14 November 2008

Sufficient.

by Phil Johnson

Today, Lord willing, I will finish a project I have been working on for several months. (I can't wait to have the stress of it lifted from my shoulders.) This weekend will be extremely busy, and then Monday I am leaving for a week-long trip that will take me to Bradenton, Atlanta, and Durham. So I don't have a lot of time to write this morning. Hence this short bagatelle. If you want something meatier, be sure to listen to Dan's sermon (below).




ast year I did a lengthy series on the life of Elijah, including a study of his ministry to the widow of Zarephath.

While meditating on Luke 4:26 recently, I was thinking about that passage again, and it prompted an additional thought:

When Elijah arrived, that woman and her little boy were on the verge of starvation. She was gathering a few sticks for fuel for what she was convinced would be the last meal she and her son would have before they died. But God graciously provided for the needs of that widow, her son, and Elijah for many weeks after that—not by giving them an overflow of abundance, but by miraculously providing a new handful of flour and a small portion of oil each day, so that their supplies, while never in surplus, were always sufficient for their daily needs.

That is a perfect picture of how God normally dispenses His grace. He gives us sufficient grace without giving us a surplus of grace. "His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is [His] faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). "He giveth more grace" (James 4:6)—but He dispenses His grace in accord with our present needs—often in handfuls and small measures, and rarely in superabundant portions. But the grace He gives is always sufficient.

Furthermore, sometimes, when God does want to lavish grace upon us in superabundant measure, the prelude to that is a dark and difficult turn of providence. Suffering is the pathway to glory. Hardship is the container into which God pours His grace. The larger the vessel, the greater the measure of grace.

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27 comments:

Kwoods Blog said...

In this Blog you mentioned a word that has been in a center of my Sunday School attention, It is the Word "STRESS". I have been speaking about it myself, having five children three in which have a variety of medical and developemental disorders, life can be stressfull, but the ROOT cause of it has been the issue and the ROOT ANSWER has been the problem. Most of us who read the word of GOd Like you find the Joy in reading the word to DE-STress and listening to REAL PRAISE Music that is in line with the Word of GOd and Spirit of Truth Jesus Christ; that is the way to find your way out of a stress filled and anxiety twisted time.
My point is this, when you have a small group liek the SS class that I am in of 16(married couples) who on the whole know the word of God and put into practise(Pharasically) then through out the week freak out and then the next week spend the entire class time enterupting the class lesson so they can talk about there stress filled life instead of going to the master what do you do? I fot one have said it several times in a years span to get on your knees. in fact we are currently studying Charles Stanley's Living The Extraordinary Life" Which speaks on this, But time and time again it goes back to the same ole same ole, the classI am in turns from a Bible Study to a group session. It is all that I can do to not walk out or is that what I should do? or am i rambling to the wrong guy? My pastor told me to keep a trying and smiled and hung up the phone. i turn to to Phil because I find out more reading your blog and the others who right here than in my own Church. Please forgive me if this posting is out of the blue and just plain strange.

Everyday Mommy said...

Amen, Phil. We must remember that the church languishes in times of plenty and flourishes in times of trial. A seed germinates and grows in the dark soil, below the surface, out of the sun's rays. This does not mean the sun has disappeared...it is simply unseen by the seed.

Brian Roden said...

Phil,

Thanks for the reminder that the widow didn't suddenly have a storeroom full of oil and flour, but each day she had enough to prepare the next meal. Kind of like the manna in the wilderness -- collect enough for a day because if you hoarde it, it will rot.

I keep hoping for some massive influx of income in my home-based sideline business, but I'm learning about God's faithfulness as he sends me just enough business each month to pay the bills. Sometimes it doesn't come in until right before they're due, but He hasn't been late yet.

Sharon said...

kwoods blog: My prayers are with you during this difficult time. The only encouragemant I can offer is from God Himself: Proverbs 3:5-6, and 1 Peter 5:6-7. Be faithful. The Lord will reward your perseverance.

A Musician by Grace

Philip said...

I'm not sure I agree quite with you, Phil. I understand that God's grace is 'sufficient'-i.e. we have every adequacy for life and godliness-but the new covenant scriptures indicate abundance of blessing in Christ. Not mere 'hanging on' grace, but abundance. Grace upon grace. I'm thinking Rom5v20,21,Rom8v32,Jn10v10,Mat7v11. And they encourage us in faith to not think and expect meagrely. That God is not unwilling to lavish grace. While I understand that God is sovereign and good,and so will not bless us with what's not good for us,nevertheless I think his overruling grace concerning things not good in themselves is the bottom line,so to speak. We are to think of his sovereignty positively and not in such a way that it limits a conception of his abundant grace. Just thinking not loud.

Stefan said...

Phil, your lesson from that series has stuck with me ever since last year. It is so fundamental, and so directly applicable to our real, daily, flesh-and-blood lives, and our relationship with the Him Who is the Fount of Every Blessing.

In fact, just last night in Bible study, when sharing prayer requests, I asked my group to thank God for the daily grace He does provide to me, in the midst of incredible challenges right now at work, balanced against my responsibilities as a husband and member of my church, plus hours-long commutes each day.

As for a superabundant blessing, well, for many believers, that will not come in its fullness until they are in the living presence of our Lord and Saviour.

If, in this world before we pass into the next, we receive from God anything beyond what is minimally sufficient for us to live and testify to His glory, then we should count ourselves undeserving, and thank Him for His gracious providence.

Stefan said...

When we consider the conditions some of our brothers and sisters around the world live in—utterly abject poverty; unimaginable persecution; war and famine—and yet have joy and assurance in Christ, we should count every day of our comfortable livings here as a great blessing, when the worst problem we face on a most days is the price of gas, dealing with an unhappy customer, or (for those pastorally inclined) finding time to prepare the next sermon.

donsands said...

"..then through out the week freak out and then the next week spend the entire class time enterupting the class lesson so they can talk about there stress filled life instead of going to the master what do you do?" kwoods

That's a good portion of church goers.
The reason for living is me, myself, and I.
And we're all suceptible to this.

I think you are right to say, "Let's get on our knees". And of course get into the Word, and listen to the Lord.

Thanks for sharing your heart.

This was a womderful short post. Good for the scary times we are living in.
"The Lord gives, and the Lord sometimes takes away, but blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus Christ".

Kwoods Blog said...

Thank you Pyro for the BLog comment area fellowship with other Christians is great thanks to Sharon and donsands for your words of encouragement. I re went over what Phil said in the BLog and it makes me think of this, AS God gave the widow just a little flour and oil everyday just enough for there daily use which is sufficient, God allows us as His Children to see Him little by little through His word and That is how I guess i will handle this situation, On my knees with them on my mind praying from them and leaving the results to God, and not worry.

Stefan said...

Kwoods:

You're certainly on the right track. As you said, talking about stress (as the others in your SS class do) won't make it go away; only laying it all at the Cross will.

The Lord may not relieve us of the challenges we face, but He will give us the right attitude of heart and mind to endure and overcome those challenges.

...And like I alluded to earlier, my life ain't so easy-breezy right now, either. I'm getting buffetted by wave after wave of problems...but I know that if I don't set aside time for prayer, Bible study, fellowship, etc. and anchor myself to the solid rock of Calvary, then I'll get swept away by those same waves.

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Great and timely post, Phil. I will forward this to some close to me who need to hear this today.

BTW, you said you were going to be in Atlanta. What part of town and what for?

Grace and Peace,
Brian

Rachael Starke said...

Philip -
I wonder if it might be helpful to distinguish between the nature and origin of grace, versus how God manifests that grace at different times and for different purposes. God's grace is always abundant, in that it never ends, and it is given to unworthy wretches. But the forms in which He displays it vary from person to person, day to day. And ironically, it's in the discovery of how day to day our need for graceis that we are brought deeper into an understanding of just how abundant that grace is! At least, that's how this mom has experienced it recently after a particular tough couple days with kids and and several more on the horizon.

So, thanks for the reminder Phil. I think I'll spend my lunchtime asking for my next helping!

Phil Johnson said...

Philip: "the new covenant scriptures indicate abundance of blessing in Christ . . . We are to think of his sovereignty positively and not in such a way that it limits a conception of his abundant grace."

1. The Old Covenant Scriptures made the very same promises.

2. I'd say Elijah and the widow of Zarephath did receive "abundance of blessings." But the blessings came in handfuls and small measures, not all at once. That was my whole point.

3. Who is more guilty of "limit[ing] a conception of his abundant grace"--the person who thinks grace is only "abundant" when it comes to us in material extravagance (like the health-and-wealth charismatics, who think "grace" means Cadillacs and gaudy furnishings), or the person who recognizes that authentic "abundant grace" sometimes leaves us with a limp (Genesis 32:31)?

4. My post is just that: a challenge to rethink what is meant by expressions like "exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think." On the day that woman used her last dregs of flour and oil to feed Elijah rather than her little boy, she probably would not have used that expression. She might not have even used it two weeks into the non-depletion of the cruse and barrel. But I guarantee she used it after her little boy was raised from the dead.

5. God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. That's all I am saying. The fact is, he doesn't usually fill our coffers full to overflowing all at once. But in the big picture, He gives us more flour and oil than we ever would have thought possible.

6. And (to repeat what I said at the start) He did the same thing under the Old Covenant, too. If you can read Elijah's story and not see that, you are missing the big picture.

Kwoods Blog said...

2. I'd say Elijah and the widow of Zarephath did receive "abundance of blessings." But the blessings came in handfuls and small measures, not all at once. That was my whole point.
5. God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. That's all I am saying. The fact is, he doesn't usually fill our coffers full to overflowing all at once. But in the big picture, He gives us more flour and oil than we ever would have thought possible.

And when We look back aren't you glad Phil I know I am. Because I know what would happen if we would as the wrestched people we would do, if God would give us all His blessing's at once and SO DOES HE that is why he does what he does and WHY he does it for our good but THE BIGGEST!!!! reason For His glory, to make our faith stronger.

Philip said...

Very tired here. Just suggesting that the new covenant brings blessing that just was not available before the covenant was ratified-likewise an Abba Father relationship that-on account of being able to have a cleansed conscience by the direct application of the blood of the ratified covenant-encourages us to appropriate all spiritual blessings we already have in Christ with a holy boldness...just the sense of blessing that faith lays hold on is abundant adequacy(what more could we have?)and not just 'sufficient'in the bare sense-there is now no veil,and we are no longer wretches,but co-heirs accepted in the Beloved,new creations. It's not that what you say is lost,but perhaps built on. I affirmed God's sovereignty,and wisdom in his blessing of us,but I tend to feel (like in other things)the danger is to limit the child-like expectation of one with the Spirit of adoption with our conception of sovereignty's regulation of abundant blessing,rather than seeing God's sovereignty as an overruling of bad things for our good. Such that through unbelief(we don't have a high enough sense of God's desire to bless us)we miss blessings that we may otherwise receive. I think I have had an ascetic tendency with my conception of God's sovereignty-and a kind of dualist echo that forgets that all of life is spiritual. For sure,what I want at the centre is a faithful grasp of eternat spiritual realities-but I tend to limit God's willingness to bless me with things people call material in a way that I think stems from a lack of realization that He is my Abba...I say all this as someone with no money,debilitating illness (M.E.),and a lack of a settled sense of his peace and presence.

Michael said...

"...and then the next week spend the entire class time interupting the class lesson so they can talk about there stress filled life instead of going to the master what do you do?"

Just as a different perspective, what you've described could be defined as a group of Christian brothers and sisters meeting each week, feeling free to share their hurts, fears, and doubts inside the larger Christian family setting of this class (where everyone is safe, empathy is abundant, sharing weakness is never met with a sideways look, and love abounds...right?).

Sure, the lesson is interrupted...so what?

Sure, they could just lay their worries at the feet of the Master and not even bother their brothers and sisters with it...but the Bible tells us to pray for one another that we may be healed.

Just another view brother...

Michael said...

"...but I tend to limit God's willingness to bless me with things people call material in a way that I think stems from a lack of realization that He is my Abba."

Wow...what a heavy burden you lay on yourself brother. We're only human...he knows we are dust. God's willingness to bless us is not diminished by our weaknesses...He works ALL things according to the counsel of His will.

As a loving father, there are many times that I don't lavish gifts upon my son that I'm certain he would appreciate at the time. Sometimes, it just isn't good for him to have those things. They might not hurt him in the short run, but I often (in my more thoughtful times) have a wider perspective in mind.

We can experience great joy knowing that our Heavenly Father works all things together for the good of those called according to His purpose.

Kwoods Blog said...

michael never in a million years do i want to come off as an unconcerned brother in my classs if that came off that way i appologize. i was blessed By the way Phil admitting he was stressed BUT he first said LORD willing AND did not go on and on about why he was stressed and THUS giving into the devils destractions that he loves to throw at us. Imagine this Michael in THe story of Elijah what if when he told the woman to make him a cake, bread whichever version you are reading, SE SAID NO and commented to him, I am almost out of flour and oil and that is worrying me that my I may die and oh dear Oh DEAR oh dear. WHich is more of a blessing to hear? That was all I was saying. After the weekend and week of hearing all the WORRY Around me it was a blessing this morning to read Phil Johnson say:
Today, Lord willing, I will finish a project I have been working on for several months. (I can't wait to have the stress of it lifted from my shoulders.) This weekend will be extremely busy, and then Monday I am leaving for a week-long trip that will take me to Bradenton, Atlanta, and Durham. So I don't have a lot of time to write this morning. Hence this short bagatelle. If you want something meatier, be sure to listen to Dan's sermon (below)
HE made sure to comment on DAN's sermon for that is imporntant and when you are in class we are to pray for one another But the main goal of Church and SS class is to Worship God by studying the word of God through group setting and listening to the pastor in church and of course music.

Michael said...

"But the main goal of Church and SS class is to Worship God by studying the word of God through group setting and listening to the pastor in church and of course music."

I didn't meant to suggest that you didn't care...just sharing another view. And while it might be "the main goal" to do things by the book in Church and SS, we are brothers and sisters in Christ first.

We are all going to live forever ...we have time to be caring and patient with one another.

We have time to not only share (without taking over the class completely...I DO understand your point :-)), but time to interrupt with pertinent questions on the teaching and receive thoughtful answers. Even if that takes the lesson in a different direction. If we will let Him, God will lead the service in the direction He wants it to go.

I'm not advocating chaos, but "church" can become so regimented that people are talked at...not to. Is it any wonder that our churches are full of "Christian infants" who don't know how to feed themselves, when Church is structured in such a way that interactive learning is not even offered occasionally?

OK...now I'm rambling ;-)

Philip said...

Michael,I think I can affirm all of what you said in your last to me,sir,without making the rest of my comments redundant. God in his sovereignty brings us to walk in our privileges,sooner or later. We often be consoled by a sense of his sovereignty,but I think real joy must now come from the Spirit witnessing with our spirits according to a faith peculiar to the fullness of the new covenant.

ezekiel said...

Spurgeon Daily devotional 11/11 covers this pretty well.

atruefaith.com said...

"Furthermore, sometimes, when God does want to lavish grace upon us in superabundant measure, the prelude to that is a dark and difficult turn of providence. Suffering is the pathway to glory. Hardship is the container into which God pours His grace. The larger the vessel, the greater the measure of grace."

The greater the joy for us and the greater the glory for him too! Beautiful stuff, Phil.

Brad

Philip said...

Rachael,was that several more little ones on the way,or several more difficult days?Either way(particularly the first!),grace and peace. Likewise Phil,KWoods,all.

Emily said...

This was a beautiful post. I linked to it. :)
Thanks.

John said...

Phil,

I love this. Great point.

Ebeth said...

"day by day and with each passing moment" as the hymn puts it, "strength I find to meet my trials here, trusting in my Father's wise bestowment"

Morris Brooks said...

This posting is proof that sometimes less is more.

Morris