Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance. (Jude 1:2)
There is a danger in being a Christian for a length of time, which creeps in and remains after the initial blaze of conversion has produced the lasting embers of mature faith. That danger, perhaps forged in practicality or suffering, is to expect too little of God. Of course, it is true that God does not work for us; He is not our servant, and we are most certainly His. To speak of expecting much from God does not mean God works for us. Rather it means to take God absolutely seriously and at His word. The life of faith can be summed up as a life of promise, where the faithful always live in a state of "already but not yet." To live by promise is another way of saying we live confidently expectant of what is ours. It is to embrace that great prayer, "give us this day our daily bread" as something otherworldly but very true, that through no action or effort on are part, the manna will arrive in the morning, graciously provided by a Father heart-set upon caring for his children.
No one else but Christians can live by promise in this way. Since God's Word is creative--it does and enacts what it says ("God said let there be light....and it was so..."). To live faithfully is to live with hope, and hope is a kind of expectancy which Scripture tells us "does not disappoint" and is "certain." We have to relinquish the thought that "hope" in the Bible means something like "perhaps getting what I desire." Christian hope knows no "perhaps." Our hope is not a wish, for a wish is a fantasy, a potential thing that may never become an actual thing. As God's children, we have hope, but we do not live by hope; we have hope in the God who issues promises. The grounding of our hope, then, is in a person. It is the Triune God who speaks to us and issues us promises. The hope we have is a hope that is better defined as a frenzied anticipation of what is certain. Our hope is not a possibility; it is a promise that awaits its full arrival; it is an assured future that awaits the right time to dazzle and delight.
To live in a state of "already but not yet" is the gift of the faith. Faith connects us to God and all that God is doing. Perhaps the most helpful analogy to grasping this (though all analogies fall somewhat short) is of a pregnant woman. That woman already has her child--but not yet. So too, we already possess all that Christ possesses, but the fullness of that is not yet experienced. Hold an acorn in your hand, and you have a whole oak tree, hold a handful of acorns, and you hold a forest. The acorn is a promise, a reality that is not yet realized in fullness but still exists in your hand. To hold the Bible, then, is to hold the universe, salvation, the world to come, everlasting life, to hold to the Bible is to hold in your hand the promises that faith grasps.
When we forget that we live by promise that's when the danger tends to creep in. Because failing to embrace promise means we usually fall back into notions of luck, or even worse--into works. Then, our relationship with God changes, and we think that "give us this day our daily bread" is a payment statement, a wage, instead of an act of loving grace, undeserved. When we fail to live by promise, we begin to expect too little of God because we begin relating to him through our sin instead of the Good Word of the Gospel. We say things like, "I don't deserve God's care" or, "God is punishing me because of X" or, "God is angry at me and always disappointed in me." These are not words of promise, and they are not words of hope. They are words of accusation. There is another who is not God who speaks to us words of accusation. He is referred to in Scripture as the Accuser. This is not to say that accusations of wrong should not lead us to repentance (we pray that in the Lord's Prayer too). But it is to say that God's speech over us because of Christ is promissory. To live by promise is to expect more of God than reason or experience allow. It is to expect that God is better than we can imagine. It is to expect Him to be so good and kind and loving that we have to rethink and redefine those adjectives in light of what we think they mean because, in God, we should expect they mean more. So very much, much more...
We expect more from God because God has promised us more than we can fathom. When Jude opens his letter in the New Testament, he gives us these seemingly platitudinal words: "Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance." In abundance--did you catch that? Jude does not pray a blessing of sufficiency but of abundance. We have to be careful we do not turn this good word into a word about earthly wealth or success, which too many bad preachers do. We should expect that God's blessings are so much better than that! And in indeed they are--mercy, peace, and love. Imagine those being abundant in your life? That's what Jude thinks is possible with the God of promise. And indeed it is! In Christ, we set our hopes for today and every day. Let us not fall into the danger of expecting too little from the God who gave us promises so that we could hope in more than we can imagine. If God did not spare His own Son for us--and no one by reason or life experience expected that then we should delight in the God who delights to give you this day. That's right, today is your day, your day to celebrate the gift of being, the gift of life, the gift of being a child of God, the gift of being a child of promise. So, mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance today!