Sunday, July 02, 2006

Grace that sustains

Talking one of my favourite people, from the other side of the world, on Skype last night, he said:
I think grace sometimes makes the hard times harder - it means we don't ignore suffering, or try to escape it: but face up to it; but in the hard times we discover the value of suffering and find joy, and the hope that will not be taken away.
Living by grace takes away the pretense. When you live by grace you can't just say its all fine and think you're respectable and nice and always happy. Grace exposes all that and gives freedom for failure, honesty about struggles and about the hardness of life.

But, grace also sustains. As Piper defines it:
Not grace to bar what is not bliss,
Nor flight from all distress, BUT THIS,
The grace that orders our trouble and pain
And then in the darkness is there to sustain
Grace is secure. And no failure or suffering or struggle, darkness or trouble can keep us from God's secure grace. It remains. It endures. And by grace we are kept. By grace, and grace alone, I can believe that I'll wake up in the morning as a Christian.

Having finished reading Numbers I turned to Deuteronomy. Moses preaches there:
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt
God chose his people, to be his treaured possession. And he loved them with a secure love. But, Israel were not loved because they were numerically great but rather because God loved them and promised love to them. Similarly and more securely Christians stand in the love of God in Christ. Not loved because we are strong, great or irresistable to him. But we are loved because in the Lord Jesus Christ he loves us and promises love to us. A sure hope that cannot be taken away.

My friend, departed to give a talk on the role of a staff worker. I hope he told them something along the lines of "believe God's promises and encourage others to do the same". Richard Baxter begins his The Reformed Pastor with a charge:
See that the work of grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace if God which you offer to others... commend the riches of the gospel from their own experience.
How I must pray that the work of grace continues to be thoroughly wrought in me... killing my sin, and keeping me in Christ.

David Osborne on John Owen: Your Spiritual Well Being (HT: Thabiti Anyawile)

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Thanks for quoting Andy (I assume it was he!) - such a true and valuable thing to recognise. Grace makes the hard times harder, but more valuable. Without it, I'd give up in the hard times, or go pessimistic, cynical, hard, etc. Grace makes it more painful because grace compels us to fight against such sin and for joy. Is grace not what pummels our hearts to keep them soft?