DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR CHANGING HEARTS AND LIVES
Book Review By David P. Craig
How would you like to spend every day of the year with a wise biblical counselor to encourage you and help you apply the gospel to your life? In this daily devotional that’s exactly what you get. From the writings of Paul David Tripp, Edwin T. Welch, Timothy S. Lane, William P. Smith, Michael R. Emlet, David Powlison, Robert D. Jones, and James C. Petty you will get advice, encouragement, direction, and plenty of gospel centered grace for each day.
The topical meditations in this devotional are all based on passages of Scripture and include a suggested daily reading from the Scriptures to illuminate the subject of the day. All of the authors of this book are a part of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation which “exists to teach people how to explore the wisdom and depth of the Bible and apply its grace centered message to the problems of daily living.”
One of the nice features of this devotional is that there is a Scripture index in the back, as well as a source index so you can go to any one of the author’s writings for more study or advice on the particular subjects that are of interest to you. All of the sources include the page numbers from which the meditations are derived so you can track them down easily.
If you are looking for more grace in your life and want to go deeper in your understanding of, and application of the gospel – look no further than this devotional gem. I highly recommend this outstanding devotional as one that will help you grow in intimacy with our awesome God and change you to become more like Him as you daily center your thinking on who He is and what He has done for you in Christ Jesus.
Spiritual Muscle Development by Paul David Tripp
So, what happens inside of you when you are asked to wait? Is waiting, for you, a time of strengthening or weakening? Have you ever stopped to consider why God asks you to wait? Let me point you to one of his purposes.
Waiting Is Giving You Time
When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger or do they grow flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory and to grow stronger in faith. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you will become as you wait.
Waiting always presents me with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual muscles? (see Psalm 27:4)
It’s so easy to question your belief system when you are not sure what God is doing. It’s so easy to give way to doubt when you are being called to wait. It’s so easy to forsake good habits and to take up habits of unfaith that weaken the muscles of the heart. Let me suggest some habits of unfaith that cause waiting to be a time of increasing weakness rather than of building strength. These are bad habits that all of us are tempted to give way to.
Habits of Unfaith
Giving way to doubt. There’s a fine line between the struggle to wait and giving way to doubt. When you are called to wait, you are being called to do something that wasn’t part of your plan and is therefore something that you struggle to see as good. Because you are naturally convinced that what you want is right and good, it doesn’t seem loving that you are being asked to wait. You can see how tempting it is then to begin to consider questions of God’s wisdom, goodness, and love. It is tempting, in the frustration of waiting, to actually begin to believe that you are smarter than God.
Giving way to anger. It’s very easy to look around and begin to think that the bad guys are being blessed and the good guys are getting hammered (see Psalm 73). There will be times when it simply doesn’t seem right that you have to wait for something that seems so obviously good to you. It will feel that you are being wronged, and when it does, it seems right to be angry. Because of this, it’s important to understand that the anger you feel in these moments is more than anger with the people or circumstances that are the visible cause for your waiting. No, your anger is actually anger with the One who is in control of those people and those circumstances. You are actually giving way to thinking that you have been wronged by God.
Giving way to discouragement. This is where I begin to let my heart run away with the “If only_____,” the “What if_____,” and the “What will happen if_____.” I begin to give my mind to thinking about what will happen if my request isn’t answered soon, or what in the world will happen if it’s not answered at all. This kind of meditation makes me feel that my life is out of control. And I am able to think my life is out of control because I have forgotten God’s wise and gracious contol over very part of my existence. Rather than my heart being filled with joy, my heart gets flooded with worry and dread. Free mental time is spent considering my dark future, with all the resulting discouragement that will always follow.
Giving way to envy. When I am waiting, it’s very tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn’t appear to have been called to wait. It’s very easy to take on an “I wish I were that guy” way of living. You can’t give way to envy without questioning God’s wisdom and his love. Here is the logic: if God really loves you as much as he loves that other guy, you would have what the other guy has. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.
Giving way to inactivity. The result of giving way to all of these things is inactivity. If God isn’t as good and wise as I once thought he was, if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why would I continue to pursue him? Maybe all those habits of faith aren’t helping me after all; maybe I’ve been kidding myself.
Sadly, this is the course that many people take as they wait. Rather than growing in faith, their motivation for spiritual exercise is destroyed by doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy, and the muscles of faith that were once robust and strong are now atrophied and weak.
One of His Primary Shaping Tools
The reality of waiting is that it’s an expression of God’s goodness not empirical evidence against it. He is wise and loving. His timing is always right, and his focus isn’t so much on what you will experience and enjoy, but on what you will become. He is committed to using every tool at his disposal to rescue you from yourself and to shape you into the likeness of his Son. The fact is that waiting is one of his primary shaping tools.
So, how do you build your spiritual muscles during the wait? Well, you must commit yourself to resisting those habits of unfaith and with discipline pursue a rigorous routine of spiritual exercise.
What is the equipment in God’s gym of faith? Here are the things that he has designed for you to build the muscles of your heart and strengthen your resolve: the regular study of his Word; consistent godly fellowship; looking for God’s glory in creation every day; putting yourself under excellent preaching and teaching of Scripture; investing your quiet mental time in meditating on the goodness of God (e.g., as you are going off to sleep); reading excellent Christian books; and spending ample time in prayer. All of these things will result in spiritual strength and vitality.
Is God asking you to wait? So, what is happening to your muscles?
About the Author: Paul David Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. There are very few people today who can apply the gospel to every aspect of life as practically as Dr. Tripp. The article above is adapted from: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/spiritual-muscle-development, January 26, 2011.
5 Reasons Why God Calls Us to Wait – By Paul David Tripp
In ministry you will be both called to wait and also find waiting personally and corporately difficult. So it is important to recognize that there are lots of good reasons why waiting is not merely inescapable but necessary and helpful. Here are a few of those reasons.
(1) Because We Live in a Fallen World
We are called to wait because the broken condition of the world makes everything we do harder. Nothing in this life or in your ministry really functions as originally intended. Something changed when sin entered the world, and in rebuking Adam, God summarized that change: “cursed is the ground . . . through painful toil you will eat of it. . . . It will produce thorns and thistles for you. . . . By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19). Sin brought friction and trouble and pain and sweat and a thousand other “thorn and thistle” complications to absolutely every aspect of life. We find ourselves waiting because everything in a fallen world is more laborious and entangled than it really ought to be.
Sin also put greed and fear and arrogance and jealousy and self-worship into the souls of all who live this thorn-and-thistle life. We must wait because, by being selfish, impatient, competitive, driven, anxious, and angry, we make life and ministry harder for one another in an endless variety of ways. This is why the seemingly easy leadership conversation becomes the full-blown conflict, why the once-sweet ministry relationship gets stained with hurt and acrimony, and why the church at times sadly functions as a tool of personal power rather than an instrument of worship and redemption.
Processes and people are all affected—everything and everyone has been damaged by the Fall. We must wait, because in a world that is broken, everything we do is harder and more complicated than it was ever meant to be.
(2) Because God Is Sovereign
We must wait because we are not writing our own personal and ministry stories. Life does not work the way we want it to, in the time we want it to. You and I do not live in the center of the universe. That place is forever occupied by God and God alone. Our individual stories and the stories of our churches are part of the great origin-to-destiny story that he alone authors. Waiting becomes immediately easier when you realize God is sovereign (and you are not) and when you further reflect on the reality that he is the ultimate source of everything that is wise, loving, and good.
Waiting, therefore, is not a sign that your world is out of control. Rather, it is a sign that your world is under the wise and infinitely attentive control of a God of fathomless wisdom and boundless love. This means you can rest as you wait, not because you like to wait, but because you trust the One who is calling you to wait.
(3) Because God Is a God of Grace
Waiting is one of God’s most powerful tools of grace. It’s important to realize in your ministry that God doesn’t just give us grace for the wait. The wait itself is a gift of grace. You see, waiting is not only about what you will receive at the end of the wait. Waiting is about what you will become as you wait.
In calling us to wait, God is even rescuing those of us in ministry from our bondage to our own plan, our own wisdom, our own power, our own control. In calling us to wait, God is freeing us from the claustrophobic confines of our own little kingdoms of one and drawing us into a greater allegiance to his kingdom of glory and grace. Waiting is more than being patient as situations and other people change. Waiting is about understanding that you and I desperately need to change, and that waiting is a powerful tool of personal change. God is using the grace of waiting to change us at the causal core of our personhood: the heart. Now, in ministry, that’s a good thing!
(4) So We Can Minister to Others
Waiting is central to any ministry activity. If you are truly committed to being part of what God is doing in the lives of others, you will be willing to wait. Personal heart and life change is seldom a sudden event. Usually it is a process. You and I do not determine when and how the winds of the Spirit will blow, and people do not often become what they need to become overnight.
This means that in ministry we are called to have the same conversation again and again. We are called to pick that person up after each failure, to be willing to forgive and forbear, to remind him or her once more of God’s presence and grace, and to be willing to have our lives slowed down and complicated in the process. People of grace and love are always people who are willing to wait.
(5) For the Increase of God’s Glory
Finally, we are called to wait because everything in life and ministry exists not for our comfort and ease but for God’s glory. The whole redemptive story is written for one purpose and one purpose alone: the glory of the king.
Waiting is hard for us because we tie our hearts to other glories. We so often are tempted to live and minister for the glory of human acceptance, of personal achievement, of power and position, of possessions and places, and of comfort and pleasure. So when God’s glory requires that these things be withheld from us—things we look to for identity, meaning, and purpose—we find waiting a grueling, burdensome experience.
Waiting means surrendering your glory. Waiting means submitting to his glory. Waiting means understanding that you were given life and breath for the glory of another. Waiting gives you opportunity to forsake the delusion of your own glory and rest in the God of awesome glory. Only when you do that will you find what you seek, and what you were meant to have: lasting identity, meaning, purpose, and peace in Christ. In this way waiting is is much more than a burden for you to bear; it is a precious gift for you to receive with joy.
Dr. Paul David Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. *This Article originally appeared on the Gospel Coalition Web Site on October 24, 2011.
I want to write out the outset that this book (along with “The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul; “Heaven” by Peter Kreeft; “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Pete Scazzero and “Prodigal God” by Tim Keller) has been one of the top paradigm shifting books I have read to help me change my thinking – radically. I also, have to write that I do not have the skill or ability to describe or recommend this book with the superlatives it deserves. I can only write that if you are struggling with “mid-life crisis” this book is absolute MUST reading and I’m confident that you will be much better off by reading it.
All that written – on with the review. I have personally battled depression my whole life. I am a perfectionist and have had to learn to “chill out” over the years, because I have found that things break, plans don’t work out the way you thought they would, and God is sovereign and I’m overwhelmingly NOT!
In this book Paul Tripp brilliantly exegetes reality and brokenness in this fallen world in which we live. He gives dozens of illustrations from the Bible, and men and women in the 21st century to point out the various manifestations of why so many people struggle with the mid-life years. I have read the book twice (and I’m certain – I will read it again) because so many of the stories are about my own struggles. He brings out in the open so many thoughts, and questions that many of us wrestle with and answers them with penetrating insight, theological depth, and practical life giving grace.
This book is not an easy read. I think the more you struggle with life (especially in your middle years) – the harder it will be to read. I found myself crying, and physically aching as I read some of the stories and analysis from Tripp’s pen. However, in the final analysis the book leads you to a fresh new start and brilliantly applies the gospel to your life. Brimming with hope – Tripp shows very practically how God’s purposes and plans for your life will be fulfilled, no matter what you have done, or how you feel at this stage of life.
I have been immensely helped in so many ways from reading this book. Let me list just five:
1) It was just flat out helpful to have so many of the things I’ve thought and felt be identified and addressed so insightfully by the author – in other words – “I’m not crazy” – there are actually millions of people that have gone and are going through what I am during this stage of life – and they are still trucking!
2) I learned to appreciate the realities of God’s design for humanity and how His plans will culminate – my story is a part of the fulfillment of the Great Story of the Bible. Tripp helps you to see that nothing in your life is wasted, and that Christ’s victory on the cross is also your ultimate victory as well. Your failure has been nullified by Christ’s Person and Work on your behalf. We have fallen, but He has picked us up. We have failed, but He has succeeded, and ultimately everything will be made new and perfect again – forever!
3) I was so encouraged over and over again. Sometimes I feel like a major failure in every area of life: as a Christian, pastor, provider, husband, father, taking care of myself physically, and the list can go on and on. However, Tripp is able to bring out the positive realities that result from recognizing our weaknesses and how that makes God’s grace such a wonderful reality for us.
4) I felt like I got to sit down with Jesus as I read this book. Perhaps one of the most helpful things he did in the book is show how much we are like the people in the Bible (even though we think we are not). The author has such a good grasp of theology, the Bible, and what God and people are like – that almost everything he writes is penetrating the deepest recesses of your soul. I think Paul Tripp is very wise, because he has a very intimate relationship with Jesus and brings that relationship to the reader in the book. It made me want to know God more intimately, the Bible more than I do, and to walk more closely with Jesus.
5) It made me even more excited about Heaven and to live for that which will last forever. It made me want to live more simply, for others, and for those things that will please my Master – Jesus. Like many of the Psalms – I started reading the book in a discouraged and depressed state, and by the end of the book I was able to praise my Lord with a smile on my face, and with joy in my soul.
I feel like this review is rubbish compared to how GOOD this book actually is. I can only say that this book will help you to understand your sin, need of a Savior, and need for His grace more than you ever have before. Also, that His grace is MUCH greater than all your sin. One more thing – anyone at any life stage can benefit tremendously from this book – you don’t have to be struggling through mid-life to benefit from this book. Get this book, get copies to give away, and grow in His amazing grace. Thanks, Paul Tripp – and I hope that many more people will read and benefit from this book – I sure have!
If you have ever asked yourself questions like: Why is it so hard to find satisfaction? Why is it so hard to find a good relationship? Why do I keep getting myself more and more into deeper debt? Why does it seem like life keeps getting more difficult? Why am I suffering so much? And many other questions like these – than this is a fantastic book for you.
Paul Tripp writes with theological acumen, numerous biblical examples, brilliant illustrations, and practical insights in showing how we were made for eternity and that we need to factor in our lives the fall and the future in order to live in the now. Our current life is simply preparation for our ultimate destination. He shows how we typically view current realities without an eternal perspective and how devastating these consequences are and then shows on the flip side how we were designed to live with Christ at the center of all of life and how living with a forever mindset has gracious overtones leading to great peace and joy.
Tripp delineates specifically how having an eternal mindset makes a substantial difference in our lives in our relationship to God, those closest to us, at work, in our priorities, etc.
I highly recommend this book as “must” reading and an excellent choice to give as a gift to those who are disillusioned, deceived, discouraged, and without hope in this life. The gospel is clearly articulated here over and over in masterful brilliance shows how Christ is our only satisfaction in the now and how all our dreams will be satisfied in eternity through a personal relationship with Him.