Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
That last phrase can be translated “… and find a free gift to help in time of need.”
Grace here is the Greek word “charis.” It’s the same root word as in “charisma,” translated gifts, such as gifts of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians. It means God’s favor, his gift to us, free of charge in Christ.
It’s not some spooky, super-spiritual state of being satisfied with sickness, disease, calamity or chaos. It’s practical help, whenever help is needed.
When Hurricane Hugo hit Florence in 1989, Tim was in McLeod Hospital being treated for an infection in his hand. He had been transferred from Roper Hospital in Charleston which was in the direct path of the storm.
I sat by Tim’s bed all that ear-splitting stormy night, rain blowing right through the porous hospital walls onto my chair. I was wrapped like a cocoon in several blankets, trying to keep as dry as possible.
Tim was in very serious condition. A double pancreas/kidney transplant patient, he was in danger of losing the transplants from side effects of antibiotics being used to treat the infection. His condition worsened during the night, and by morning the doctors had decided Tim should be flown to the University of Minnesota Transplant Center for treatment.
But there were no flights out of Florence! Airports were closed at the major connecting cities, Atlanta and Charlotte. Nothing was flying out of Charleston or Columbia. Plus, Tim was on IV’s. He needed an air ambulance, a very fast jet plane. We needed help!
It took nothing short of a miracle to get that plane to Florence, from its headquarters in Florida, but that’s what God provided. Grace. Practical help. With phone calls from several friends, we found an air ambulance with medical pilot and co-pilot that could fly to Florence. Tim was able to be transported on a stretcher with his IV running and we made it to Minnesota in just a couple of hours.
While the plane was en route to Florence, I had a very short time to go home, pack a suitcase and get to the airport for our flight. Due to widespread damage there was a total power outage in Florence and a police blockade of all traffic except for emergencies, meaning I had to get special permission to go home.
Someone drove me, I don’t remember who. It took a lot longer than usual, dodging downed trees and power lines and having to detour several times along the way.
Then, when we finally got to the house, I couldn’t get in. Two huge pine trees had fallen across the yard, one in front and one in back, completely blocking both doors. I needed more help, to say the least.
I wasn’t strong enough by myself to shove tree limbs aside and make a big enough gap to edge through, but with my driver’s help I squeezed in the door. Returning to the car a few minutes later with my hastily packed bag, I wondered what we were going to do about those trees when we came home from Minnesota.
Grace came to our rescue so many times during those days. Tim’s hand was successfully treated, the transplants were saved, and from his hospital room we watched television coverage of the hurricane’s path that the power-less folks back home couldn’t watch.
I worried a bit about those downed pine trees. How would we get Tim’s wheelchair into the house? What would we do about cleaning up the mess?
When finally we returned home many days later, to our amazement we found the yard completely clear. You’d never know those trees had fallen in front or back! There were no limbs, no pine needles, no pine cones, no sawdust even! Every trace of debris had been removed.
Grace had come in the form of friends unknown to me, people recruited by my Uncle Charlie Powers to come with power saws, rakes, trucks, everything needed to handle this problem. Free of charge.
That’s what grace is. Favor. Gifts. Free of charge, in Christ Jesus, by way of friends with power saws if necessary.