How is it possible for a Christian to maintain a proper balance so he enjoys the gifts that God gives in this world while avoiding the snare of overindulgence? Calvin offers three principles gleaned from Paul:
- Remember that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. This should restrain our lusts because our gratitude to God for his gifts cannot be expressed by a greedy reception of them.
- Remember that we are stewards of the world in which God has placed us. Soon we will have to give an account to him of our stewardship.
- Remember that God has called us to himself and to his service. Because of that calling, we strive to fulfill our tasks in his service, for his glory, and under his watchful, benevolent eye, always aiming for the maturation of the saints and the salvation of the lost.12
In summary, what Paul and Calvin teach is that a Christian should not expect to find all joy in this present life. This truth is obvious but worth stressing because we believers tend to feel sorry for ourselves about having to live in self-denial. Deep down, we don’t truly believe that denying ourselves for Christ will give us joy in Christ. We struggle against the unfairness of seeing unbelievers living at ease and in prosperity in this world while we carry our crosses to the bitter end. It is hard to accept that throughout life we must put base desires behind us while all around us people are freely acting out their ambitions. They don’t have many restraints, while we are called to be temperate and self-controlled, refusing to hanker for things that the world enjoys but which would compromise our holiness and obedience to God.
Having said that, we go on to say that the Christian has many blessings, comforts, and joys in this life, and God who is rich in mercy has given us these things to enjoy. He keeps back no good from those that love him, even now. Even so, the Christian must deny himself many things in this life and must expect that he will not get full joy in this life because of certain things that belong to the essence of Christian faith and life.
The art of being a Christian is not expecting too much of this life. We do not expect God to give us everything; rather, he gives us only a modest share of joys and comforts. In this world, God feeds us with a spoon. In the world to come, God will feed -us with a ladle.
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