Talking Grace with Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is a best-selling author whose works include: What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Vanishing Grace, Where is God When it Hurts? and The Gift of Pain. His books have won 13 Gold-Medallion awards and four have sold over a million copies. In addition to authoring books, Yancey has worked for more than 40 years with words serving as editor of Campus Life, an editor at Christianity Today, and writer for Reader’s Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, Publishers Weekly, Chicago Tribune Magazine and Eternity, as well as others. We sat down with Yancey two years ago and talked about his faith journey and how a near-death experienced inspired one of his books.
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15
Yancey opens up on how he embraced Christianity after growing up fatherless, poverty-stricken and having a church experience that was toxic. He also shares how Dr. Paul Brand, a British doctor who treated leprosy patients in India, had a huge impact on his life.
“God ‘graced’ me – that’s all I can say. I had a dramatic conversion experience when I least expected it. I was attending a Bible College, though unhappily, the administration was regularly debating whether I should be asked to leave. Raised in a toxic church, I braced myself, waiting for God to smash my defenses. Instead God romanced me, using such things as the beauties of nature, classical music, and romantic love. Then at an unexpected time I received a revelation and everything changed from that moment on…For one thing, I had no father figure. My own father died of polio when I was only a year old. More importantly though, Dr. Brand entered my life at a time when I was circling warily around faith trying to determine what I could believe. HE showed me that God enlarges and fulfills life; so many Christians I knew seemed shrunken and unfulfilled. It only takes one person who is truly living a Godly life to silence skepticism and doubts. ‘So that’s what God had in mind,’ I sad again and again as I god to know Paul Brand. He spent his life in service to some of the most neglected people on the planet, low-caste leprosy patients in India, and yet emerged with a spirit of joyful thanksgiving, all the while being fully engaged as a scientist with the natural world.”
Yancey opens up on what inspired him to write, “Where is God When it Hurts?”
“In 2007, I had an auto accident in which I broke my neck. My car rolled off a cliff in Colorado, tumbling over and over five times. For seven hours I lay strapped to a body board as doctors tried to determine if the broken bone had pierced a major artery. If so, I could die at any moment. That became a defining experience for me. Seven hours is along time to think about imminent death. I could only find three questions worth considering: Who do I love? What have I done with my life? And am I ready for whatever is next? I realized how easy it is to get distracted by other matters such as books sold, money in the bank, marriage problems etc. That brush with death was a loud wake up call. I see suffering as a kind of hearing aid. We can turn up the volume and attend to what matters most. People grow most spiritually during hard times because they turn to God in desperation. On the other hand, some people turn off the hearing aid and give up on God at such a time.”
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Romans 12:9-10
Be an agent of grace. Take time this week to reflect on the grace that God has extended to you throughout your life. It can be something that happened that day or it can be a life-changing event that changed your view of God. Being able to extend true grace comes from an understanding of the grace and mercy that God gives to us daily. Look up verses this week that talk about grace and write about what you observe. Pray and give thanks to God for his grace. Ask Him if there is a person in your life that you can demonstrate grace to.
Turn to Him in your hurt. Each of us has times of pain and trial. It can be momentary or months that seem to go on forever. Whatever the situation, it is important to turn to God. God has given us people around us that love us and want to help us. It can be a pastor, small group or friend. Ask God to send someone to help you walk through the challenging time. Reflect on verses of people in the Bible that have gone through a challenging time and look at how God spoke to them and how they responded.
Write about your experience. You don’t have to a best-selling author to write about what God has done in your life. It can be a couple paragraphs or entire journal. Take time this week to sit down and write about how God has provided, what He taught you in a trial, or how you are thankful for what He has done in your life. It might even be something that you want to schedule out regularly. The discipline of slowing down and finding solitude can actually rejuvenate your walk with the Lord.
To read our entire interview with Philip Yancey click here
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