Imagine you are a father and have taken your daughter to play the carnival game called the Hi Striker. To score points you sling a mallet so hard that a weight skyrockets to the top and rings a bell.
As the skeptical onlookers gather, you grasp the mallet, swing it above your head, and drop it to the scale with all your force. The weight rises midway then drops with a thud.
“Sorry, Mister,” the game operator says. Then he shouts, “Next! Step right up!”
Have you ever been there—spiritually? Many of us try to “work out our salvation” much like that father trying to perform. And we fail to measure up. Sometimes there are onlookers. Like the daughter who hops up and down in expectation after eyeing the gigantic teddy bear, those who love us may even pin their hopes on our success. Others may stand critically waiting for us to fail—and we don’t disappoint them.
While hanging on the cross, Jesus said one word that answers our fear of having to perform. We translate it with three words: “It is finished” (John 19:30). The job was His and His alone to complete. No one else had, has, or ever will have the authority to die in our place voluntarily. The great plan of salvation is complete—and it has nothing to do with how hard we hammer the scale of good works and charitable deeds or how many points we can accrue in each attempt. We are made complete and sufficient only by God’s grace.
The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Colosse: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him” (Col.2:6). How did we receive Christ as Lord? By grace through faith. How do we continue in Him? Same song, second verse: By grace through faith.
And that means “by grace through faith” in the good times and the bad. Remember, Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn from his flesh. Did God remove his suffering? No. Instead He told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8).
We want to be strong. Yet God’s grace often shows through more gloriously when we are weak. Countless Christians, some of whose stories you’ve read in these pages, live lives of victory through struggle, not because they have long résumés to commend them but because they live out the evidence of God’s grace in its various forms—sometimes on the mountaintop, often in the valley.
In all things—in salvation, in our walk, in our weakness—God’s grace is sufficient and complete. The next time you are tempted to prove something by swinging the mighty mallet of self-effort, remember these words: “It is finished!”
—Charles R. Swindoll