I Am What I Am?
John Newton (1725-1807), most famous for writing "Amazing Grace", was once a captain of slave ships until he became an abolitionist.
A few years before he died, he and a friend were sitting down together at breakfast as they frequently did. The two of them had a custom of reading from the Bible after they ate. This particular time was at a point in Newton's life where his eyes were growing dim, so his friend read the passage aloud and then Newton would comment briefly on the passage.
That day the selection was from 1 Corinthians 15:3-10
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.
But 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.
When the words “by the grace of God I am what I am” were read, Newton sat silently for several minutes. He finally broke the silence by saying,
“I am not what I ought to be. How imperfect and deficient I am! I am not what I wish to be, although I abhor that which is evil and would cleave to what is good. I am not what I hope to be, but soon I shall put off mortality, and with it all sin. Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor yet what I hope to be, I can truly say I am not what I once was: a slave to sin and Satan. I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge that by the grace of God I am what I am!”
Is it any wonder that he wrote the hymn: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken?
See the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters,
and all fear of want remove;
who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.
I can say with Newton that I am not what I ought to be either, though I abhor sin and cleave to what is good. I am grateful for the grace that never has failed and never will fail, that flows down year after year, day after day, to me.
You should be grateful, too!