“You have given me relief when I was in distress.”
David cries out to God to answer his prayer concerning his present. He asks God for grace in his now. Sandwiched between, he remembers the past. David doesn’t bank out of the past; he banks out of the future confident because of his past. David has reasoned this way before.
“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. …The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:31–37).”
It would be a poor decision to start making withdrawals from an account based upon old bank statements. But, if a rich benefactor has told you that he has a limitless money, there when you need it for the cause that he loves, then looking to past withdrawals assures you of the future. You wouldn’t banking out of the past, you’d be banking in hope of the future. The past would bolster your confidence in the availability of future funds. The past proves your benefactor is reliable concerning the future.
This is what John Piper calls living by faith in future grace. God has promised that there’s an infinite ocean of grace for us in Christ that’s ours to draw from by prayer. We cannot see this ocean of promises except by faith. We can see the collected pool of past grace and the river of presently flowing grace such that it builds assurance that the ocean is as big as He says. We cannot sustain today’s faith on yesterday’s grace, but recalling yesterday’s grace can strengthen our faith that the promises will not fail us today. Piper explains,
“The infinite reservoir of future grace is flowing back through the present into the ever-growing pool of past grace. The inexhaustible reservoir is invisible except through the promises. But the ever-enlarging pool of past grace is visible; and God means for the certainty and beauty and depth to strengthen our faith in future grace.”
This is part of the logic of Romans:8:23: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all [past grace], how will he not also with him graciously give us all things [future grace]?” It’s paramount to realize this doesn’t denigrate the past accomplishment of Christ crucified. All the grace that ever has or will flow into the Christian’s life flows from the crucified and risen Christ. Looking to the cross assures us of today and forevermore. If it doesn’t, we’re hopeless. We’re to be pitied. Our faith is vain (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Reminisce on the past grace poured into your life. Behold all the grace that has flowed from the fount of Christ recorded for us in both testaments of the Holy Scriptures. Read church history and see the pool swell further. Fellowship with the saints listening to the testimonies of you brothers and sisters. When you do, you will see a sea of collected past grace that dwarfs the Sun, and then Christ will turn to you and say that it’s as nothing compared to the universe of future grace that will one day swallow up that Sun, and all this future grace flows from His past wounds. When Jesus bled, those few pints of blood were the spilling of a infinite universe of grace—all the grace that ever was and forever will be for the redeemed.