I spoke with a man this past week who told me he has all but stopped watching the news on television because it's so troubling and depressing. I know what he's talking about since I have those same emotional reactions to much of what I read these days. Hopefully I'm not as rattled as he is but I must ask, "Am I just kidding myself?" The troubles are indeed formidable. For instance, I've read two very plausible accounts as to why the worst may yet be on the way in terms of our economy. One of the scenarios has to do with the commercial real estate bubble that is likely to burst at any moment given the many commercial loans teetering on the brink of collapse and you can guess what that would do to financial institutions that are barely hanging on as it is. All of this doom and gloom - from more US soldiers dying in Afghanistan to fears of a nuclear armed Iran to Marxist despots in some Central and many South American nations to the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conundrum to the great American giveaway adding untold billions to our national debt to swine flu and the prospect of a government run or at least regulated health care system ---- all of this and so much more can easily give us a bad case of heartburn or even anxiety attacks followed by night sweats.
So how should we Christians live? How should we respond to the darkening clouds that loom ominously before our eyes? The answer is simple to state and a challenge to live out. We are to "walk by faith" in the One who has loved us unto death. We are to live in the hope of the gospel and the assurance that our God is in total control and does all things well. We are to live the same - by faith - whether the circumstances of life are rosy and bright or rancid and painful. We walk by faith and not by sight. We trust in our sovereign Lord - we don't tremble with the thoughts of what may (or may not) come upon us or our children. We encourage and love one another. We share the gospel with a lost and increasingly troubled world. We honor Christ in our lives, our homes, our churches and in our communities. We sacrifice for the sake of the advancement of the Kingdom knowing that for each of us - to live is Christ and to die is gain. We work hard knowing that our labor in Him is not in vain. We seek to be faithful understanding that only what is done for God's glory will ever last beyond the grave. We trust in Jesus because He alone is perfectly trustworthy and because He loves us beyond all that we can imagine.
In the light of these thoughts I believe you will be encouraged, as I was, by Dr. Piper's latest email to his own church family dated October 9. He entitles his comments, "The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace." I share this with you in the hope that you will be strengthened to live in confident faith because, in truth, we are always better than we deserve because of His grace that's been poured out upon us.
"Grace is not only God's disposition to do good for us when we don't deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us. For example, Paul says, 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. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
God's grace was God's acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, "Work out your salvation," he adds, "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us.
This grace is past and it is future. It is ever cascading over the infinitesimal waterfall of the present from the inexhaustible river of grace coming to us from the future into the ever-increasing reservoir of grace in the past. In the next five minutes, you will receive sustaining grace flowing to you from the future, and you will accumulate another five minutes' worth of grace in the reservoir of the past. The proper response to grace you experienced in the past is gratitude, and the proper response to grace promised to you in the future is faith. We are thankful for past grace, and we are confident in future grace.
It is not wrong to say that we trust in past grace-like the grace God showed us at the cross and in our new birth-but what we mean by that is: We believe that because of these acts of past grace, our future will be all grace, and finally the grace of sinless perfection. But in general, the biblical pattern is that we trust in future grace and give thanks for past grace. The way to understand the power of faith in future grace is to realize that this faith means being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ. When Paul says, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. . . . I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11, 13), he means that faith in the ever-arriving future grace of God in Christ gives him the contentment that conquers fear and greed.
One of the essential keys to a life purified from the sins of wanting what we shouldn't want and fearing what we shouldn't fear is faith in future grace. Consider some examples of how faith in future grace conquers fear and selfishness and makes people radically loving. You had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:34)
By faith Moses . . . chose to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Jesus, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2)
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5:11-12)
We heard of . . . the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:4-5)
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:13-14)
In other words, by profound satisfaction in all that God promises to be for us in the future (five minutes out-and five million ages out) we can conquer the cravings of selfish fear and greed that destroy love. Radical love is the fruit of faith in future grace." Online article by Dr. John Piper, desiringgod.org. Used by permission
So, may I suggest that the next time you watch Fox News or CNN or listen to talk radio you remember that your Savior and Lord has not given to you a spirit of fear but of faith and a sound mind that trusts in Him with the whole heart and doesn't rely on one's fallible and wavering understanding but in everything you trust Him, believing and knowing without a doubt that He will direct your paths for His own glory and your greater good. If you keep these things in the forefront of your mind you can sleep well for He who neither slumbers or sleeps is watching over you with tender compassion and powerful love.