchanged it for a lie(Romans 1:25), namely: non-believers. Although this grace is unequivocally limited in scope compared to that of what believers experience, I am bewildered that this form of common grace even exists. God would be perfectly just to condemn the entire world, however not only has He made it possible for perfect reconciliation with Him through the atoning work of Jesus, but He still decides to extend common grace for non-believers to enjoy. What an unfathomable and incomprehensible display of God’s unconditional love which words are inadequate to describe!
To delve further into what I mean when I say, “a certain measure of happiness”, I will use an example to help illustrate this line of reasoning. The beauty of nature is visibly seen and palpably experienced with one’s senses. Notably, even atheists marvel at the beauty of nature. There are several prominent atheist writers who write vividly about their appreciation as they observe and delight in the awesomeness displayed in nature(God’s Creation). Because non-believers deny the existence of God and amazingly still experience this “certain measure of happiness”, (1)this still does not negate the fact that He does exist, and (2)this still does not negate the fact that He is the only Source of happiness. See, the world is full of secondary reference points for happiness, but God Alone is the Primary Source of happiness. In a similar way C.S Lewis said, “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first”. In other words, when we put the second things (our material possessions, horizontal relationships, ambitions, career, etc.) first, we lose their value in many ways. In turn, this makes it impossible to enjoy these gifts the way that God originally intended because these gifts are actually being idolized when they are put ahead of the Giver Himself.
To typify my thrust, David Murray argues that there are six types of happiness. These six types of happiness include the following: nature happiness, social happiness, vocational happiness, intellectual happiness, physical happiness, and humor happiness. God’s Common Grace means that non-believers experience these six aforementioned forms of happiness. Since experiencing these six forms of happiness as a non-believer does not sound bad at all, you may be thinking that this theory contradicts what was said earlier about non-believers only being able to experience “a certain measure of happiness”. But Murray continues by telling us that spiritual happiness is reserved for believers and this spiritual happiness contains more pleasure and delight than all the other six forms of happiness combined! Importantly, this type of happiness cannot be attained unless your sins are forgiven and made right with God. This reconciliation with God is only made possible through trusting in Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross and surrendering our lives to Him day-by-day!
The spiritual happiness identified above is a deep reality-based form of happiness. We are only made right with the God of Scriptures Who created us. God, being our Creator, was the One who hard-wired humans to only be truly happy once we have had our sins forgiven through the perfect blood-bought sacrifice of Jesus! Up until we are forgiven, our quest for happiness will be repeatedly sought in all of the wrong sources of contentment. Jesus Himself is sufficient and the source for complete soul-satisfaction and contentment. Real, sustainable happiness is simply something that the world cannot provide; it must be sought from the Author of Life and the Creator of the Universe itself through Jesus Who is God in the flesh.
Chesterton once said,
“The atheist sees beauty but has no one to thank, thus no one to be happy in”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. As I grow in intimacy with my relationship with the
Lord and observe His majesty evidenced in nature, the further I am baffled at how the human race still decides to suppress the truth of the Creator of such beauty. Nature’s beauty and the intricacies in its design figuratively scream out God’s Glory everywhere we look!
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are forgiven. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit”(Psalm 32:1-2).
Lord, I pray this blog entry post may point others to You as they mediate both on Your all-abounding & all-inclusive common grace, and Your Glory made manifest throughout all forms of nature. May we as a Church be strengthened and humbled by Your abundant mercies and grace which You lavish unreservedly on us! In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.