I fully expected to hear words of judgment. That’s the only response I could perceive God would give when my first marriage fell apart. I cried out in a moment that was equal parts anger, fear, grief, despair, hopelessness and rage.
“If I’m going to hell for this, then why are you letting me live? Let’s just get this over with! But God, if this divorce is sending me to hell then I will walk into the flames praising your name because I don’t know what else to do!”
As my tears flowed, a thought — spoken in a still, small voice — blasted through my grief. “Would I let you enter hell’s flames with my name on your lips?”
It was in that moment I learned grace in a way that can’t be taught in a book. All my head knowledge convinced me I was disqualified. I thought I could stop grace. I was wrong. You see, grace is a force, a holy, powerful force that beckons. The moment God responded to me with beckoning grace, I knew He was not done with me. Despair was replaced with hope, and my lips began to confess, repent and allow His unstoppable grace and light to pierce my darkness.
I knew grace as a 13-year-old through a vacation Bible school. Betty Swanson was used by God to mirror God’s grace to me, a mixed-up and confused boy from a troubled home. I knew it through her calm and loving words about Jesus, asking me if I knew Him in a truly personal way. It would take me a long time to put words to my experiences. God beckoned me to Himself before I knew what He was doing. He was inserting Himself into my life story to prevent me from unimaginable troubles that would assuredly consume me without Him.
But God’s grace didn’t stop there.
The cold water was not enough to keep me from stepping into the baptistry at First Church of God on a Sunday evening. God’s grace beckoned me to be saved. I had prayed and asked Jesus to forgive my sins, and now I wanted to join Him in His death under that cold water. But I was still ignorant of grace’s depth.
I deceptively thought I was progressing in my life with Christ, but the truth is that I regressed. I went my own way, even in the church, and my life and circumstances were headed for a crash landing. The divorce was the most hurtful part of the collision. I didn’t comprehend grace because I rested on my own ability to be “Christian.” In the utter humility produced by the wreckage, I learned — and only then could I learn — that God’s grace was unstoppable.
After years of experiencing God’s grace, I have come to understand it through the lens of our Wesleyan theology: It is a grace that beckons us toward repentance, toward salvation and toward sanctification.
Out of all the crises in my life, the spiritual crisis that emerged during those times opened the door of full surrender to Jesus. I’m done with my own way because I know what that produced. His way, His will, His life in me is my only acceptable way to live. My personal faith-crisis has also opened the floodgates to an indescribable hunger for God’s grace to draw, save and sanctify our generation. Our prayers for such an awakening are fueled by the limitless, unstoppable nature of grace.
Envision generational streams of trauma and brokenness cut off. Close your eyes and dream of flourishing where there is poverty. Pray for the still small voice that visited me to call upon the despairing souls in your town or city. It’s all possible because the grace of God is a force that beckons.
But God’s grace doesn’t stop there.
I learned that it takes death to understand life. While caring for my mother during the 19 months she lived with brain cancer, I would often say to her, “Mom, this isn’t the end of our story.” It was grace that helped her exchange her home and belongings for a small room at an assisted living facility saying, “They’re just things.” It was grace that compelled her to speak to others about Jesus in her last days. It was grace that helped her create handmade greeting cards with her skills in artistry to bless other residents. And it was grace that helped me grieve with hope knowing deep in my heart that one day we would be reunited and glorified in the presence of Jesus.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
And that’s my viewpoint on unstoppable grace.
Brett Heintzman is the publisher of LIGHT + LIFE through his role as the communications director of the Free Methodist Church – USA, which he also serves as the co-director of the National Prayer Ministry. Visit freemethodistbooks.com to order his books “Becoming a Person of Prayer,” “Holy People”(Volume 1 of the “Vital” series), “Jericho: Your Journey to Deliverance and Freedom” and “The Crossroads: Asking for the Ancient Paths.”2