May 10, 2017 | by Mark Stephen O'Neal
I love to give God praise whenever I can do it in my newfound faith walk. I’ve straddled the fence for many years without a full understanding of what it truly meant
to be a Christian, and my life was a constant struggle because of it. I would constantly complain about not being where I wanted to be in life and would often compare my life to other people’s lives,
and I would also wish for the big blessings and not thank the Lord for the small ones. How could I possibly expect something grand when I didn’t fully appreciate every gesture of His love?
However, even though most of my adult life has been a perpetual roller coaster, I still felt God’s grace in spite of a lukewarm existence. An example of this was that I had the bad habit of driving with opened bottles of beer in my former life before I became a born-again Christian. I was going to visit my girlfriend who’s now my wife one particular night some years ago, and I decided to stop off at the liquor store before I went there. I would occasionally buy a 22 oz bottle of Budweiser after punching the clock for eight hours, and I would sip on it as a wind-down mechanism while driving home. I didn’t consider myself to be an alcoholic because I figured I could quit at any time, and because I didn’t drink every night, I felt that sipping on a cold brew in the evening commute wasn’t a problem.
The bass of my speakers raddled the frame of my cherry-red Mustang, and I was slightly buzzed as I cruised down 87th Street after getting off of the expressway. I realized that I needed to get some gas and knew I couldn’t make it to the Indiana border to fill up—I hated buying Chicago’s gas because it was usually $0.30-0.50 per gallon cheaper beyond State Line Rd—which was about a five to ten-minute ride from my house. I didn’t want to tempt fate and potentially run out of gas, so I reluctantly chose to stop at a gas station a half-mile from my future wife’s house. A black cat streaked across my path, and I pulled up at the gas station moments later. I felt a cold sensation throughout my body, and my mouth gaped open in horror when I saw Chicago’s finest parked at the pump at the left side of me as I quickly turned my music down. All I thought was that I was going to be booked for the opened bottle of liquor in the car and DUI, and I prayed that the police didn’t notice the beer in my cup holder. I made a promise to God that if he showed me mercy in that particular instance, I would never drink and drive with liquor in the car again. The cops didn’t even notice me and left the station a few minutes later, and I’ve kept my promise to this day.
A recent example of God’s grace was an unexpected monetary blessing at my job. I’m an office services clerk in addition to being a writer, and I was wrapping up my workweek on a late Friday afternoon. I was making my final mail run at about five o’clock when the human resource manager stopped me before getting on the elevator. She asked me if I read the email she sent me, but I hadn’t had a chance to check it because I had just gotten back from vacation and was trying to catch up on my work. She then said she will answer any questions I had on Monday, and I said okay. I was going to wait until the following Monday originally to read the email because I wanted to finish before five-thirty, but the burning curiosity overtook me instead. It turned out that my medical insurance company had been overcharging me for coverage from the time I got hired up to the present, which was a small percentage of roughly a year worth in premium payments, and they owed me $163 to be added to my next paycheck. Wow, what a blessing, and I didn’t even ask for it!
What I’ve learned in my short walk of living righteously is the difference between God’s favor and His grace. His grace will keep you out of harm’s way or reward you with small blessings even though they may not be deserved, and an example of His favor is when abundant blessings literally chase you down without you even praying about them. This calculated blessing of $163 from the Most High is additional money needed for my brake repair this Monday, and any extra money that I have from my paycheck after paying bills will be added to my small blessing. God is real, and I hope that this snippet of my life reaches the people who are skeptical about His existence and are unsure about turning their lives over to Him.