By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.
God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard: “By the grace of God . . . I worked harder than any of them.” So when Paul says, “Work out your own salvation,” he adds, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us.
This grace is past and it is future. It is ever-cascading over the infinitesimal waterfall of the present, from the inexhaustible river of grace coming to us from the future, into the ever-increasing reservoir of grace in the past.
In the next five minutes, you will receive sustaining grace flowing to you from the future, and you will accumulate another five minutes’ worth of grace in the reservoir of the past. The proper response to the grace you experienced in the past is thankfulness, and the proper response to grace promised to you in the future is faith. We are thankful for the past grace of the last year, and we are confident in the future grace for the new year.