Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Finishing the Race

It's been a sad week. Two elderly sisters in my church went home to glory. I also learned that a dear friend of my grandparents died last month at the age of 104. These women fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. They loved God and the people He placed in their lives. They will be greatly missed.

As I was thinking about these women, I wondered "What was their secret? How did they endure so well? How did they persevere through the Great Depression, WWII, widowhood, and illness?" This led to another question. "How will I finish the race?" I'm on the plus side of 50 now. I could die today, but I could have another 40 years ahead of me. It would be easy to think, "What do I need to do to make sure I die well?" But that's probably not the right question. A better question would be, "What has the Triune God done to ensure that I will finish the race?"
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5
From Grudem's Systematic Theology:
If God's guarding has as its purpose the preservation of believers until they receive their full heavenly salvation, then it is safe to conclude that God will accomplish that purpose and they will in fact attain that final salvation. Ultimately their attainment of final salvation depends on God's power. Nevertheless, God's power continually works "through" their faith. Do they wish to know whether God is guarding them? If they continue to trust God through Christ, God is working and guarding them, and he should be thanked.1
[W]hat Peter said in 1 Peter 1:5 is true: namely, that God does not guard us apart from our faith, but only by working through our faith so that he enables us to continue to believe in him. In this way, those who continue to trust in Christ gain assurance that God is working in them and guarding them.2
As a recovering moralist, I need to remember this. Even if I tried my best, do I really think it's in my power to keep myself to the end? But it doesn't rest on me, thank God, and it doesn't rest on you either. He will complete the work He has started. (Phil. 1:6) His power guards His own and nothing can snatch them from His hand. (John 10:27-30) But at the same time, His grace enables us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling knowing that He is at work in us. (Phil. 2:12-13)

I wasn't privy to the day-to-day details of these women's lives, but God's power kept these sisters. They were saints but still sinners. They needed daily grace for daily self-denial. They needed the Word for spiritual nourishment on the journey. They needed the joy of the Lord during times of suffering and divine strength to live another day in physical weakness. But at the appointed time, their earthly course was done, and their Lord and Savior welcomed them home.

For those of us still on pilgrimage, the sanctification road seems long. There are high points but deep valleys, too. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces and are tempted to quit. But there is hope. God will complete what He has started, and all His children will cross the finish line to the praise of His glorious grace.
It is because God never forsakes His work that believers continue to stand to the very end.3
                                                                                                                                                    
1. Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, 2000, pg. 792.
2. Ibid. 793.
3. Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhoff, Eerdmans, 1993 reprint, pg. 546.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you Peris, I so needed this today. My flesh fails me constantly, but God....

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  2. I'm with you, Diane. Thank God for "but God".

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  3. "It is because God never forsakes His work that believers continue to stand to the very end" Yes! Amen!

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    1. Yes! Berkhof's quote is so comforting.

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