Some people have a life verse. I have a life paragraph. It’s Matthew 6.24-34. Here’s why.
My wife and I were married in July 1981, and knowing I would enter seminary in September, we stayed with friends while we looked for an affordable apartment for us and a job for Jill (We had decided I would be a full-time student for the first semester and look for a part-time job in the Spring.) After three full days with no success, we were tired and perplexed, discouraged and anxious. Apartments were 4 to 5 times more expensive than the ones Jill and I shared with roommates in Brooklyn. Jill left her resume with several dental offices in the area. None called back.
Tired from a long, long day, my wife went to bed early. I reassured her that the Lord would provide. “Everything will be okay,” I said and left the room so she could go to sleep. I went into the living room to pray. “Lord,” I prayed, “I’ve encouraged my wife, now You need to encourage me because I don’t know see how this is going to work out.” Then I did something I never did before, and haven’t done since (and something I don’t recommend, but I was a young believer and God was very gracious.) I took my Bible, set it on its spine and let it fall open. It opened to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6 verses 24-34.
I did not realize it then, but that night God began to teach me how to live by faith in future grace. The phrase, future grace, may not be familiar to you, so let me explain what it means and why I use it. Future Grace is the title of a book written by John Piper. He defines future grace as follows:
- To live by faith in future grace means exercising a robust trust in God’s promises to reward those who trust in Jesus by practicing what preaches.
- The future of future grace refers to God’s promises flowing into your life from the future with the result being that for as long as we live, our trust in God’s promise is revealed by treasuring up treasures in heaven.
- The grace of future grace refers both to God’s unearned and undeserved favor, as well as His power at work in our lives to make good things happen in us and for us.
In a sermon about future grace, Piper describe what it looks like with the following illustration:
Imagine a river. The water in this river, which is flowing toward you with great power, is the grace of God. It’s coming from the future and as it flows into your life, it falls over the waterfall of the present – this is present grace – into a reservoir called past grace. This means past grace reservoir is growing bigger every day, bigger every minute. The more God’s future grace flows over the waterfall of the present into past grace reservoir the more there is to thank God for every minute of your life than you did before. The right response of the heart towards past grace is thankfulness. The right response towards future grace is faith.
“God’s grace is ever cascading over the waterfall of the present from the inexhaustible river of grace coming to us from the future into the ever-increasing reservoir of grace in the past. In the next five minutes, you will receive sustaining grace flowing to you from the future, and you will accumulate another five minutes’ worth of grace in the reservoir of the past. Therefore this grace which moves in power from God to you at a point in time is both past and future. It has already done something for you or in you and therefore is past. And it is about to do something in you and for you, and so it is future — both five seconds away and five million years away.”
So what does this have to do with Matthew 6.24-34? Everything. The more I study the Sermon on the Mount, the more I realize that everything Jesus says after the Disciples’ Prayer is an exposition of how we must live in light of that prayer. In fact, the point of the Sermon on the Mount is to stress the impossibility of practicing what Jesus preaches apart from faith in future grace. Therefore ….
- Without faith in future grace we will not serve God exclusively.
- Without faith in future grace we will not conquer anxiety when and how God will give us our daily bread.
- Without faith in future grace we will not seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
- Without faith in future grace we will not trust God when He says that if we seek His kingdom and His righteousness “all these things will be added to you.”
I don’t remember the prayer I prayed that night in our friend’s living room. I do remember getting a good night’s sleep. By the end of the next day, we still hadn’t found an apartment. Jill still hadn’t found a job. That evening, just after 6pm the phone rang. It was for Jill. It was a local dentist. The dental assistant he’d hired turned down the job because she did not want to commute so far to work. He asked Jill to come to his office at 6pm the next day for an interview. The next evening, I waited in the car and prayed for Jill to do well. Almost an hour and half later, Jill came out to the car. “Well? How did it go?” I asked.
Her face lit up with a big smile and there was sunshine in her voice. “I start a week from Monday!”
“Great!” I said, “Now all we need is a place to live.”
As it happens, the very next day, the Lord provided! We found an apartment about three miles from campus and a short drive to the dental office. It was tiny—two-and-a-half rooms, but the rent, which included utilities, was affordable
Everyone who follows Jesus has a similar story; a defining moment when at the point of great need, we discover we have a great and generous God—a Father in heaven who sees in secret, and who knows what we need before we ask. It is because we have a Father in heaven that Jesus commands us not to be anxious about our life, or about what we will eat, or drink, or wear. It is because our Father promises to provide that we can conquer anxiety by faith in future grace.
You think about that.