One day at a time: future provision

I remember reading Corrie Ten Boom speaking of how she learnt about God’s daily provision as she suffered in a concentration camp; she remembered her dad teaching her the lesson.  He used to say to her as a child: ‘when we get on a train, at what point do I give you your ticket?’.  Corrie would reply ‘just before we got on the train’.  Her father would respond: ‘That’s right, I gave it to you when you needed it and not before.  So it is with God.’

This quote from the excellent book ‘Running Scared’ (by Ed Welch) makes a similar point.

We often say ‘God will provide’. These words spell that out a bit more.

 

“Among my assorted fears and anxieties is the fear of suffocation, especially through drowning…What does tomorrow’s manna, future grace, have to do with such fears?  It doesn’t say that I will be spared suffocation.  What it it says is that, if I am called to death by asphyxiation, I will have grace when that time comes.  What does that mean?  I don’t know.  I can’t imagine such grace.  I can’t imagine anything that would make drowning tolerable.  And that is exactly what we should expect:  At this moment I don’t have grace to drown because I am not drowning!  Of course I will worry if I try to envision a drowning scenario.  I will project the grace I have received for today onto tomorrow, not comprehending that I will receive grace as needed tomorrow.

We have to go slowly on this one because it is so essential in our battle with worry and fear.  Let’s say that you are taking a class, and the first thing the instructor does is hand out a test.  As you scan it, you know nothing.  Little signs and symbols, words you have never seen – your anxiety level rises with each question.  You have failed the class before it has begun!

Then the teacher interrupts, “Did I tell you that this will be your final exam?  You don’t have to take this now, and you don’t know any of this now, but trust me.  By the time the class is over you will actually know this.  You’ll be amazed at how well prepared you will be.”

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.  Nothing has really changed. There will be a final exam at the end of the course, and you would fail it if you took it now, but you have no worries.  When the time comes to take the test, you will have received the grace you need to do well.

Are you worried about the future? You are looking at tomorrow as if it was a final exam adn you haven’t yet taken the class.  Of course you panic at the thought. But you haven’t considered that you will go through the class before you have to take the final.  You will be given all the grace you need when you need it.

What form might that grace take?  Be careful here.  When we try to imagine grace in some future situations, we might still be resting in ourselves.  We want specific confirmation that there will be grace and we want to calm ourselves not by trusting in the Gracious One but in seeing the future.  If I am called to drown, I don’t know what grace I will receive.  Having never had it, I can’t imagine it, and since God gives much more than we ask my prediction no doubt would fall far short.  It is enough to know that I will receive grace.  I will know the presence of the Spirit and I will die, or be rescued, in a way that pleases the Lord.”

(Running Scared, p.144-145)

 

 

One day at a time

I’m a (very) slow learner and have got to the end of another day wishing I’d learn the lesson in this quote from a sermon.

“The experience of not losing heart fades and must be renewed day by day. If you are a veteran Christian, you know this from experience. If you are newer in the faith, this is one of the most important things you need to know…

A New Dosage for Today’s Pain

 Be sure you see the word “renewed” in verse 16: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Do you see what this means? It means the refreshing, renewing, strength-giving drink you took in the morning that kept you from losing heart must be taken again the next morning — or night or noon. “Re-new” means something runs out. The bucket leaks. The car runs out of gas. The spiritual metabolism of your life feasted on the renewing meal, and now it needs another one.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Its own trouble. Its own wasting away. Its own destruction. Its own moths and rust and persecution and pain and dying. Each day has its own trouble. And the car of your hope and strength and joy is not meant to run on yesterday’s gas. The metabolism of your spiritual renewal is not meant to run on yesterday’s meal. The relief from your spiritual medicine does not come from yesterday’s dosage. The text says “day by day” the renewal comes! There are no spiritual booster shots that last for ten years. There are no meals designed by God to carry you for a year. There are no gas tanks in the car of your faith big enough never to need refueling. Look at what it says: “our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

Which is why the Bible not only said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” but also said, “The mercies of the Lord are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22–23) — every day, day by day. There is new water flowing from the fountain. New food for today’s spiritual metabolism. New gas to drive today’s car. A new dosage to relieve today’s pain.

Why We Need Renewal Daily

…There is a reason God would design things this way. Don’t get in God’s face and complain to him that he is saving you this way. Don’t murmur against God that the path to heaven takes so many thousands of acts of renewal to keep from losing heart. Don’t tell God you know a better way. You don’t.

This is a conference under the banner, Soli Deo Gloria — to God alone be the glory. And what did verse 7 say: “We have this treasure in jars of clay [jars that need refilling, renewing day by day] to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” God saves us through a thousand battles, a thousand renewals, so that we never, never forget that we are weak and he is our strength. He is our strength, our living water, our food, our gas, our medicine.

And the giver of the strength — the giver of hope and joy — gets the glory. That’s what the apostle Peter said: “Serve by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11). The giver of the strength gets the glory for the service. That’s why we are weak and why we need renewals day by day so as not to lose heart.”

(From ‘The Glory of God in the Sight of Eternity’ by John Piper).

 

 

 

Our suffering is preparing something…

Sometimes the questions press insistently upon us: “is our suffering meaningless?” “Is there anything that could possibly make up for what I’m experiencing now?”

A little phrase in 2 Corinthians 4:17 has so much to encourage us with: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”.

Notice the verse doesn’t say simply that our suffering is leading to something.  Or just that our suffering will end.  The word is stronger: the affliction is doing something.  It is preparing the weightiness of the glory.

So in some mysterious way, our affliction now will contribute to our enjoyment of our eternal future.  It’s hard to imagine quite what that looks like; it is a mystery to us from our time-bound perspective.  But we live on faith in God’s word here that in some strange way the fruits and the lessons are amassing future joy for us.

They are like payments we make now into a pension pot that we will be eternally drawing on.

Here’s the key thing then: our suffering is never ever ever meaningless. Though it feels that way.  God is doing something.  One day that will be revealed.

I stumbled across these truths in this wonderfully encouraging talk called: The Glory of God in the sight of eternity.  By John Piper from 2013.

You can download the transcript but listening to the audio or watching the video is even better.

Listen or watch it here.  You’ll need to set aside about an hour (or do it in 15 minute bursts in the car) but make sure you get all of the way to the last few minutes on John the Baptist.

Here’s a stunning song too with the sermon woven in here.

Irreparable Loss

Came across this really helpful comment on Psalm 131 and the hymn ‘Be still my soul’ (Katrarina Von Schlegel) in ‘Seeing with New Eyes’ by David Powlison (p.83).

“Perhaps irreparable loss is the hardest thing to face.  A loved one dies, and will never again walk through the door to greet you.  You retire, and can never again return to the work into which you poured your talent, time and concern.  You will never again be young. No second chance to do your college years or that failed marriage over again.  Such things devastate us.  Can you quiet yourself? Jesus gives you himself.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Katarina Von Schlegel was the ultimate realist.  Most of the noise in our souls is generated by our attempts to control the uncontrollable.  We grasp after the wind. We rage, fear and finally despair.  But this wise sister focused on an enduring hope. Be still my soul.  All that is hard now will be forgotten amid love’s purest joys. This slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.  (2 Cor 4:17)”

What do those with disabilties owe those without?

The question comes from an article I read a while ago.  It covers both sides.  You can read it here.

It’s a striking way of putting it and addresses one of two potential pitfalls in disability.

The first pitfall is that we don’t let others help us.  We become too proud and exist in a cocoon of self-reliance; we can set ourselves up as ‘us against the world’.  That denies others the blessing of serving us and us of learning to receive.

But we can fall off the horse the other way too if we don’t consider how we can bless others.  Romans 13:8 says: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  That is true for every believer who knows the way that Christ has served us.

That is the pitfall this article is addressing.  Read it, weigh it, pray over it and ask for the mindset change we need from the Lord. Sometimes that will feel like a battle but it’s not beyond our gracious heavenly Father.

 

 

Disability makes a church strong

This article came to my attention recently.  It’s called ‘Disability makes a church strong’ It’s a really really helpful and sensitive reminder.  Those with disabilities and chronic illness can often wonder what we add to a church family and think our part is on the edges.  Surely the strong and fit are those who play the main part, right?

Well, God says in His word:

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” 1 Corinthians 12:22.

I know from knee operations years ago that the cruciate ligament is, well, crucial.  It might look less glitzy than gorgeous hair or dazzling eyes or toned biceps.  But without the ligament, it’s hard to get around.  Overlooked but indispensable.

So apparently those churches without the visibly weak – the struck down, the depressed, the disabled – are actually deficient. So, in just being part of a church family, we are already being used. More than we can imagine.

God’s good design

I came across this 10 minute talk a few years ago but have come back to it recently.

Disability and the world around us can tell us lies; God always tells us truth.  Here is a wonderful Christian sister, Krista Horning, teaching herself and us God’s truth to conquer the lies.

 

 

 

A strange freedom

You can read a striking article here by Katherine Wolf about her experience of a stroke and her reflections, as a former beauty queen, on the beauty of brokenness.

I think she’s putting her finger on something that’s worth exploring. All humans experience brokenness as we live in this sin-broken world but we try to keep it hidden ‘backstage’ in our lives.  The ‘front stage’ we present often looks pretty together.

Disability changes that.  Suddenly we find that the front stage of our lives is visibly broken. We live with a public brokenness that others relate to us through.

Of course, that is harder in many ways.

Nonetheless, Katherine Wolf is saying there’s a strange freedom in that; we don’t have to pretend anymore.  The front-stage brokenness and the back-stage brokenness can now be joined up and lived as a bit more of an integrated whole.

Not what we might have chosen, but it opens up the possibility of a strange freedom all the same.

Maybe we can be a blessing to others through this.