Sustaining Grace – Carla Perry


My name is Carla Perry. I want to welcome you to Eastside. And I want to tell you that we are currently on week three of our sermon series called “Grace Is Greater Now”. Grace is a big word. And in the first week, Pastor Virgil talked about the Grace that we so commonly refer to. It has all kinds of different meanings. And instead of us trying to define what Grace is, we thought we would look at the different aspects of Grace in the series because it is like a diamond. It’s multifaceted. And that is amazing saving Grace, not amazing Grace. The words just flow, saving Grace. And in week two, Brandon Bunch shared that Grace is greater than our negative self-talk. That negative self-talk leads to us having false guilt in our life. And so this week, what I want us to do is I want to look at the aspect of sustaining Grace. And I believe that that aspect of Grace is something we don’t often understand completely. We don’t get what the real meaning of sustaining Grace is. Why? Because when we hear the word Grace, we often just refer back to God’s saving Grace. And so, let’s start today by just trying to define what sustaining Grace is. Sustaining Grace is the power to keep going when you feel like giving up.

The Bible tells us that God offers always finishes what he starts. And look right here as Paul talks about it in Philippians one six. God who began the good work within you will continue his work until it is finally finished. Now, that verse, if you look at it, it says, God who began a good work in you. That is saving Grace. That’s the moment that you first received Christ into your life.

And then he goes on, saying he will continue his work in you until he is finally finished. That, my friends, is sustaining Grace. Then Paul goes on, and he talks about the work that he will continue to do in you. And that work is what we’re going to talk about today. And around here, you may have heard us talk about the all-in journey because, at Eastside, we don’t want to just get you into heaven.

We want you to go on the journey with God. We want to help you walk that all in the journey. We want you to figure out what it is that God put you here on this Earth for and to live in it. God says I will help you finish the race. And how can you? And I will be sure that he will help us finish it because of his sustaining Grace. So look what the author says in Hebrews twelve one. He says, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance. The race that God has set before us. So what does that say to us? It says there are many pitfalls in the marathon race of life. They seem to trip us up. They seem to get us off to the side. But the author here goes on to say, let us run the race with endurance that God has planned for us.

Look, right here is what Peter wrote in one Peter, 511. He said, My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the Grace of God is with you. No matter what happens, I want you to underline or circle where it says that God’s sustaining Grace will be with you no matter what happens. And Peter says, there is absolutely nothing on the Earth that can ever separate you from God’s sustaining Grace. As we just said, pitfalls can cause you to stumble and cause you to get off of the journey. And for you and me to stay in the all-in race, we must rely on the sustaining Grace of God. Why do we need the sustaining Grace of God? Look at 2020. There are many pitfalls, my friends, that we will face in this life. Many obstacles, and today there are tons of them. But today, we’re just going to focus on three. God’s sustaining Grace will keep Me Standing when I Am Tempted Temptation is the first thing that causes us to stumble and causes us to fall. And in one, Peter five, eight, we see that. He says that when he says, Watch out for attacks from the devil, your great enemy, he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him and be assertive with your faith.

Peter reminds us that we were born into a battle, and we spent the first few weeks of this year talking about the war that we encountered in our minds. And the Bible says that we are all tempted. We all deal with temptation. I deal with temptation. And if you do not deal with temptation, it will take you out of the race. And here at Eastside, we want you all to be on that journey. We want you all to be in the race with us. And the Bible goes on, and it talks about in the Bible how Jesus was even tempted, that while Jesus was on Earth, he actually needed God’s sustaining Grace. And I love that because what better reminder do we have in Matthew chapter four? It’s not on your outline or on the screen, but write it down. You can go back. You can refer to it later.

But in Matthew 4:1-11, we read about the encounter that Jesus had with Satan in the desert. Jesus went into the desert, and it says that he went to go fast for 40 days and 40 nights. Now, I don’t know about you all, but I get hangry if I haven’t eaten for four or 5 hours, 40 days, and 40 nights. The point here is that Jesus was exhausted, his body was spent, he was worn down, and he was a prime target for Satan and his schemes and temptation. So Satan goes to Jesus while he’s fasting out in the desert, and he says, Jesus if you’re the Son of God, command those stones to turn to bread. And Jesus responded, and he said God does not live on bread alone but by the word of God. Then Satan took him to the Holy City, and he took him to the temple’s highest point. And he said, Jesus if you’re really the Son of God, jump off of here because the scriptures say that God will send his Angels to save you. And then Jesus said, you must not test the Lord your God. Next, Satan.

He took Jesus to the highest mountain, and he said, all of this, all the kingdoms, they will be yours if you will just bow down and you will worship me. And this is my favorite part of the story because the Bible says that Jesus’s words were, Get out of here, Satan. And you know what? That’s how we would say today. Back it up, Satan. Not today. You don’t get to tempt me today with your schemes. And I love that. We can even look into the Bible and see evidence that even Jesus needed help with the temptation. He needed God’s sustaining Grace. Look what the Apostle Paul says in One Corinthians 113. He says the temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand when tempted. He will show you a way out so that you can endure.

Paul says to us that we are not alone when we experience temptations. But he does say that God sustaining Grace will endure. It will help you stay in the race. God’s sustaining Grace will help you out of any situation that you are in right now or that you will ever face in your entire life. I will provide the sustaining Grace to always give you an escape. God says, so the first way we keep standing with God’s sustaining Grace is when we are tempted. The second way we sustain we keep standing is when I’m exhausted. Sometimes I’m not tempted. I am exhausted. How many of you parents out there, especially your young ones that have a newborn, are exhausted right now?

I mean, all kinds of you. I promise it’s a season. I promise it will end. Life is exhausting, isn’t it? It requires tremendous strength from us, especially when you’re trying to do the right thing rather than the easiest thing. It isn’t always easy living the all-in life for Jesus. And you can coast through life. You can choose to always do what the easiest thing is. But when you’re coasting, you’re always going downhill. But it requires energy. It requires strength and endurance to do the right thing. And many of you, you might be the only believer where you work, and you see people constantly just doing whatever they feel like doing the easiest thing. But guess what? God will sustain you when you are swimming upstream, you’re going against the current, and it is not easy. God says he will sustain you.

So where is it that you get the power to do the right thing when you are absolutely worn out, just like Jesus was right? Sometimes I don’t want to do the nice thing. I want to be grouchy. Sometimes I want to be really mean to my family because I don’t have the energy to be nice. In two Corinthians 121 and 22, it says it is God who gives us the ability to stand firm for Christ.

He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in your hearts on your outline circle, Holy Spirit, and stand firm and then draw a line between them. Because Paul says that God calls you and me his very own, he says, Call on me, my Grace, it will sustain you. God’s sustaining grace keeps us going when we are exhausted. And the key to not getting tired and giving up and doing the right thing has the Holy Spirit right there in your heart. He energizes you, not you, in your own power, his Grace, it sustains you. And some of you, you’ve come here today, and you were worn out, and you keep trying to be like Jesus. You keep trying to do good. You’re trying to keep the Ten Commandments. You’re trying to be a person of integrity, and you’re trying eventually; it wears out.

People say it’s hard to be a Christian today. I disagree. It’s impossible. I mean, guys, it is complex, and many of you, including me, need to learn to trust Jesus and let Jesus be in me and let him be through me. Because there is never anything that will ever keep God’s sustaining Grace from you. You cannot deserve it. You cannot work for it. It is always there. The key to living all in life is not trying. It’s trusting in God and His Grace. It’s not psyching yourself up; keep working harder so that God maybe will smile down upon you. It is trusting that God will sustain you. I think about Moses, and I think about his story in the Bible, and I think about how on Earth did he not give up? He was stuck in the wilderness for 40 years, wandering around with a bunch of babies whining all the time. How did he not throw in the towel and say, I am out God? 

I am out on this race of life, so what I want to do is I want to give you my real life. Illustration my husband, Brad, and I celebrated 22 years of marriage last week. And let me tell you, do you think it has always been easy? Do you think it’s easy now? No. I was grouchy to him this morning. Some things have been hard to work through in our marriage. We were young when we got married, young when we had kids. And I couldn’t remember in those early days. I wanted to give up. I wanted to throw in the towel. And there were even days I packed my bags and left. But because I was on my spiritual journey and I continued my walk with Jesus, he began to sustain me.

He began to help me through those moments. God will sustain you. So there’s another way that God is sustaining Grace keeps us standing, not just when I’m tempted and not just when I’m exhausted. It helps me keep standing when I’m troubled. Now, the Bible says that we will face many trials and tribulations in our life. And there are two troubles, two types of troubles I want us to talk about. The first one is the trouble where we can see a resolution at the end of the road; six, eight months a year down the road, we see the light at the end of the tunnel for you teachers in the room. Summer is almost here. You can endure anything for a few more months. But you know what? Then the troubles weigh you down like a truckload of bricks. These are the unrelenting problems. These are the problems that we have begged God to take from us. And some things in your life hurt you, and they harm you, and they are unsolvable. They will be with you for the rest of your life, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

Some things in life are unplanned. There are some situations, some handicaps, disabilities, or backgrounds that you grew up in that you cannot change. And there are hurts that all the wishing in the entire world will not take away. They are unexpected, they are underserved, and they hurt the most. They hurt so deep inside you that you cannot even speak of them. We often see these situations take people out of them all in a race. These are the situations where you and I absolutely need the sustaining Grace of God in our lives. And these are the troubles that God sustains Grace. If we have it, we will finish the race. Look what Isaiah says in 41 ten, don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Look at the promises in that one verse. God says I will be with you when you are troubled in your finances.

I will make you strong when you are troubled with that addiction. I will help you when you are concerned about your marriage, and I will support you when you feel you can’t take another blow or hear more bad news. I will hold you up when you have lost a dear loved one and don’t know how to go on without them. That, my friends, is the beautiful sustaining Grace of God. So what is it that you do when you cannot fix the unfixable problem? What do you do when you can’t change the unchangeable? What do you do when you cannot control a hurt so profoundly? You throw yourself on the sustaining Grace of God, and he will carry you. Our culture loves to teach selfreliance, and we think we can handle anything in this world. I know that all around you that you’re brought up to think that you are the master of your life.

I’m here to tell you today, bearer of bad news, that is not true. That is a lie. You cannot control the major events of your life. You did not control when you were born. You did not control who your parents were. You’re not going to know when you die or how you die. And you don’t know the important things that will happen between now and then. And one day, you will wake up, and you are going to realize that you are not God and you cannot control the major things in your life. You must rely on the sustaining Grace of God. So when it hurts so badly, and you’re ready to say, I’m ready to throw in the towel, I’m out.

In Peter, 1:6-7, it says that every attack, anxiety, and loss, while seeming to drag us to destruction, cannot. Here Peter is reminding us that God is transforming us into something beautiful. Through these fires, he walks with us, determined to refine us into something more precious than gold. He says we are more precious than gold. Did you hear that? Are you more precious than gold to God? He says I see the anxiety, know the loss, and see the destruction. And it says, God is walking with you through the fires. He will sustain you. And here’s another reminder that I love. Isaiah 43:2 says, when you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through the Rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. And when you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up. God says he will be with you. He will not let you down.

And he says that when you walk through the worst seasons of your life, he will not let go. He will sustain you with His Grace. So you may be asking, okay. If that’s sustaining Grace, and this is why I need sustaining Grace, how do I get that in my own life? How do I tap into the sustaining Grace of God? And the first way is to fill your mind with the word of God. Find a Bible plan. This book is no good sitting on a shelf. In this book, you have to let it get into your mind. You have to let it just seep into your mind and then take root into your heart to have God’s word to fall back on, just as Jesus did in the desert, right? He kept calling back on God’s Word. Pull out your phone. Download your version. Pick a Bible plan to follow. There are thousands of them. There are some of them that you can do in five or ten minutes a day. Can you even imagine if you consistently spent five or ten minutes a day with God? What would that do for you? There’s advice that I heard most of my life growing up, and I even told it to my kids, especially my girls, when they were younger. It’s all over social media. It’s in self-help books. It’s on the talk shows.

It’s everywhere we look. And it’s the words, look inside yourself. Everybody’s been spitting that for years to come. Look within yourself when you’re in trouble. That’s the problem. I looked within sight of Carla Perry, and I wanted to vomit. I didn’t like what I saw. It was gross. I felt ashamed. I felt depressed. I did not like who I was. I don’t need to look within myself. The answer is in God. And if it wasn’t, you would already be changed. It does not work. You need to look to God. He’s the only one who can change you. He’s the only one who can help you, and he’s the only one with sustaining strength. You need to look not within you. You need to look outside yourself to the creator who made you. And the answer is in his Word. I love what David says. In Psalm 119 25, he says, I am completely discouraged. Revive me by your word. David says, Lord, I am exhausted, I’m tired.

Now, you all didn’t honestly think you would get out of here without the life group message, right? I mean, I have to believe that when David said that he’s going to the Bible and he’s saying, God, take this Bible, take your word, and put it into my mind. But he says, Revives me with your word. So the first way that we tap into God’s sustaining Grace is by filling our minds with God’s Word. And the second way that we tap into God’s sustaining Grace is to accept support from God’s people. You know, that’s going to come from me every single time. And in Galatians six-two, it says, Share each other’s burdens and in this way, obey the law. Of Christ. And I love what Paul says. He isn’t saying that we should just share each other’s burdens because that makes us feel good about life or feel better and comfortable.

He’s saying it is how we fulfill the law of Christ to love one another. Paul knew that you and I needed one another to run the race. Well, he knew that God created you and me for community and relationships. And I am sure that you have heard people stand on this same stage over the last few months. You’ve listened to them talk about their all-in journey and the storms they encountered. And they’ve talked about their life group. They’ve talked about their my people. One lady even stood on the stage and said, I don’t know how you’re standing in your storm if you are not in a life group. That is the exact point Paul is making in this verse. He’s saying this is the feeling people get when they are down on their luck and cannot move forward. There’s somebody behind them because God is sustaining people through relationships.

And if you don’t have some solid Christian friends, I generally legitimately feel sad for you. I like to pray for you every week that God would give you the courage to remove whatever barrier it is for you to get into a life group. Being in a life group is essential for remaining in the race. God never meant for any of us to do life alone. One day you’re going to wake up, and you’ll need people to help carry you to put the next foot forward.

So my husband and I lead a life group, and we have for several years. And you know, as a life group pastor, I’ve seen a lot of things happen. But this past October, our life group experienced a major crisis. One of our very own in our life group was tragically and unexpectedly taken from us. We didn’t know what to do. I don’t have it all figured out, you guys. I didn’t know what to do. I knew that we were going to be going through trials. I knew that it would be difficult for our group from the first time we met in a group and that seat was empty, and she was no longer there. I knew that we all needed the sustaining Grace of God to carry us through. And you know what? I needed those people. They didn’t just need me because I was their leader. I needed those people to sustain me and carry me through. And I still do, and we’re still working on it.

I pray that you will find one before your tragedy strikes if you are not in the life group. Pastor Virgil often says that we are one phone call away from a crisis. You are one phone call away from a crisis. I have seen people literally climb into the trenches, climb into the hole with their people and just be with them. I have even seen people lay on the floor and cry with people because they couldn’t get up. They couldn’t take the next step forward. They were just with them, getting into a life group and accepting support from God’s people because that is important to finish the race well. So the first way we tap into God’s sustaining grace is God’s word. And the second way is to accept support from God’s people. The third way to tap into God’s sustaining Grace is to hold on to His promises. There are over 7000 promises in the Bible to be claimed, waiting for you to claim them like blank checks. And if you were here today and you were down, and you do not know that you’re going to be able to finish the race, well, God brought you here, and he wants you to know that his sustaining Grace will carry you through. Look right here at this next verse. It says he gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk, and they will not grow faint. Aren’t you thankful today that God continues to keep his promises no matter what we face? I don’t know about you, but that gives me peace, that God’s promises are guarantees of his sustaining Grace in your life and in my life.

And then here’s another promise that God gives to you and me. In two Corinthians 4:1-8, it says, So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now. Rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen, for the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. What does this verse even mean? I mean, it’s saying that we shouldn’t just focus on our current situations because he promises they will soon be over. In heaven, there’s going to be no problems. In heaven, there is no sorrow. In heaven, there is no sadness. There is no grief and no messed-up lies. Then the promise goes on to say that the joy will last forever.

Can you imagine waking up every day and having that kind of joy that there’s never that sadness? It’s a beautiful promise that God gives to us. And in two Corinthians twelve, eight, and nine, it says, Paul says this because if you remember the Apostle Paul, he says, I had an issue. I even need to lean on the sustaining Grace of God. And he says, I beg the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. But he said to me, My grace is enough for you. Guys, when you are weak, my power is made perfect in you. That’s sustaining Grace.

I just look at this, and I think, Gosh, even Paul had problems, but God didn’t say to him, yeah, Paul, I’m going to take your problem away. Yeah, Paul, I’m going to figure out a way for you to get through this. Paul responded by saying, My Grace is enough. It will carry you through no matter what you’re going through. So stop focusing on your problems and focus on my Grace. You know what? I believe that many of you are here, and you’re walking through a storm right now. Maybe you’re like Paul, and you have a persistent thing that you have begged God to release you from, and he’s never going to release you from it. Maybe you were here today, and you were weak and didn’t know how you were going to finish them all in the race. God’s Grace will sustain you. I promise you. He tells us so. And as Paul comes to the end of his life, I love what he says to his young protege, Timothy, I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

My friends, the only way that you and I can ever finish them all in the race well is by the sustaining Grace of God. Just as Paul said, don’t you want to be saying the exact words? Don’t you wish that when you are crossing from this side of heaven into eternity that you were able to say, I have finished the race, that you want to say, I have finished it? Well, I have fought the good fight. Don’t we all desire that when we are at the end of this life, we can say that, well, we can only do that by his sustaining Grace. And I also love what we see in the Bible, where I’m thinking about as you were ending your race. I’m thinking about how my grandmother ended her race a couple of years ago. When she took that last breath, I know that she heard the voice of Jesus saying, well done, my good and faithful servant. Don’t you desire to hear that? I do. I want to hear that. I want God to sustain me in the all-in race.

So, where are you today? Where are you in needing God sustaining Grace? Where are you discouraged, and do you feel like giving up? Are you being tempted? Are you being pounded on? Do you have that truckload of bricks sitting on your chest, and you don’t know how to get up? Are you tired, and you say, I cannot put another foot in front of me? I don’t know if I can finish the race, or are you in trials and have troubles, and God hasn’t taken them away yet? What do you need to do in your life for God’s sustaining Grace in your specific situation? Is it to get into this book? Is it to do what I encourage you to do earlier? To just begin to let it get into your mind and then trickle down to your heart and change you? Is it getting up from this service and walking straight out to my people lounge to see one of our volunteers and find yourself a life group? Because you’re either in the middle of a crisis or there is one coming because we all have a crisis in this life. We all will face them one day. Are you here today, and you need to go back and remind yourself of the promises that God has made you? Aren’t you thankful today for the security of God’s sustaining grace in your life? As I looked back on that message this last few weeks, I realized we’re, or I’ve just not, paid attention to where God has sustained me. So this message has spoken to me. I hope that there is something in it that speaks to you.