18 July 2007

The Sufficiency of God's Grace

by Phil Johnson

lijah's experience illustrates how God can give abundant grace without necessarily bestowing abundant wealth. Sometimes He chooses to show grace through the most extreme kind of poverty. And that is why when Elijah's brook dried up, God moved Elijah to a widow's home in Zarephath, where by most standards, things were even worse for him. He was living in a hostile, pagan land; he was utterly dependent on the hospitality of one poverty-stricken widow; and there were never enough provisions on hand for more than one meal. At Cherith he at least had regular delivery of food by the ravens—here it was just the paltry remnants of a poor widow's dwindling supply of oil and flour.

The very name of the town, Zarephath, gives a hint about what kind of experience this was for Elijah. "Zarephath" means "smelting furnace" or "cauldron"—the place where precious metal is heated to a white-hot temperature in order to remove impurities. This was part of the painful sanctifying process that would make Elijah fit for his future days of ministry.

To the human eye, it seemed things were getting worse for him, not better. But God gives sufficient grace, just enough to keep us dependent on Him. And the grace that keeps us trusting on a daily basis is a greater grace than an outpouring of material things that might make us forget how dependent we are on God's provision. As we noted in one of those previous posts about Elijah, that's why our Lord teaches us to trust Him for daily bread—not for a surplus of comforts and commodities.

Proverbs 30:8-9 says, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain."

Don't ever get the idea that wealth and material prosperity are signs of the Lord's blessing. The truth is sometimes just the opposite.

Addenda:
  1. Thanks to Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost for the honor (we think) of being listed in his top ten blogs.
  2. Pecadillo tells me he thinks the cat theme isn't working. He wants all cats banned permanently from the blog. (He's been telling me this for days. It's a mantra I've heard so often, I've given it a name: "The Prayer of Jpeg.") Pecadillo's already got Wrigley on his side. I'm ambivalent. We've got a LOT more cat images already in the pipeline. But I'll get rid of them all without compunction if a majority of Pyro Regulars share Pecadillo's strong distaste for the feline imagery.
  3. I was going to post something on Postmodernism and the Emerging Church today. But after the past week's run of posts, I figured the blog could use something that would generate less heat and fewer comments. So I'll post the bit about the Emerging Furore on Monday or thereabouts. Meanwhile, let me remind our Emerging lurkers: While postmodernism's rejection of certainty may be true for you, it isn't true for everyone.

Phil's signature

51 comments:

Even So... said...

Pecadillo's already got Wrigley on his side.

Then that settles it…

To wit, from the bottom of the original PyroManiac blog…

Only Phil's beagle, Wrigley, always agrees with Phil.

So there you have it…

Qjay said...

"While postmodernism's rejection of certainty may be true for you, it isn't true for everyone"

har har...

But I always thought that "[o]nly the Sith deal in absolutes" - are you telling me that Obi is wrong? You are crushing my dreams of being a Reformed Jedi knight here...

Paul said...

Thanks for a much needed lesson on God's grace, in times of poverty. Your commentary on this incident in Elijah's life is most helpful.

BTW: Last year, after attending the Men of Kent conference, you indicated that you would post on the state of Evangelism in the UK. many of us would be interested to read your comments!

Kim said...

While postmodernism's rejection of certainty may be true for you, it isn't true for everyone.

*snicker snicker*

thebluefish said...

Yeh. What is your take on the UK scene. That would be good to read. I could live without the cats.

DJP said...

But I always thought that "[o]nly the Sith deal in absolutes" ... which, I'm sure you know, gjay, is both classic, and hysterical, since it is such an absolute statement.

Well, I'm a regular Pyro reader, Phil, and I like the cat graphics a lot. And while I don't pack heat, the ticketing system at work is named HEAT, so... so there. And once I "get" Photoshop, if that happens, there will be more.

centuri0n said...

I hate cats, which is why the cat graphics are so funny.

I say we maintain the theme until July 31, and then switch to bunnies or duckies or something.

Which, BTW, is why Carter's ranking of us at #9 with the blog with the persecution complex doesn't make any sense: not only do we have great content, but we are also neither monocolor nor humorless.

Let that take a walk around the blogosphere.

Peter said...

My vote is for the cats. And my cat, Calliope, also votes for the cats. I am a regular reader, and I thank God for your blog. And I forgive those who rashly say they "hate" cats. :)

donsands said...

"The truth is sometimes just the opposite."

The Lord told the young ruler to sell all he had, and give it to the poor, and then follow Him.

If he would have, he wouldn't have walked away sad.

Good post. How long did "Cats" run on Broadway? Perhaps you could try and break that record.

Libbie said...

Cats are good. They show both your fluffy side, and a boyish need to see cuteness subverted. I vote the cats stay.

And I love that proverb, too. A useful puncture of all sorts of unbalanced theologies, there.

Andrew said...

I'm not a big cat fan, but I do want to see what you have got in the pipeline. Come on Phil post them!

Kim said...

Frank, the fact that you are not a cat person somehow doesn't come as a surprise to me.

BugBlaster said...

I agree with Pecadillo. No, really.

Dan Paden said...

I don't hate cats. Rather like them, as a matter of fact. Oven-roasted at 300 degrees for a couple of hours and garnished with some parsley and lemon slices.

Marc Backes said...

Flamers (Don't know that it's the best synonum for Pyros, but at 8 in the morning, the best I could come up with...),

Meow Mix has to stay....the images have been a real hootenanny...

I also agree whole heartedly with the bunnies and duckies idea....maybe chipmunks or prarie dogs would be cool too...

Animals bring out the "emergent" in all of us...they need to stay to keep us "balanced"...

Carla Rolfe said...

Very good post today, so thank you for that. As far as the kitty pics go, I say keep them. I'd say "purr-dy please" but that would be really cheesy.

:-)

steve said...

I'm not a cat person, but I wouldn't just ban the cats outright, nor would I run a bunch of them over a succession of days. Mix the cat graphics in with all the others, and surprise us with your creativity.

It's commendable for Pyromaniacs to be known for its strong stand on the Emergent Church, cessationism, and matters pertinent to the faith, but cats?

centuri0n said...

Paden:

I think the culturally-literate allusion would be, "I like them with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

david rudd said...

This was part of the painful sanctifying process that would make Elijah fit for his future days of ministry.

good thought. something useful for today for me.

While postmodernism's rejection of certainty may be true for you, it isn't true for everyone.

are you sure about that?

[o]nly the Sith deal in absolutes

i'm pretty sure the Sith represent evangelical fundamentalism anyway... OWK and little green man seem to be enlightened Eastern gurus, right? (and the Christ figure is a Sith...)

Dr Mike said...

Ownership of dogs and cats should be a mandatory requirement for getting married: every guy should have to own a cat for a few years and every girl should have to own a dog.

Reasoning? Men are like dogs and women are like cats.

Dogs are happy, eager, ready to go at any moment, nudging, wagging; scratching, farting, licking, and always sticking their heads out of the car window. You have to be careful not to make eye-contact with a dog or else he'll rush over and start bugging you to do something with him. When you hit the door after work, he's right there to welcome and follow your every move, especially when you don't want him to bother you.

Cats are independent, strong-willed, and undomesticated; fickle, finicky, won't come when you want them, and have to be approached indirectly. If you want a cat to sit on your lap, you have to ignore it; if you show any interest, it walks away with a look of disdain and power on its face. When you come home from work, a cat will meet you at the door and immediately flip its tail in the air and walk away.

There's a lot more that could be said, but you get the idea.

For a guy to have a cat and a girl to have a dog is the best premarital counseling anyone could ever have.

jazzycat said...

Keep the cats coming please....

candyinsierras said...

The kitties are good comic relief. Besides who is Pec to complain. He did feature the ugliest dog in the world on his blog.

I vote that you move from kitties to road kill, not far removed from some of your culinary delights.

BTW the series on Elijah are timely and excellent.

LeeC said...

Gah, need to be logged in to delete the above post. Just perused the written commentary, way out of line.

candyinsierras said...

Frank. Your last comment really made me laugh.

DT said...

I vote for the cats to stay, and I'm a dog person saying this!

Rhology said...

I love cats which is why I dig the graphics of cats in bizarre, humorous, and humiliating poses. Like stuffonmycat. Only a cat lover can have such a particular appreciation for things like that.

SJ Camp said...

Phil
Very good post today brother.

"And the grace that keeps us trusting on a daily basis is a greater grace than an outpouring of material things that might make us forget how dependent we are on God's provision." Bingo.

Interpreting the grace of God through the material is a poor hermeneutic. In our day, this skewed thinking manifests itself in the prosperity gospel. The health and wealth gospel is nothing but a stench in the nostrils of our holy God.

If you haven't seen it yet, here is John Piper on this very issue. It is one of the most powerful statements I have heard to date...

I have recently written a song to what your post speaks. The chorus says:

He is enough in life and death
In joy and sorrow, toil and rest
Complete in Christ, I am content
Jesus my Lord He is enough
Jesus my Lord He is enough


Thank you again brother for this post. It's always good to read your insights from the Word of God.

Yours for the Master's use,
Steve
2 Cor. 3:5

Tim said...

More cats please.. Cats everywhere.
Cats should invade everthing.

Cindy said...

dr. Mike.........

Interesting reasoning and quite comical, although not necessarily true. If you give cats plenty of affection and love, they will love you back and want to play with you and spend time with you. If you don't give them love and affection, they will not return it. They will stand aloof.

Cats make you work for their affection. Trust me, I know, because I have had cats all my life.

lordodamanor said...

Kill the cats. Stuff them with bird shot. They make great door stops.

Cat's kill the birds. They impregnate the foundations of my house with their foul tinkle. They kill my flowers and strawberrys. All in all, I like cats....to stay in their own yards. We have a leash ordinance here which no one obeys. If my wife would not kill me, I would trap the varmits, and have them incarcerated. Though I would rather they be incinerated. They're cute though!

"While postmodernism's rejection of certainty may be true for you, it isn't true for everyone."

hahahahahahahahahahaha, stop it, you're killing me. But, then again, death is just an opinion....

"My strength is made perfect in your weaknesses." Thank God.

Blessed are the poor.... Poor is an interesting word, basicly meaning naked, laying the street, belly popping poverty....

Humble, can be characterized as the same, and essentially means to be crushed to powder. So, we have this formula, judge rightly (truth required), love mercy (truth required), and walk humbly (truth required). If our pride gets in the way of acknowledging our depravity, God will surely humble us by our circumstances. Woe to those whose wealth is their strength whom God will not humble, they shall be crushed without remedy. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted...because of their great poverty, no matter how rich they have been made by God, eh Job?

SolaMeanie said...

Phil,

First, thanks for the reminder about God's grace, something I need to remember every day.

Second, I happen to like cats. I think you should tell Pecadillo that, for him to have any chance of having a voice in removing things from TeamPyro, he needs to actually post something on TeamPyro. No copies and pastes from his blog allowed.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go into hiding to avoid arrest. (winkgrin)

Rachel Pierson said...

Excellent post! Pertinent. I hope that I will recognize God's hand in the scarcity as well as the plenty. A good good lesson in living in the moment, trusting God, and for eternity, depending on Him.

Did I comment just to be able to put in my two cents about cats? Maybe. I read you often, love Spurgeon, often quietly say "Amen," but never comment.

Good work in contending for the Gospel, and lifting up Jesus Christ.

The thing about cats is that people either hate them or love them, and very few people have any balance what so ever about them. There was recently a news story about a woman who instigated a rescue of 800 cats on a truck heading for a stew pot in China. Now she is trying to adopt out 800 cats, many of which are wild. No balance.

I would vote for balance with the cat graphics, but if that is impossible, go for it whole hog. Fear no man!

jbuck21 said...

"You are crushing my dreams of being a Reformed Jedi knight here..."

qjay - way to reach for the stars, brother.

I say kill the cat images (even with the 'prayer of jpeg' line which was exceptional). Go with something a bit more pyro-themed...say,bats...ravens...kimodo dragons, whatever....

Caleb White said...

Cats on fire.

[That is all.]

Sewing said...

Phil, you wrote on a hugely important topic today:

"Don't ever get the idea that wealth and material prosperity are signs of the Lord's blessing. The truth is sometimes just the opposite."

A thousand and one amens to that. Would it have been that the Holy Spirit had moved you to write a lot more on this. How many millions of people are confusing good health and material prosperity with spiritual blessing, and thus also mistaking poor health and poverty (or just getting by) with divine disfavour?

Now, someone in the blogosphere needs to coin a name for the phenomeon of a blogger taking his or her own post off-topic by following up that bit of good old-time gospel with stuff about cats and a jab at postmodernism (I get the joke, though, ha ha).

As for cats, I love 'em, but I'm allergic to them. My wife comes from South Korea, however, where cats are seen as somehow inherently creepy and evil. (In all my trips there, I think I've only ever seen maybe one domestic cat.) Your selection of images certainly fits right into that meme.

Sewing said...

Heh, only one tie score in that whole top-100 list of blogs, and it's BHT and PyroManiacs! Someone has a twisted sense of humour....

wordsmith said...

Keep the cats - ditch the dogs.

(How's that for alliteration?)

wordsmith said...

In case you need more feline inspiration:

here
or
here

Phil Johnson said...

Sewing: "Now, someone in the blogosphere needs to coin a name for the phenomeon of a blogger taking his or her own post off-topic. . ."

I think there's already a term for that: total depravity.

Sewing: "Would it have been that the Holy Spirit had moved you to write a lot more on this."

Never fear. There will be more than one follow-up to this post.

Sewing: "How many millions of people are confusing good health and material prosperity with spiritual blessing, and thus also mistaking poor health and poverty (or just getting by) with divine disfavour?"

In my original draft of this post, I had a couple of paragraphs pointing out how far out of sync with Scripture the health, wealth, and propserity teachers are. But I edited that part out for two reasons: 1) I figured the application of this principle should be obvious; and 2) I didn't want to be accused (again) of lumping all charismatics together by singling out the obvious, easy targets.

Evidently, a rule is now in play that if you express any disagreement with charismatic doctrine or practice, you must explicitly notice and acknowledge that there are lots of otherwise solid, Reformed non-cessationists these days—and if you don't do that, you are fair game for being caricatured as someone who is a convincing, nearly irrefutable argument against the truth of Christianity itself. And that, I am given to understand, is the "gentle" answer to the cessationist position.

(Even though charismatic doctrine was producing fakes and charlatains in droves and giving them a shield to hide behind for several generations before a single otherwise solid, Reformed non-cessationist threw his lot in with them.)

lawrence said...

so who was the "otherwise solid, Reformed, non-cessationist"? and for the record, I hate cats. You should keep them, but all the pics should of them burning, falling off cliffs and being eaten by dogs.

Kent Brandenburg said...

This is an extremely important truth of the grace of God. I can't help but think of James 5, where what gets us through the time of suffering is that our reward is not during this life but after. It seemed that believers at one time had a more common understanding of this, that is, that we are living for eternity, not for the here and now.

Dr Mike said...

Cindy wrote:

"Interesting reasoning and quite comical, although not necessarily true. If you give cats plenty of affection and love, they will love you back and want to play with you and spend time with you. If you don't give them love and affection, they will not return it. They will stand aloof.

"Cats make you work for their affection."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that just like a woman? This is what guys need to understand, especial your last statement.

You see, you do agree with me!

BugBlaster said...

Cats are useful My cat was beside me on the front seat and helped me talk my way out of a ticket after I had missed stopping in a school zone. The police officer let me off with a tear in her eye when she told me she had just put down her dog. Oh did I mention that the cat was dead in a box?

Robert N. Landrum said...

The truth is usually the opposite.
My faith is increasing more and more as respects the content of this post. Amen!

bloggernaut said...

I love the kitties...don't ban the kitties.

Has anyone read Mark DeVine's blogs about the emergent/missional church in the last 3 months? Try it:
www.theologyprof.com

In particular, read Ed Stetzer's paper that is linked under _Read and Heed_.

Is the joke like one similar to two men talking about a certain postmodernist. One says to the other , "All postmodern thinkers are hard to get along with." To which a postmodern sitting within earshot replies, "No, we are not!"

"You see?" says the first man.


You certainly can tell a Pyromaniac, but you can't tell him much?

Ric said...

Can we kill the cats (figuratively)? They are starting to freak me out!

I'm a dog person! ;)

Dan Paden said...

Frank, am I to assume from your use of my surname that you've given up on trying to keep track of multiple Dans?

P.D. Nelson said...

Well having been a Catman all my life I'd have to side on those who wish the cat pics to continue.

And do please continue with the emergent postmodern stuff. Not to mention more of Dan's stuff on what to point our unbelieving friends too. Love that stuff on objective truth.

Oh and make Frank rest up and stay healthy.

Libbie said...

Pyromaniacs - where we find the tribe of Dan...

David said...

Cat's live to serve and protect us. Pec doenst like the competition?

Tartanarmy said...

Dr Mike is so right!

I live in a house full of females, The Wife, three daughters and two female cats!

Both boys have flown the coup and I am the only male left!

These two female cats treat me badly. They seem to respect me, but never seem to let me get too close, cept when they want something, then they rub up against my legs continously.

Strange creatures, but I want a dog. A big dumb dog is all I really want. A male one at that!

Mark