As I read this book, I remembered listening to the lectures (messages?) from which the essays came, lectures given at the 2007 Desiring God conference by the same name. The purpose of this collection of essays is, like the conference that went before it, to encourage by example and exhortation the kind of faith that perseveres through the difficulties of life.
The first chapter is a piece by Jerry Bridges which lays out four things that will enable the Christian to finish well. These four essentials are
* a daily time of focused communion with God,
* a daily appropriation of the gospel,
* a daily presenting yourself as a living sacrifice, and
* a continual firm belief in the sovereignty and the goodness of
Bridges discusses each action, giving us the scriptural basis for it and explaining how practicing it has been helpful in his own Christian walk. He reminds the reader that it is by God's grace that we are faithful in these things, for "standing over all of them is the grace of God. The same apostle who said, 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith' also said in another context, 'But by the grace of God I am what I am' (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul attributed all of his endurance, all of his faithfulness, to the grace of God. And so as we look at our responsibility, keep in mind that we are enabled to fulfill that responsibility only by the grace of God."
This was, I think, the chapter in this book that was most valuable to me. I've been working to be more disciplined in these things now that I have the house to myself and time to think, and I found this discussion very convicting and useful.
The second chapter is John Piper's essay "Getting Old to the Glory of God." This means, says he, "getting old in a way that makes God look glorious. It means living and dying in a way that shows God to be the all-satisfying Treasure that he is."
I've reached the age where I think more and more about getting old, and I'll let you in on a secret if you promise not to tell: I'd like to spend the rest of my life in a way that is comfortably pleasant. Deep down, I think I've gone through enough of the difficult stuff already and I'd like just coast agreeably to the end. This is not the the kind of life-finish Piper is speaking about:
"Getting old to the glory of God means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement. It means being so satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ that we are set free from the cravings that create so much emptiness and uselessness in retirement. Instead, knowing that we have an infinitely satisfying and everlasting inheritance in God just over the horizon of life makes us zealous in our few remaining years here to spend ourselves in the sacrifices of love, not the accumulation of comforts."
Okay. And yes, I do know this. I just need to be reminded of it and spurred on once in a while. If you're baby-boomerish, like I am, this chapter is especially for you, encouraging you to spend all of your years persevering in the "joyful sorrows of magnifying Christ in the sacrifices of love."
In the next chapter John MacArthur uses principles gleaned from Paul in 2 Corinthians to teach about maintaining a ministry that endures through various difficulties. This chapter is geared toward pastors, drawing from MacArthur's nearly forty years of experience at Grace Community Church.
The last two chapters from Randy Alcorn and Helen Roseveare on persevering through trials and tribulations suffer just a little, I think, from the kind of organization that works well enough for speaking but not as well for writing. These essays are more anecdotal and less formally structured than the first three, something I didn't notice at all when listening to them as lectures, but that made them less enjoyable when I was reading. I'm guessing that this wouldn't bother most readers, but I prefer things more tightly organized than these two chapters were.
At the end of Stand are two transcripts of interviews of the contributors conducted by Justin Taylor during the Stand conference. These won't be the parts of the book of most enduring quality, but they were very fun to read. I like knowing bits of people's stories and there are quite a few of them here. Did you know, for instance, that Randy Alcorn gives his books to people he meets as he travels? He tells some of the stories of his travel encounters in the first interview.
The purpose of this book is to encourage believers to stand firm in their life-long commitment to Christ and I'd say it fulfills that purpose quite well and I recommend it.