“Whatever be the kind of tribulation with which we are afflicted, we should always consider the end of it to be that we may be trained to despise the present, and thereby stimulated to aspire to the future life.” (Institutes III.IX.1) 

I was cut to the quick by this first paragraph.  God has given me the ability to aspire and aim at the future.  But how often are my aspirations limited to earthly ambitions (especially of an ecclesiastical nature)?    I may not be “dazzled with the glare of wealth [and] power,” but I’m afraid that Calvin put his finger on something in my life when he mentioned “honors.”  What on earth dazzles you and tempts you to seek your happiness in the things that are passing away?

Our God providentially and graciously attacks these vanities, sometimes by means of afflictions.  Calvin says, “Thus, that they may not promise themselves deep and lasting peace in it, He often allows them to be assailed by war, tumult, or rapine, or to be disturbed by other injuries.”

Calvin’s application of this to the family sounds scandalous: “That they may not indulge too complacently in the advantages of married life, he either vexes them by the misconduct of their partners, or humbles them by the wickedness of their children, or afflicts them by bereavement.”  When have you ever heard an evangelical leader suggest that our spouses or children can become idols (besides Piper!)?  How many books on marriage and family actually point people to God as their all sufficiency and only object worthy of absolute allegiance?  Many books on family matters treat Christ as a means to a happy marriage, rather than marriage as a means of delighting in Christ.  Yet, Calvin would have us consider that God may use marriage “problems” as a way to set our minds on things above, where Christ is.  He calls this “the discipline of the cross.”

In this life we should expect contest.  The crown awaits us in heaven.  Have you thanked God for knocking the Burger King cardboard crown off of your head and causing you to look up to heaven for your true reward?

But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  1John 3.2b-3


In preparation for the upcoming fraternal meeting in May, we will be commenting on Book III Chapter 9 of the Institutes entitled “Of Meditating on the Future Life.”