Future Grace

An Introduction to “Four What It’s Worth”

four what it's worth

For a season I feel led to scribble some pastoral encouragements from the Word to you. The last couple years have been challenging, and I sense from the Lord that hard times don’t just leave hard spaces. They also leave empty spaces. The Lord impressed on me the need to fill those spaces with a spiritually-focused, gospel-oriented, encouraging presence. 

The title of this short pastoral weekly column is Four What It’s Worth. The ‘Four’ represents the reasons for writing (and I like a good play-on-words). So, what are those reasons? 

  • One: I want to offer Biblical truth in a world of muddled reality. 
  • Two: I want to encourage our embrace and enjoyment of God’s grace as a church body. 
  • Three: I want to offer hope in a cynical and skeptical age. 
  • Four: For reasons beyond my reckoning, my 15 year-old sons, and many of their compadres in our youth group, find the number four to be hilarious. It is now a legendary inside joke between them. To that end, if my use of Four gets around the youth group and inspires them to read these musings, then I am all FOUR that. 

Future Grace

We begin with future grace.

Years ago, a book that heavily shaped me was John Piper’s Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God. Piper’s main argument is this: God’s past grace through Christ assures his future grace for us. Put another way, God perfectly kept his promises to us in the past,  with the high point being the work of Jesus, and as a result God will always keep his promises to us in the future. What does that truth mean for us? 

First, it means I can obey God’s word. My obedience is premised on God’s Spirit keeping his promise to empower me, even when I feel weak, rebellious, or unsure. I step out in faith because God promises to meet me in that future moment. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells me as much: 

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Second, it means I can face fear. I hate the unknown, especially if I sense the future has trouble – criticism, shame, disapproval, or failure. Interestingly, my issues of fear don’t reside in physical risk. That goes back to my personal story. For you, it may be different. However it plays out, we all need the confidence of God’s future grace for us because I think we all struggle with following God into a the future, which always contains an element of risk and the unknown. And yet, God’s word is clear:  

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. - Philippians 2:12 

We work because God is ultimately at work in us. Every command is a promise in disguise. Every call of God is an avenue of grace.

Let me illustrate. In the summer of 1989, I went to a Young Life camp called Woodleaf. The week’ activities included a high ropes course. I would not say I have a major fear of heights, but neither do I rock climb, slack line over ravines, or take joy in risky endeavors that involve height. On these courses, you are in a harness, and someone trained has you on the other end. For most of the course the security of the harness, rope, and faithful holder kept me peaceful and having fun. But, at the conclusion of the course you must climb up a ladder on a tall tree, about 40 feet, to a slight platform. A modest jump out from the platform was a bar. It looked like only Michael Jordan could reach it, but it really was just a modest jump out. The final hurdle is to jump out from the platform and grab the bar, at which point you are dangling…but you are also being held. Then, of course, you have to let go, trust the harness, the rope, and the person holding you, and you are lowered to the forest floor. I believed any lingering on that platform meant disaster. I trusted the harness. I trusted the bar was not that far out and that the average person could reach it. And, most of all, I trusted the person holding me. So, I climbed, I mounted the platform, and as soon as I got the all-clear, I jumped. Low and behold, I caught the bar, and people cheered! I was lowered to a reception filled with high-fives. But not everyone experience the ropes course this way. Those who lingered (one being my cabin mate), froze, shivered with fear, sometimes cried, and some climbed the ladder back down. Which was OK. No shame. But the glory of knowing the jump was very doable – that the rope, harness, and holder were trustworthy –  was a missed opportunity.

I jump into the future because God is there to meet me at the bar.

He always is. He always will be. That is true for you, brothers and sisters. You are going to be on a lot of platforms in life, especially when you are seeking to obey God and His word. Often you don’t have the choice to climb back down. And that’s actually a good thing. Don’t jump with dread. Don’t jump with human confidence. Jump because the God of promise is going to be there to catch you. And, when you catch the bar, He gets the glory, and you get gladness in Him. 

I would encourage you to ponder the reality of Future Grace. And, if you want the full unpacking, you can always order it on Amazon.

Yours in Jesus,

Jay Thomas, Lead Pastor