Living Between the Promise and Fulfilment
As the Generations of Grace series ends, Pastor Oliver leaves us with five encouragements for our lives in the valley. How have you been encouraged to press on through our series in Genesis?
One observation that caught my attention from our series in Genesis is how there appears to be a long interval between the patriarchs receiving God's promises and the fulfilment of these promises. Abraham was seventy-five years old and without a son when God promised him descendants (Gen 12:4). Abraham then had to wait 25 years until Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Gen 21:5). Jacob was fleeing from Esau when he met God at Bethel (Gen 28:10-22) when God promised him land within the land of promise. However, Jacob had to wait 20 years before returning to the land of promise (Gen 31:41). God revealed to Joseph through dreams how he would rule over his family. He was sold into slavery in Egypt at 17 (Gen 37:2). He was finally 30 years when he was raised to rule over Egypt (Gen 41:66).
God appeared and spoke to them in what might be described as a "mountain-top" spiritual experiences—they received stunning promises. And then, they had to live a long time in the valley between the peaks. The characters of Genesis waited, hoped, toiled and laboured in the ordinariness of everyday lives in the valley. There was a long time between promise and fulfilment when God appeared silent. How did they live faithfully in between the peaks? How can we believers live faithfully, with joy, between promise and fulfilment? Beloved, how are we to live in the ordinariness of life in the valley? I have five encouragements for our lives in the valley.
1. We remember the promises God made (Ps 33:4, Titus 1:2)
God is faithful to His promises: He never lies. Human beings, however, tend to be forgetful beings. We forget our conversations from two weeks ago; we forget to buy groceries on the way home; we might even forget our wedding anniversaries! We need to write down and rehearse to remember better. In like manner, we have received God's promises in God's Word, the Bible. We should continue to read the Bible regularly and remind ourselves of God's promises to us. Better yet, write God's precious promises down in a journal and continue to reflect on them. How have we been helping ourselves remember the promises God has made?
2. We look forward to the fulfilment (Heb 11:8-10)
Abraham looked forward to God's city—the fulfilment of God's promises. To look forward is to focus on the completion of the promise with anticipation, yearning and hope. A child would eagerly wait for his promised birthday celebration. Do we look forward to God's promises being fulfilled with eagerness? Do we yearn for the joy of God's presence in eternity? Are we in anticipation of the promised fulfilment? Eager anticipation would help us loosen the attraction to temporary things of this world and deepen our taste for lasting things of heaven.
3. We steward our responsibilities (Ps 24:1, 1 Pet 4:10-11)
We live in God's good creation, enjoying God's common grace. We have families, we go to work and school, and we have civic interactions with our neighbours. We are called to steward the grace of God in various forms; we are to steward the responsibilities of our lives well. Do not be like the Christians in Thessalonica, who believed that the end was coming, shirked their responsibilities and decided not to work for their living. Paul reserved a rebuke for them in 2 Thessalonians 3:10. He encouraged them to steward their responsibilities while living and waiting for Jesus to return. How have we stewarded our duties in the places God has put us in?
4. We allow God to mature us (Rom 8:28-29, Phil 1:6)
God wants us to grow in Christlike maturity so that we will reflect his son Jesus Christ. This growth in Christlikeness is a work he starts when we repent and turn in faith to God and will be completed when Jesus Christ returns. God's shaping of our character occurs mainly in our everyday lives. It occurs when we awake and interact with our families, in our work relationships with our colleagues, and when we interact with our church friends. Change and growth happen amid the ordinariness of our lives when we decide how we respond to life situations. Do we respond in a Christlike manner, or do we not? In my interaction with my trying colleague, have I been responding with the kindness of Christ? God will use the ordinary events of stuff of our lives to shape us. How have we been responding to the often difficult grace of God refining us?
5. We engage in and receive the grace of community (Rom 12:4-5, 1 Cor 12:27)
For us new testament believers, God has given us the grace of the church community. We are saved to a community of the saved—the local body of Christ. In this body, we remind one another of God's promises and wait together with hope for their fulfilment. The local body of Christ is where we receive grace and encouragement for life in the valley. We need to engage in and be a part of the local church to receive God's grace through the community. It is in the community where we also grow in Christlike maturity. We must take our membership and participation in the body seriously for our good. Beloved, how have you been meaningfully participating in the life of Grace Baptist Church? We need one another as we wait, hope, toil and labour in the ordinariness of everyday lives in the valley, between promise and fulfilment.
Beloved, how can we live faithfully, with joy, between promise and fulfilment? We remember God's promises, and we look forward with anticipation to their fulfilment. We steward our current responsibilities well. We strive to grow in Christlikeness and get meaningfully involved in the church's life. We do all these all the while living and waiting between God's promises and their fulfilment.