Both faith and preparation require study. Often, believers want to study how to understand the Bible better. This is good, so long as we study the Bible for God’s sake rather than to satisfy our curiosity and thirst for knowledge only. Christianity can easily devolve into focusing on my justification, my adoption, my sanctification, and my trials and joys. Christianity is not merely getting a list of benefits right, but it is about knowing the right God in the right way (John 17:3). The means of grace remind us that everything that matters in life comes back to seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). When we think about preaching and sacraments, it is easy to think that these are the preacher’s “jobs” and that they do not touch us personally. If preaching, sacraments, and public prayer are means that the triune God has given us, then should we not study the means of grace and their role in the Christian life, and encourage pastors to promote them in their public ministries? Other institutions offer us outward benefits in this life. Only the church gives us God, and God reveals Himself to us through the means of grace. The world offers health, wealth, and prosperity; God offers Himself in and through the ministry of the church. The means of grace are the ways in which we should seek and find Him. When was the last time you read a book about the preaching of the Word? Do you study the sacraments? Do you cultivate prayer, in private, family, and public worship?
The means of grace promote Christian faith and life, and they foster Christian hope. The end result is loving God and our neighbor. Just as we perish without food and water, we perish without receiving Christ as our spiritual food and drink (John 6:53). Though the means of grace are simple and at times seemingly unremarkable, God does great things through them. In our sanctification, we should expect slow and steady progress (most of the time). There are rarely quick fixes for sin, and giant leaps in sanctification are unusual. God delivers some people instantly from sins that are deeply set in their lives, but most of the time we need to fight to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13). The triune God uses the means of grace to kill sin in us and to lead us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps. 23:3). Skipping church is like skipping meals. Each meal may not be spectacular, but all of them together keep us alive. We often do not learn how much we grow by the means of grace until we neglect or lose them.
The Lord uses the means of grace to nourish spiritual life in Christ. We should expect the Spirit to bless the Father’s chosen means by faith. We should prepare to receive the means of grace by study and meditation. We should trust in God to use means to bring us to the Savior rather than trusting in the means instead of the Savior. Let us look for the Lord in the means of grace to foster the work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope (1 Thess. 1:3) as we confidently endure to the end of our race (Heb. 12:1). Jesus is the pioneer and end of our faith, and He will place our feet in wide places (Ps. 31:8) as we use the means that He has appointed to walk with Him.