Thursday, April 5, 2018

All Grace, Abounding Grace

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.
2 Cor. 9:8, ESV

One of the most helpful repeated ideas I've heard from John Piper is his prayer acronym APTAT, which he calls "practical help for praying for help." To sum it up, the letters stand for the following:
  • A - Admit your weakness and helplessness apart from Christ, in life in general or in a specific challenge.
  • P - Pray for God's help.
  • T - Trust a specific promise from God's Word that applies to that circumstance or to your life as a child of God.
  • A - Act in obedient faith, expecting God to keep His promises and answer your prayers.
  • T - Thank Him for coming through for you.
One of Piper's favorite promises (and mine) which has met his need and calmed his soul in a wide variety of situations is Isaiah 41:10:
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Here are a few of my favorites as well:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live (Psalm 23:6, CSB).
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

...he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).

Another promise has been my frequent spiritual address of late, and that promise is 2 Corinthians 9:8:
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.

As some of you already know, context is key in the interpretation of Scripture. The context of this promise in the Bible's second letter to the church at Corinth is giving. Paul holds up the example of the beleaguered and poor Christians of Macedonia, who "gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the [Jerusalem] saints" (2 Cor. 8:3-4). He challenges the Corinthian church to follow their lead and the pattern of Christ Himself and to give cheerfully and bountifully. In case they might feel that they have no financial margin for such a gift, Paul assures them with the above promise. God supplies the gifts for the good works He appoints.

The most obvious application of this promise is likewise in our giving. When a material need in the kingdom of God presents itselfwhether that be a loved one struggling to make ends meet, a missionary in need of support, disaster relief, a refugee crisis, or a ministry which feeds me day after day and needs sustenance to carry on—if I sense the Spirit calling me to give, but the numbers just don't work out, this is a perfect promise to pray and trust. "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (2 Cor. 9:10). The ministries of people like George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, and Edith and Francis Schaeffer were built on God's faithfulness to this promise. If the Lord wants me to contribute to meeting this need, He will provide something to give; if not, despite my best and most prayerful efforts, I can pray that He raises up others and trust that prayer is the "good work" He intends for me right then.

In addition, the evidence in the text implies that this promise exceeds mere material grace for monetary good works. Paul goes out of his way to pile up adjectives of completion: all, all, all, all, every. He adds to that words of plenty: abound, sufficiency, abound. "All grace," "all sufficiency," "all things," "all times, "every good work"—if Paul takes such pains to emphasize the breadth of God's generous enabling, why would we limit the application to financial giving?

Be encouraged, dear Crumbles. If you, like me, wake up most mornings with no need of anyone to convince you to admit your helplessness and pray for God's help, here is a promise to trust. Whether you are overwhelmed with your own financial need, the pressures of shepherding a struggling child, seemingly intractable health problems, caregiving demands, temptation that seems impossible to resist for one more day, conflict and stresses at work, or marital difficulties, God is able. He is able to make all grace abound to you in your need. He is able to supply you with all sufficiency in all those things at all times. He is able to make you abound in every good work, and that includes the daily and mundane every bit as much as the lofty and exotic. He does not stint in His grace to us so that we might not lack in the overflow of His grace to others. He will give what we need to do what He wills as we rely on and abide in Him.

Courage, dear hearts!

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