Christian Devotionals

"Grow in grace..." 2 Peter 3:18

Psychologist Henry Cloud does a lot of corporate consulting. Sometimes he asks executives this question: "When in your business training or education, did you ever take a course on how to lose well?" Losing is an inevitable part of life. It gives us an invaluable window into the development of our character. How do we do when we're part of a team that makes a decision that's opposed? How do we handle it when the promotion we applied for goes to somebody else? How do we do when our idea, proposal, or invitation for a date gets rejected? To live is to lose. But to lose badly, gracelessly, can be lethal.

The president of an organization has an agenda for change that is dead in the water. No one wants it and his pride won't allow him to admit he is wrong. So he doggedly carries on. People don't resist him openly, but they sabotage his agenda. He loses their respect and their loyalty. He couldn't stand to lose on his agenda; so instead, he loses what matters far more. A pastor wants his church to change in ways that the people don't embrace. He wants it to look like his ideal of what a church should be. So he preaches angry sermons that chastise them for not following his leadership. He tries to pressure the elders. He threatens, he whines, he manipulates. Eventually the elders ask him to leave the church. Because he cannot learn from his losses, he loses everything.

Peter, who was known for being bull-headed, had grown wiser and more mature, so he writes, "Grow in grace." When you don't get what you want - be gracious!

"Grow in grace..." 2 Peter 3:18

Samuel and Susanna Wesley (John Wesley's parents) were at evening prayer one night when Susanna didn't say "amen" to her husband's prayer for William of Orange, then King of England. When he asked her why, she explained that her sympathy lay with the deposed James the Second. It turned into a game of 'you do what I say' which he couldn't win. She wrote about what happened next: "He immediately kneeled down and invoked the divine vengeance upon himself and all his posterity if he ever touched me again or came to bed with me before I had begged God's pardon, and his, for not saying 'amen' to a prayer for the king." The stalemate lasted six months and was broken only when a tragic fire destroyed two-thirds of their home.

People who cling to resentments, who don't know how to handle disappointment with grace, who have long memories, who choke on the words, "I'm sorry," or who sulk and pout and whine, always finish up on the short end of the stick. Losing well is an art that requires all the grace we can muster. It means having the humility to face reality with no excuses, but with the confidence not to allow losing to define our identity or make us feel 'less than.' It means no excuses, no blaming, no self-pity - but no self-condemnation either. It means having the discernment to know when to quit and when to persevere. It means learning how to say "congratulations." It means letting go of an outcome we cannot change, but holding on to the will to live fully and well, and seeking to glorify God in all that we do.

"Grow in grace..." 2 Peter 3:18

Winning gracefully can be harder than losing gracefully. When we win we're tempted by arrogance, power, insensitivity, gloating, and wanting to relive our success long after everyone else is bored by it. Gracious winners always remember what it feels like to lose. They are caught up in something bigger than their own wins and losses.

Abraham Lincoln had the wisdom to place the good of the country above his own ego, appointing his worst political critic, Edwin Stanton, to run the War Department. Stanton, a brilliant legal mind, could be brusque and condescending. As Frederick Douglass put it, "Politeness was not one of his weaknesses." Lincoln, on the other hand, was keenly aware of his looks and his uneducated background. (When someone charged him with being two-faced during a campaign, he responded: "If I had two faces, do you think I'd be wearing this one?") As outgoing attorney general of the losing party, Stanton had belittled Lincoln as 'the original gorilla.' How Lincoln treated Stanton is Civil War history. Lincoln trusted in him, confided in him, leaned on him, depended on him. And Stanton responded with unfailing loyalty and affection. On the morning of April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln died after having been shot the night before at Ford's Theatre. The most famous words ever spoken after the death of a president were spoken that morning: "Now he belongs to the ages." The speaker was Edwin Stanton. Robert Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's son, said that after his father died he was visited in his room each morning for two weeks by Stanton who "spent the first ten minutes of his visits weeping without saying a word."

When nothing else works, showing grace does!

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