Recently I was flattered that a reader of this new blog sent me a private message with a thoughtful question. He asked if I could compile a list of books I’ve read that might help young Christians grow in grace. I responded that I would think about that — and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.
Frankly, I’ve read only one book on the subject of grace that was signally helpful to me, but in the context of my grace journey that book was a capstone to several other influences in my life. Several doctrinally based studies were helpful in the sense they caused me to review the comprehensive scriptural teaching about the grace of God. One such work was Spurgeon’s rich classic All of Grace, and another was John MacArthur’s The Truth About Grace.
As I meditated on that question I realized there have been three books in the last 26 years that have shaped my approach to the study of God’s grace in the scriptures. Only one is principally and primarily about grace.
The first one is Frank Hamrick’s short study entitled Mighty Through God. This little ProTeens Bible study, written for young people, is a practical eight lesson workbook. Frank introduces five basic spiritual needs and gives scriptural guidance for growing in God’s grace in each of these areas. They are: victory over sin; wisdom in decision-making, living above our circumstances, developing conquering faith, and pursuing godly character.
God especially used Frank’s insights on developing conquering faith to introduce me to a unique perspective on the subject of God’s providence in my life. In his teaching Frank says, “We develop conquering faith as we meditate in the providences of God.”
Frank goes on to declare,
“Some events God actually plans for us and sends them into our lives. Other events He does not cause but does allow them to come into our lives for a purpose. However, whatever the case may be, you can be assured that God is in control of every aspect of the circumstances you are facing in your life.”
These insights were especially helpful to me as I reflected on how God led me to various ministry opportunities and through several very difficult seasons of life. As I look back now I also see them as evidences of God’s grace at work.
The second was a book I read while recovering from bypass surgery in 2003. That was Jerry Bridges’ encouraging and convicting book: Trusting God. I’ve actually read it twice, and the second time was after a year long reading through the Bible while principally pursuing a God focus. Precisely, I read the Bible looking to see what it was revealing about God’s character, attributes and workings, rather than focusing on the narrative of personalities, actions and consequences of human activity.
I wrote at the time of my heart surgery,
“I love Bridges’ marvelous observation, ‘If we are to trust God, we must learn to see that He is continuously at work in every aspect and every moment of our lives.’ And, ‘If God controls the circumstances of the sparrow, how much more does He control the circumstances that affect us.’”
I also took great comfort at that time in this observation in the book, “God’s plan and His ways of working out that plan are frequently beyond our ability to fathom and understand. We must learn to trust when we don’t understand.” On my journey I have come to identify those workings as the grace of God being shown over and over. Bridges’ emphasis on trusting God reinforced Frank Hamrick’s emphasis on focusing on God.
The third book was the one that specifically brought me to center my attention on the grace of God. That book is John Piper’s Future Grace. Even though I do not agree with all of Piper’s theological conclusions expressed in the book, I do find his basic teaching on future grace to be transformative for me.
Early in the book Piper deals with the subject of anxiety, which has been a definite weakness I’ve struggled with in my life. He refers to Psalm 56: 3 which says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Piper says,
“Notice: it does not say, ‘I never struggle with fear.’ Fear strikes, and the battle begins. So the Bible does not assume that true believers will have no anxieties. Instead, the Bible tells us how to fight when they strike. For example, 1 Peter 5:7 says, ‘Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.’ It does not say you will never feel any anxieties. It says when you have them, cast them on God.”
He goes on to say, “…we fight anxieties by fighting against unbelief and fighting for faith in future grace.” He also concludes, “In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace. As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety.”
Looking back we can see how God in His providence has worked in and through our lives. Considering God’s great grace and mercy we stand amazed at what God has done for us. Because we have learned in the past that God’s grace is sufficient, then we can trust Him that His grace will be sufficient in the future.