Fortunately for us God's gift is not a question of human will or effort but depends solely upon His mercy towards us. There is nothing we can do to earn his grace when he has freely given it to us in Christ Jesus. We can choose to be in cooperation with him and abide in his plan or we can choose to walk away from him. But either way, this does not change the fact that He is merciful towards us.
In the context of today's passage, Paul is teaching us that God's will and plan will be accomplished in the end. He started out with a promise to Abraham and built his family based upon this covenant. He brought it to a people that were his own in the world but they didn't receive him. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" ( John 1:12-13 ). You and I are included in this promise if we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior. This has always been a part of God's sovereign plan from the very beginning. It all depends on God.
Once we understand God's mercy towards us, it opens up an incredible channel for us to be reconciled to him. As humans we like to do things ourselves, pay our own way and work and provide for ourselves and our families. However, when we grasp how great our sin debt is and that we will never be able to pay for it by ourselves, this gets us to look outside of ourselves for the answer. We can try, struggle and work to accomplish this on our own or we can fall upon God's mercy and be justified before him. Paul said in Titus, "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy" ( Titus 3:5 ).
The Amplified Bible puts today's passage this way, "So then [God's gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God's mercy. [It depends not on one's own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God's having mercy on him.]" ( Romans 9:16 Amp ). As a whole God has extended his mercy towards mankind in sending Jesus. But each person has an obligation and a choice. We either accept this great mercy or we reject it. God patiently waits enduring all opposition to his mercy on account of mankind, knowing that others will come to him in the process. Through it all his plan unfolds and his will and purpose is accomplished.
Today, I know that I am a favored recipient of God's mercy. I have made the choice to accept his grace in all things. I am blessed to know it solely depends upon him and nothing I have done or can do to win his favor. Today, may you rest in his loving kindness and find the grace and mercy you need to navigate today and tomorrow, amen!