Psalm 27:13 “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.”
In the midst of life becoming what seems…overwhelming, I have found that the solution is refocusing my attention toward the One who is above all my circumstances…Jesus.
He never changes…His love for you never ceases….His plans cannot be overthrown….He restores, He brings deliverance, and He heals.
I write this with particular friends in mind. I won’t go into detail for the sake of maintaining their anonymity, but I hear their cries of despair and I want to remind them, they are not forgotten. The Lord will reach forth to the utter most parts of the earth to recapture us from enemy territory and revive us once again. Once He does so, He never lets go.
Psalm 107:1 “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Why would He do this? What is it that He finds in us worthy of His love? We don’t deserve it but He does it anyway.
When considering our position before God, I’m reminded of the late great Jonathan Edwards, one of the evangelists of the 18th century that catalyzed the Great Awakening. He helped propel America from the secular rationalism that was beginning to dominate society, along with the indifference to faith and religion that was growing popular, back into a Christ centered, biblical based movement that helped form the framework of our Constitution and country we know today.
In 1741, Edwards delivered a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”. This teaching became a center point of radical repentance that turned people from their self-described ideology and pride into a people of humility, righteousness, and truth.
The beginning of the sermon goes like this:
“That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of: there is nothing between you and hell but the air; ’tis only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but don’t see the hand of God in it, but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it….
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ’tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment; ’tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up; there is no other reason to be given why you haven’t gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: ’tis a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the damned in hell; you hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment…“
You can imagine the images this controversial sermon conjured up to it’s listeners. From a people who were undoubtedly strong and proud, to a people who were given an eternal perspective and the realization of what true strength looks like, the impact was quite profound.
The reminder of who God is and what His nature is like helps us understand why He responds like He does and gives us confidence in Him as we move forward into trust.
If I were to sum up what it means to trust in God, Faith is just trust in action. This is essentially what true belief looks like as well. I can’t say I trust in the Lord and then attempt to remove all doubt in my life by trying to cover ever circumstance. When I have attempted to do this, anxiety rises up and the overwhelming nature of my limitations become more apparent with each attempt at control.
James 1:16-17 “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
What is it that actually causes anxiety among us? Is it a message of fire and brimstone that paints a picture of Hell and the nature of God’s response toward sin, or could it be something else?
I propose that a majority of fear and anxiety is a response due to a lack of our ability to fully control our circumstances.
- Fear of the unknown is a lack of our ability to dictate our course.
- Anxiety within relationships comes from the inability to control their perception and response toward us.
- Anxiety in marriages can stem from a lack of financial control, relational security, or from a fear of losing a loved one.
I’ve never been a big fan of fire and brimstone preaching, the kind of preaching that gives such a trepid depiction of Hell that it leaves it’s listeners striving to secure their eternal position away from Hell and toward Heaven. Often times, the reality that Hell isn’t upon us, atleast at that moment, gives the illusion that it’s just a false threat. Often times people begin to weigh their lives against a standard that isn’t quite as ruthless as God’s laws, usually that standard is a societal norm or expectation they feel they have risen above. Since I can’t be perfect, I will compare myself to other imperfect people who claim to be going to Heaven and if I feel like I’m a better person than they are, I should be secure, at least that is often the reasoning.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Security doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Whenever we place our ability into the formula for whether we are secure or not, we add an element of insecurity. We have a long history of failure, making mistakes is common and because we lack the foresight to see what lies ahead, we create our own controversy by placing ourselves at the head of our plans. Doesn’t it make more sense to place our trust in God’s provision since He knows what lies ahead and His thoughts are to lead us into Peace.
Psalm 40:5 “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us–none can compare to You–if I proclaim and declare them, they are more than I can count.”
After the recent Presidential election, an interesting phenomenon occurred. Throughout the United States a large group of self-professed prophets claimed God gave them a sign that Donald Trump would be re-elected. These prophets used all forms of dramatic vigils and demonstrations to give their listeners the idea they were directly channeling God’s vision for America through them.
Once the election was complete and Joe Biden was elected President, the “prophets” had to draw a conclusion about themselves or their circumstances regarding the outcome. One of the people who faced this dilemma was the man Jeremiah Johnson, a self-described prophet who had to decide whether there was a giant conspiracy that masked a truly elected Trump or he was just a false prophet that got it wrong.
Out of all the false prophets that arose to the surface of evangelical America like curdled milk, he alone admitted his lack of insight, shut down his Jeremiah Johnson ministry, and then did a youtube series entitle “I was wrong”. This action enraged his followers who believed Trump was ‘God’s man’, and that he would lead America back to greatness.
America’s dilemma today is far greater than one man can affect, we have a systemic problem that has woven itself throughout every aspect of society….the acceptance of sin. Morality has become what many hoped it would be, a watered down exhibition of political correctness that takes the worlds standard and makes it the expectation. The world’s standard of righteousness is not God’s standard and yet the church has allowed this infection of immorality to systemically putrefy what God deemed as Holy.
Proclaiming God’s wonders is to be a revelation of His majesty that He has revealed in us. We show Christ by the love He gives us and performs through us. If we don’t know how to love, we are either not of God or we have lost touch with His Spirit who works within us.
Secure in Christ
I leave you with a simple progression:
God is good. His plans are good. All that He does is good. God intervenes in our lives. When we give Him our life, He orders it. When God acts in our lives it is good. We need not fear if God is in control. All of our desires of peace, security, and joy will be realized in Him. If we trust Him, we will follow Him. If we love Him, we will show love by obedience, not empty promises.
Isaiah 55:12 “You will indeed go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
The righteous live by faith. They walk according to the law of the Lord, and in His law do they meditate day and night. They are like springs of water, bringing forth the goodness of the Lord in a dry and thirsty land. The world doesn’t need more election prophecies, it doesn’t need more political turmoil….it needs Jesus.
Let’s not forget why we are here.