“How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” If you have attended church with any consistency over the course of your life, then you have probably sung that line dozens of times. It, of course, is from what is perhaps the most famous hymn of all time, Amazing Grace. That song has been a Sunday morning staple for longer than any of us have been alive. The words were written by an English preacher named John Newton, and the song was first published in 1779. It’s fascinating that Amazing Grace is still just as powerful today as it was when it was first written.
I prefer old hymns to modern worship music. There’s just something about the depth of the lyrics. I will readily admit that I tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the modern stuff. However, too much of it is overly emotional for my liking. Pick any hymn that has survived the test of time and read those lyrics. What you will find is a theologically sound song that is exclaiming timeless truths of who God is and what He has done for us.
We sang Amazing Grace in church two weeks ago, and it has been stuck in my head ever since. I keep repeating the line, “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Any time that there is stillness or quiet in my life, that line runs through my brain. Eventually, I figured out that it was God’s gentle whisper to me. There is a reason He wanted me to hear that verse over and over again. I was forced to think about what verse means in life.
Do you remember the first moment that you believed in Christ? Maybe you were raised up in the faith and never had that one big moment but what about the first time that you truly felt the fullness of God’s love for the first time? I still remember mine.
I was raised in the church and was there almost every Sunday. I went to VBS and Sunday school growing up. The foundation had been laid for me. I started going to my church’s youth group when I was in the 7th grade, and I loved everything about it. The summer between after my 8th grade year, the youth went to the Ichthus Music Festival. They had a pastor get up on stage and offer a salvation invitation. That was the first time that I truly gave my heart to Christ. At that moment I physically felt a weight come off my chest as if my heart had been truly set free for the first time. I remember that feeling as if it just happened yesterday. At that moment, I felt just how precious God’s grace is.
That was a little over 13 years ago, which makes me feel old. Now, I’m slightly smarter, a little bit taller, and still trying to be funny. I am currently a youth pastor and doing my best to follow God, all because of that one moment at a music festival.
However, I find that I often don’t view God’s grace nearly as precious as I did in that first moment. I have become a little jaded and cynical. It’s hard not to be with everything that is happening in the world, or so I tell myself. Every day we see something come across the news that breaks our hearts. It seems as though things aren’t getting better.
It’s precisely in these moments that we need to cling on to God’s grace. We need to remember just how precious it still is. We should always be moved and in awe of God’s grace. The issue isn’t that His grace has become less precious as time has gone on, but that we have become complacent with it. Maybe we don’t view ourselves as in need of His grace as we once did. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We need His grace every moment of every day. To quote a significantly less old song written by Matt Maher, “Lord, I need you, oh, I need you/Every hour I need you.” That needs to be the cry of our hearts at all times.
We must not forget how precious God’s grace is, no matter what’s going on around us. In times when we are feeling down, take yourself back to the time when you felt God’s grace most deeply. Ask God to restore that feeling in you.
I am not an overly emotional person. In fact, I’m probably not emotional enough, but I cherish those moments when the Holy Spirit moves me to become emotional. That’s what He has done with that one little verse from Amazing Grace. He has reminded me of the fullness of His Grace and my great need for it. I hope that this blog can be a reminder for you. He loves you just as deeply at this moment as He did in that hour you first believed. May we never forget just how precious that grace is.