Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. — 1 Peter 1:13
Our gracious God has once again stirred a tsunami of generosity that has washed over our Bethlehem College and Seminary students and the professors who teach them. At latest count individual men and women—the excellent “saints in the land” (Psalm 16:3) —have supplied $1,243,209 toward a 2024 school year need of $2,500,000. Our sovereign God did not move this windfall to us through government programs or corporate philanthropy, but in an overflow of joy from the hearts of people for whom Christ has become the surpassing treasure of their lives.
It is a result that gives us much reason to lift thanks to God, and to yet depend on him for the $1,256,791 yet needed to meet our school year goal.
Contributions are presently down about 15% year-on-year, but not in an unexpected manner. Our generous contributors were exceedingly responsive in 2023 to the “On The Double” matching gift opportunity, and many did their calendar year-end giving in the Spring of last year. We can’t be anything other than effusively grateful to God for his kindness toward us.
The task before us does remain daunting to the extent that these next six months are comparatively not as free-flowing in terms of cashflow and giving. We prefer that which the world considers daunting to be a providence that encourages us toward greater trust in God. Having both read God’s promises in his word, and having long observed God’s faithfulness in meeting the needs of his people—and specifically the needs of Bethlehem College and Seminary through 15 years —we confidently claim “future grace” over this faithful gospel endeavor.
John Piper has explained “future grace” in this way:
“I don’t just mean grace that comes to us in the distant future, like at the Second Coming. Clearly that is coming. It is referred to in Peter 1:13, that we are to hope fully in the grace that is coming to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
What I have in mind when I say ‘future grace’ is the grace we’ll receive at the Second Coming and the grace that is arriving every moment as I move into the future.
A key verse for me in understanding this is 1 Corinthians 15:10, where Paul says,
By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
This “every moment” grace is promised us by God in the Bible, evidenced in the biblical accounts of the lives of the saints, recounted in the biographies of so many gospel ministers, missionaries, and martyrs. It is an astounding spiritual blessing to those who call upon the name of Jesus. It is not prosperity gospel nonsense. It is the way God works in the conduct of his works, while it is day. So, we press on, confident in the observation that a Bethlehem College and Seminary Trustee once made years ago, “It is entirely reasonable that the Lord will continue to show this work his favor.”
I often introduce myself at public events as the “Player Coach” of some 700-plus generous contributors who have made The Serious Joy Scholarship a work of their personal ministries for Jesus Christ; a role in which I never ask anyone to do or sacrifice anything that I wouldn’t gladly do or sacrifice myself. So, in that spirit, I offer some coaching:
- Pray for The Serious Joy Scholarship. No other strategy, technique, or means will outperform the supernatural power of God’s people at prayer. Jot our name in your prayer journal and keep our need before the throne of grace throughout 2024.
- Consider an early 2024 gift. Pray whether you are called to make a new gift before June 30, 2024. If you did your 2023 significant giving early last year, consider doing so again, this year.
- Make it Monthly. Use the online utility to initiate a recurring gift of any amount, today. If you are already making a monthly gift, consider increasing it even slightly. If you have made small gifts periodically, consider a commitment to making small gifts on a fixed schedule.
- Point Us to Others. Or point others to us. We’re about a work that only the church can do. Governments won’t take up this task. We’re certainly not a part of most corporations’ CSR priorities. Most of what has happened to benefit Bethlehem College and Seminary the most has been a matter of one God- entranced person sharing their affection for this ministry with another.
Pulpits are being filled. Ministries staffed. Nations reached. Families formed and sanctified. Churches led. Workplaces influenced. And the theological academy is being seasoned and held to biblical account. All by men and women who have been taught here to treasure Christ in all things, and to appreciate the “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” and are committed to “Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” And they get about this mission, immediately after graduation, without a burden of student loan debt—because of God’s grace administered through the gifts of “the one who contributes.” (Romans 12:8). It is a good-doing in which we must not grow weary.
Please join with me and Adrien in continuing to pour personal prayer, treasure, and service into the mission of Bethlehem College and Seminary.
Rick Segal is Vice President of Advancement and a Lecturer of History and Political Philosophy at Bethlehem College and Seminary