125 Years of Bygone Grace for the Sake of Faith in Future Grace

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can be changed in the past. Not even by God. It is over. Gone. Never to return. So why look back? Because the past is a school of grace. In it we learn to trust God for the future. The future is the only time you can trust God for. All other time is past and dead. The present is simply the swivel between past and future. It is so infinitesimally small that it is immeasurable.

I hear a protest. But before you can object: “No, I live in the present, not the future,” you have already traversed nine words into the future from where you started that sentence. The present is like a "point" in geometry. It has no dimensions. The nanosecond you look at it, it’s gone, and you have moved into the future. There may be some mathematical way to give significance to the present point, but as a place to live, it will not work. You can’t squeeze anything into it. It’s too small. What matters is the next nanosecond, or rather, the next sequence of billions of nanoseconds where I will take my next breath and where my next heartbeat will happen, and where I may meet my God.

But will I meet my God? Ah, the future! The "wills" and "shalls" of life! That is what matters. Will there be grace for me in the future? That is all that matters in the end. Will God love me and smile on me and take me into his all-satisfying fellowship? I am never anxious about the past. Never. I am only anxious about the future. That is where I will live and die. All the possibilities of my misery and my joy are in the future. None of them is in the past. All my desires and longings are fixed on the future. I have no hopes for yesterday.

But, O the value of yesterday! All the saints of the Bible knew this and cried out:

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.
I will meditate on all Thy work,
And muse on Thy deeds.
(Psalm 77:11-12)

Where shall we look to know the hope of the future? There is only one possibility. We must look to the past. Why? Because the future does not yet exist, and because the present is too small to contain any message. But you ask, “Do we not look to the promises?” Yes! Yes! And where are they all kept for you? In the past. O, yes, there will yet be some fresh, future discovery of these promises for you. Indeed tomorrow I must have a promise to live by or I die. But this future discovery will be a moment of looking back to where the promise was made.

The past is strewn with promises and filled with proofs of future grace. Jesus is the main proof. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all [bygone grace!], will he not also with him freely give us all things [future grace!]?” Yes. But, Bethlehem is also proof. The 125 years of our existence is the proof of a promise. “I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Stand and wonder. And believe.

Look back with me for a while. Visit ten rooms of evidence that “he will never leave you or forsake you.” Watch the past portrayed in multimedia. Watch it come alive in drama. Listen to it in song and sermon. Let your faith be strengthened. And then turn to the only place left to live. Ten thousand tomorrows with the king of ages.

For the supremacy of God in all things,

Pastor John