But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10
Not long ago, Lori and I thought it would be nice to have a little tomato garden in our backyard--nothing big, just a few plants. So, here's what we didn't do. When it was time to prepare the ground, we didn't. When it was time to plant the seeds, we didn't. When it was time to weed and water, we didn't. Then, one day, we stood out on our back deck, looked at the place where the garden was supposed to be, and said, "Hey, God where are all the tomatoes?!"
I know, it's ridiculous to think that without plowing, planting, weeding, and watering that somehow "by God's grace" tomato plants are going to appear. It's just as ridiculous to think that we can grow spiritually without reading the Bible, become worshipers without ever worshiping, connect with other believers without reaching out to other believers, serve while sitting, and share the message of Jesus without opening our mouths.
Yes, salvation and every good gift are by God's grace. At the same time, He expects us to do what He has graciously made us to do. Grace was not an excuse for Paul to slack. He "worked harder than all of them." Yet, he realized that all his efforts as a believer were for naught unless graced by God.
Father, thank You for Your great grace. And never let us use Your grace as an excuse for our sin and laziness. In Jesus' name. Amen.