Hebrews 4:16 urges us to ‘come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.’
The Puritan Robert Traill, in the course of preaching a series of sermons from this text, noted that one time of special need of God’s grace is the time of spiritual decay. Here’s a summary.
1. Whence it comes
(a) It comes from the weak and infant state of the new Christian. He is a new-born babe, 1 Pet 2:2, and has yet to grow up to ‘the stature of a perfect man in Christ’, Eph 4:13, and will never do so completely, this side of heaven.
(b) It comes from the poor soil that grace is planted in. The proper element of grace is heaven; but here it is planted in the heart of a sinner. The grace of God is ‘endangered by the place of its residence’.
(c) It comes from the corruption that remains in the heart of a believer. Grace co-exists with corruption; its breaks its dominion, and maintains a war with it, but the corruption is never completely rooted out in this life.
2. Why we need God’s grace
This decay in our hearts gives an advantage to our spiritual enemies. The devil, although he does not know our hearts as God does (Acts 1:24), nevertheless knows them better than perhaps we do ourselves. He is clever and crafty, and looks for an opportunity to make a bad case worse. When our souls are strong and healthy, we can withstand Satan’s temptations; when it is otherwise, we are disarmed, and his arrows pierce and enter.
3. How God’s grace helps
(a) Grace helps by preserving life at the root. There is some witness to God kept up.
(b) Grace helps by making a secret growth downward. The believer may not be aware of the growth; but it will in God’s time appear. We rightly prize grace that brings forth blossoms and fruit. But we should not despise the grace that is carried on in the root only, such as in a greater awareness of indwelling sin, and a greater distrust of self.
(c) Grace helps by reviving the decayed state of a believer, Psa 23:3; Isa 40:31. When old people affect youthfulness, it is in vanity and folly, for they cannot make themselves a hour younger. But the Lord can renew the youth of a believer, and make it better with him than it ever way.
Works, Vol 1:188-193