Second Hand Grace

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Paul, the Apostle to the gentiles, wrote: “the things which happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel:”  (Philippians 1:12) We can say God made bad and questionable things turn out well.

The Apostle had things happen to him that he was not sure of, how things were to be taken, but God worked them out for the furtherance of the gospel.

In the same way Joseph, prime minister of Egypt, said when reunited with his bad brothers who had sold him into slavery out of jealousy: “Don’t be scared. You wanted to hurt me, but God used your bad actions to lead me to the good I am doing today.” (my translation of Genesis 50:19)

Both Joseph and Paul had this in common: for a time they didn’t know how things were going to turn out. But God used the things happening to them to advance His will.

We do not always understand what is happening to us. Some things are questionable as what Paul experienced. Some things are openly hostile as Joseph experienced.

If things meant negatively or questionably work out positively, I call it Second Hand Grace. It was not what was intended first hand, but it turned into a second hand blessing. A thoroughly bad action or questionable event was used for good.

Corrie Ten Boom, a pious Dutch woman, and her sister had hidden a Bible in their clothes in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. (They were being punished for helping Jews.) If the sisters were searched by the soldiers, as was sometimes the case, the Bible that they used to read in worship with the other inmates (and used themselves) might be found. The sisters lived in fear of their Bible being discovered, praying earnestly about this.

One day in the concentration camp the sisters got fleas. They were horrified they found themselves with fleas. That day a Nazi guard at the camp came to search them. But he refused to touch them because they had fleas. Their hidden Bible was saved. Then they thanked God for the fleas, showing we do not always know a blessing or how bad things can be used.

God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. We know what happens to us, and we may know the intentions of hostile actions, but we do not know what will happen. We only suspect what may happen from declared hostile intentions or from uninspired conventional thinking.

When bad or questionable things happen to you, ask the Lord for Second Hand Grace. That some good may come out of evil. Or something redemptive may come out of sad situations.

In Romans 8:28 it assures us that everything works together for good to them that love the Lord. This does not mean only good happens to those that love the Lord. God does not put us in a china closet. It means God works for some good to come out of the bad things that happen to us.

Awful things may happen to us or those we love because we are often caught as fish in the nets of corruption and sin so common in America The Decadent and the world. But we are assured that God is trying to make some redemptive use and good out of any evil. This is true even though a major evil may result only in a minor good. But this is not always the case. Major good can come out of minor evils.

Do not fear asking God to turn the tables on what is bad. Pray second hand grace may come out of unfortunate things that happen. You are safe in doing this because what is intended by man on one level does not always happen since God is on a different, higher level.

I have seen many second hand graces. So will you, if you look as you pray, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You will notice and say, “Is this not irony? Is this not grace? Grace is operating.” You will have seen it passing through. To see the works of God is not a small thing. But what is greater and better is doing them.


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.