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    John Piper’s Future Grace: Chapter 3

    February 9, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    This third chapter is the first true “application” chapter, and let me just say that I loved it. I still am a little on the fence concerning whether or not I agree with Piper that gratitude ought not be the primary motivation for obedience. Sometimes, I really think I agree with him, and then we’ll find a verse that seems to say otherwise. Or, like today in Pilgrim’s Progress, I’ll read a passage that tells me that past Christians really did see gratitude as a motivator, and falling into sin as a symptom of forgetting what we have to be thankful for.

    Ahem.

    But, I must be honest and say that I do think the typical evangelical, influenced by the disintegrated thinking of Dispensationalism (I speak here from experience), has little grasp on what it means to walk in faith to cling to the promises and character of God. We are a forgetful people, indeed, and what we forget are the Words of Life. Francis Chan says something similar to John Piper in his book Crazy Love:

    There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune. No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget.

    Most of us know that we are supposed to love and fear God; that we are supposed to read our Bibles and pray so that we can get to know Him better; that we’re supposed to worship Him with our lives. But actually living it out is challenging.

    Later, he again echoes Piper, who believes that we are forgetting (or ignoring) certain passages of Scripture, which in turn causes a lack of faith (and therefore a lack of walking in faith). Chan walks his reader through the characteristics of God (He is holy, eternal, etc.). Why?

    We need…reminders about God’s goodness. We are programmed to focus on what we don’t have, bombarded multiple times throughout the day with what we need to buy that will make us feel happier or sexier or more at peace. This dissatisfaction transfers over to our thinking about God. We forget that we already have everything we need in Him. (emphasis mine)

    This is the foundation of Piper’s Future Grace: we already have everything we need in Him.

    This third chapter, then, is called Faith in Future Grace vs. Anxiety. I can’t possibly go through it all here, but I highly suggest reading the chapter yourself, especially if you struggle with anxiety, or its “associates,” as Piper call them–

    Think for a moment how many different sinful actions and attitudes come from anxiety. Anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting and greed and hoarding and stealing. Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable and abrupt and surly. Anxiety about relationships can make you withdrawn and indifferent and uncaring about other people. Anxiety about how someone will respond to you can make you cover over the truth and lie about things. So if anxiety could be conquered, a mortal blow would be struck to many other sins.

    Piper shares with us many glorious Scripture passages, reminding us that we really can cast our cares upon Him, for He really does care for us.

    I think the most important point Piper makes in his chapter is that anxiety is not a sin:

    Psalm 56:3 (RSV) says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in thee.” Notice: it does not say, “I never struggle with fear.” Fear strikes, and the battle begins. So the Bible does not assume that true believers will have no anxieties. Instead the Bible tells us how to fight when they strike…It does not say, you will never feel any anxieties. It says, when you have them, cast them on God.

    Piper spends most of the chapter walking through Matthew 6:25-33. The question becomes one of faith–do we really believe God’s words? Do we really believe that He cares for the birds, and that He cares for us more than them? Do we really believe He will take care of us?

    Building Faith While Mothering
    One of the questions I find myself repeatedly asking of the text is how this might change or enhance my interactions with my children. Piper mentions throughout the book that his parents were of the faith-building kind, exhorting Him to cling to truth and walk in it, and I keep thinking that that is the sort of mother I want to be, too.

    I got an opportunity yesterday, when I encountered a child freaking out about his schedule, getting his lessons done, and generally not dealing well with the fact that I have been sick. He had already decided that tomorrow would be worse than today. I realized that the root of all of this complaining and discontent was really anxiety. This child takes comfort in a predictable schedule, and when it is gone (or even modified), he experiences a shock.

    So I prayed, and then I said, “Do you know that the Bible says that God’s mercies are new every morning?”

    Blank stare.

    “Do you believe that?”

    Si calls this new technique “causing a crisis of faith.”

    From there proceeded a discussion about worrying, about how each day has enough trouble of its own, about how God gives us mercy and grace for each day, about how we, even when we are little, can cast our cares upon God.

    This morning at the end of Circle Time, I dismissed the children to their chores and independent work. But before they went, I tried to choose a promise or exhortation of the Lord that fit their situation. To one, I repeated the promises from the previous day, that we are to cast our cares upon the Lord, and explained how that might be done. To the little girls, I reminded them that it is a glory to them to overlook an offense and perhaps they do not need to come and tattle every time someone bumps into them when they are playing.

    I felt really empowered, for God’s Word is much more effective than mine.

    So I look forward to reading more of Piper’s book, not just for my sake, but to improve upon my ignorance, that I might help my children walk in faith, too.

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    6 Comments

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts March 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Mystie, I like what you said about gratitude being a “why” and a “what” and faith being a “how.”

    I don’t like made-up terms, either. I feel like rather than adding to the conversation, I end up spending entire books trying to wrap my mind around a single new invented term.

  • Reply Mystie March 18, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Is it just me, or did Piper spend 2 pages recounting his *gratitude* for God’s deliverance, which gave him reason to continue to hope and trust in God?

    Philippians 4:6 links thankfulness as the antidote to anxiety, along with prayer.

    I think I realized during this chapter that the attack on a *wrong* understanding of gratitude in the first two chapters obscured what Piper’s essential purpose is. This is more of a devotional meditation than a theological treatise. I think I can now go back and reread this chapter and get his message out of it in the spirit it is intended; I was frustrated that his argumentation was not tight, precise, or cohesive.

    Gratitude is the *reason* we have for our faith and trust. Gratitude *does* bind us to Christ, we are made his slaves, he has purchased us. Faith is the ‘how’ and gratitude is both a ‘why’ and a ‘what’ (being thankful is a good work required of us).

    And I’m still sore that he’s tossing out his own made-up terms left and right before defining and proving them.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 11, 2011 at 12:55 am

    I must say that I feel like this shouldn’t be so revolutionary for me. I distinctly remember my own mother using Scripture to help my anxiety-prone sister. But for some reason it hasn’t easily translated into my own mothering. Something about this book is helping me, though I can’t put my finger on it. I suppose it could be as simple as that I find it is something I can apply in my own life, making it easy to apply in my children’s lives, too, as they are my intimate companions…

  • Reply Harmony February 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I too love your applications for teaching your children. The word of God is living and powerful! Thank you.

  • Reply Trisha February 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Brandy,
    I especially love your application of what you’ve been reading to the daily privilege of discipling our Blessings for His glory! Wonderful!

  • Reply Pam... February 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I love it when moms embrace their calling. Using God’s Word often in our home; yes! I get so sidetracked.

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