dr-rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgOn our vacation trip, 30 miles south of Daytona Beach my car started to lose power. After pulling off the road and finding the car would not restart, I contacted roadside assistance.  Our options were to be towed back to Miami (203 miles south) or to continue   (299 miles north).  We decided to travel onward.   

While we waited in the heat, a Florida State Trooper stopped to ask if we were okay or needed help in contacting the AAA.  I nervously advised that a tow truck was en route, remembering that my car tag would be expiring the next day.  “Hope he doesn’t run my plates,” I thought to myself.  As the Trooper paused in his retreat, I knew he was checking my registration.

The Trooper then advised that he would return to check on us.  I was relieved, counting my blessings.  Before leaving us, the Trooper looked into my eyes and said, “Have a happy birthday tomorrow.” I smiled at Clarissa, my wife, and said, “He checked the registration, we’re in a period of Grace.” 

Recently, at the Koinonia Worship Center, I had heard Pastor Eric Jones’ awesome sermon:  “Am I Living in my Grace Period?”  When the Trooper left, I felt God’s grace and reflected upon the Pastor’s “favor ain’t fair” message taken from Jesus’ parable of the unfruitful fig tree (Luke 13:6-9), one of my personal favorites.  Pastor Jones focused upon Luke (13:8): “Sir, the man replied, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” Jesus showed mercy and grace in giving the tree one more year; and I knew the relief of being given one more day to renew my license tag. 

Pastor Jones emphasized that “Grace is wasted when we refuse to grow and bear fruit.” Regardless of life’s struggles, God demands us to be faithful, and to show signs of that faith through productivity and growth.  Earlier, I might have wilted during the crisis of car problems stranding us in the heat, amid the fear of receiving a ticket.

In the Old Testament, a fruitful tree is used symbolically for godly living (Psalm 1:3 and Jeremiah 17:7-8). In Matthew 21:19, Jesus described the eventual destruction of the fig tree that took valuable time and space and still produced no fruit.  In the Luke 13:8 passage, He warns that God’s patience can run out.

Have you been enjoying God’s favor while ignoring the limits of time? 

Seven hours later, after being squeezed into the cab of a tow truck to take the car to the repair drop-off, we arrived by taxi at our vacation spot.  What a day it had been for us!  But we basked in the knowledge that we had been in God’s favor, grateful for arriving safely to start a vacation on a greatly reduced budget. 

During the week, God gave us our daily bread, plenty of exercise and fun, the joy of seeing friends of long ago and the fellowship of other Christians.

Life with Grace is full of purpose.  But clarity of purpose is useless unless it demonstrates   faithfulness, fruitfulness, and favor. Pastor Jones said, “Often we are blessed, but refuse to show signs of it to others, and yet we want more blessings.” He reminded us, too, that “growth is not always visible to everyone else; it can be an internal occurrence.”

Because I allowed myself to grow in faith, I was rewarded with a fruitful vacation, one that could have ended before it began.  I can only be thankful, concluding that “Favor Ain’t Fair.”

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door, 6001 NW Eighth Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or e-mail the pastor at pastor@churchoftheopendoormiami.org.