All the expectations of God are future expectations. –John Piper
Our pastor begins our corporate worship times with a prayer asking for God’s grace to be with us for the next hour and a half. He prays specifically that the Lord would be gracious to help us to worship with our whole hearts and minds, to help our pastor as he preaches, to help us listen and understand, and to help us to respond appropriately. Then, at the end of the service, the assistant pastor (usually) stands and lifts his hands towards the congregation to deliver a blessing. He always asks that the Lord be gracious to us and be with us as we go our separate ways.
The practice of opening and closing our worship times with prayers for God’s grace to be with us is what came to mind when I read Chapter 4. Piper uses Paul’s practice of opening and closing his letters with prayers for God’s grace to be upon his hearers or to be with the hearers as a prime example of future grace in the New Testament. What can we learn from Paul’s repeated pattern of using “Grace be to you” and “Grace be with you” as his bookends? “We learn that grace is not merely a past reality but a future one.”
Everything in the Christian’s life depends on grace. One cannot be a Christian without God’s grace — grace that we recognize as being past grace (more on this in Chapter 5). It is the burden of this book, though, to show that one cannot live the Christian life without also recognizing his or her dependence upon God’s future grace.
In Chapter 2, Piper looks at instances of future grace in the Old Testament. In Chapter 4, he is taking a look at future grace in the New Testament. One of the most beautiful truths he brings out comes in the brief section subtitled, “Future Grace for Suffering Saints.” During trials and suffering, God’s grace can come to us in ways that we least expect. We may be praying for God to move in a particular way and looking for His grace to come from a certain direction, only to realize that when His blessing comes it does so from someone or somewhere else. And we are struck with so much surprise and joy when we finally see it!
Paul expressed it like this, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” He prayed one way, found God’s grace somewhere else, and it made him glad. Piper words it in this way: “In the midst of a grace denied [he] got a grace supplied.”
He will be faithful to supply the grace we need whether our thoughts are focused on the next hour or the next year. In weakness, in persecution, in affliction, or even in untroubled times, we trust in God’s future grace.
If you’re reading along, which New Testament example resonates with you most?
Don’t miss Mark’s post at Discerning Reader.