Sunday, September 4, 2011

And Now These Three Remain ...

I was in conversation with my wife last night discussing some things that are resting heavy on my heart these days. Her response was as it should be from a loving and supportive wife, "You are going to have to trust the Lord with it". She is an amazing woman. My heart response to this was just as simple, real and honest, "I have no choice; he is all I have". In the context of this blog that might almost sound mean to say but in the context of our conversation my wife understood exactly what I was communicating. There are moments in our lives when it feels like everything is stripped away from us except our faith in Jesus and the hope that it provokes. These can only be birthed out of genuine love.

Perhaps you have led such a blessed life that you have never faced such dark and frightening moments like this but I highly doubt it. Even if we are not causing trouble it seems to find us easy enough. These are the moments that we can only trust God's promise that he uses everything to our benefit, even those things that appear ready to break us. We do have a choice in these moments; to stand in them and grow stronger in our faith, or to throw it all away and run screaming into the darkness of life. Thankfully, despite the pain of it, these moments tend to make most of us stronger. We see our Father for who he is and we run to the strong tower:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust.”
(Psalm 91:1-2)

Sometimes we try to save ourselves in situations where we are powerless to do anything. We act like a drowning man, thrashing about for anything to hold on to. If anyone jumps in to try to save us we will probably take them down with us. There is only one rescuer and we have to trust him. We have to say to him as king Jehoshaphat did in his moment of crisis, "We don't know what to do but our eyes are on you." It is with that declaration of faith that we sense what the psalmist sensed:

He will cover you with his feathers,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalm 91:4)

There may be some moments in your life when it feels that everything is being stripped from you. You may feel exposed, abandoned, even lost to your friends and family. If you are willing, it is at these moments when you will realize the truth of these words:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

The fact is that everything you consider to be important and precious can be taken from you in an instant. There is nothing solid or permanent in this world. Look how fast everything changed for Job and he was a righteous man doing everything right. He lost his children, his wealth, his reputation, his health and even his wife told him to just get it over with, "curse God and die". Everything can be taken away except for the three things that the Scriptures reveal: faith, hope and love. They are yours and no one and no thing can touch them.

Satan will give it a good go, planting those seeds of doubt to attack what cannot be touched; "Did God really say that?" "That promise is for others but it's not for you." "You have disqualified yourself, he doesn't love you any more." "God can't love you or forgive you because you are too bad." What else would we expect from the father of lies? But if these are the whispers you hear late at night you must get up from your bed, remind yourself of the promises and praise our Father for who he is. Chase those lies right out of your life with the truth of God's Word. Jesus said:

And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31) 

Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven. Let me say that again, every! It doesn't matter what accusation the enemy brings against you, the only sin that cannot be forgiven is the refusal of salvation. So what if we lose everything, we still have Jesus. As my pastor states, "What is the enemy going to do after he has thrown everything at us and we respond with worship and joy?"

When everything is stripped away and we are left naked and exposed to the world, we are still clothed in faith, and faith provokes hope:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 12:1)

This hope is not as the world refers to hope. It is not wishful thinking; it is being certain of what we do not see. If we let go of faith in the difficult times we do not have a genuine faith, we have a wishful-thinking faith, and that will not get us through the narrow gate. We are told that our faith must be tested so that we know that it is genuine:

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7)

I find it interesting that both Peter and James start off there letters by talking about faith in the face of suffering and trials. Look at the context of the verse above:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

I appreciate this wording, "new birth into a living hope", "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade", "who through faith are shielded by God's power". The thought of the shield leads us to the passage on the armour of God where we are told:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)

Those flaming arrows are all those doubts and accusations he throws at you when the pressure and stress are on you. There is a reason why God tells us over and over again in his Word, "Do not fear" and "Do not be afraid". But as important as this faith and hope are we are told that the greatest thing of all is love:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Faith and hope are impossible if you are not convinced that Jesus Christ loves you. If you are not overwhelmed by the implications of his love, if it does not permeate your every thought, if you do not taste of its great depth and security, then when the storms hit you will not be able to hold on to faith and hope. As difficult as the storm is this would be the saddest thing of all. To be left stripped and exposed is one thing, to be lost and miserable in our sin is another thing entirely. The church used to sing a very powerful song that asked this question:

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

The chorus is a mighty statement of faith that used to cause the rafters to shake from the mighty singing as it stirred the desire of the worshipers in every church across the land:

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Stedfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.

Going back to my conversation with my wife, I can honestly say that no matter what the future holds I have the assurance of my Saviour's love. It is with this love that I am able to take up the shield of faith which also provokes hope to strengthen my heart and bones. It is the same hope that gave Peter the strength to stand before the Sanhedrin even though he was an "ignorant" fisherman. It is this hope that caused Paul to stand on the deck of the ship and to declare in the wind of the storm "No life will be lost". It is this faith that has carried the good news of Jesus Christ down through the generations to this present age, and I am not about to be the person who drops that torch in the face of the storm. I know my redeemer lives, that he loves me and that he is with me no matter where life takes me. That's good enough for me. To God be the glory!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I am in need of solace and these words helped.
God Bless,