Thursday, January 17, 2008

Discipline, Grace, Endurance and the Assurance of Adoption

“The highest perfection of the godly in this life is an earnest desire to make progress.”
– John Calvin, quoted in Calvin’s Wisdom, p. 243

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
– Matthew 24:13

“…perseverance is the only path to the prize of final glory, and …what perseverance requires is a sustained effort day in and day out – a single-minded, whole-hearted, self-denying, flat-out commitment to praising the Father through the Son as long as life lasts.”
- J.I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness, p. 242

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
- Hebrews 12:7

“And, indeed, it is the nature of true grace to grow up with difficulties.”
– Richard Sibbes, Works, vol. 2, p. 122

Judy and I had lunch with a dear friend this week. Though a Christian for many years, it’s only been recently that this woman has come to an understanding of God’s sovereignty in her own life. For years her circumstances seemed to be the arbitrary vacillations of cruel fate. God may have been good, but He was constrained by forces beyond Himself to stand by wringing His hands in impotence. With a life of ease that may be tolerable, but for years her life has been characterized by severe affliction. Recently something has changed, and not with her circumstances, but with the posture of her heart towards God. As we listened to her talk of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness in her being pressed from every direction there was a sweet disposition towards the Savior. She could have become angry and bitter. After all, if God is sovereign; couldn’t He have put an end to all of this senseless suffering? Is this any way for God to treat one of His own? Rather than affliction producing the bitter fruit of anger toward God for her circumstances, she instead exuded the sweet fragrance of love for the Savior and gospel-oriented perseverance. She had apprehended the fact that Christ had died for her sins in totality, and whatever trial came her way was simply God sovereignly confirming and affirming His love for her in the crucible of affliction. To paraphrase the writer of Hebrews; affliction has become the validation and confirmation of her birthright. God was confirming His adoption of her as His daughter in the most severe difficulty. Would she trade circumstances? Not on your life. She is committed to persevering in this trial and glorifying God. She is planning on finishing the race well. The words of the Psalmist has confirmed her experience, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”(63:8). In the midst of these ‘light and momentary’ afflictions she has determined to glorify God. When I checked my email this morning there was a note written by her early this morning, thanking me for something I’d done (which was actually done by someone else!), and asking for new and creative ways that she might serve the church. In her affliction she is looking for ways to serve others! Amazing! This is nothing short of the grace of God evident in this sister’s life. This is nothing short of the adoptive love of the Father being confirmed in the bearing of good fruit. This is nothing short of gospel perseverance coupled with fragrance of love for the Savior and love for the church. I found myself encouraged and challenged by our interaction. I found myself provoked to rejoice in my (much less significant) afflictions, more determined to persevere in whatever God ordains, more thankful for God’s sustaining hand in trial, and a desire to look for increased ways to love and serve others. I’m blessed by her humble example of modeling gospel perseverance in affliction.

I'm grateful for the grace of God in the lives of those at COR.

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