Grace For The Journey
We have been looking at essentials truths that we need to know and apply in our lives in order to discover the provisions and power from God to live in a way that will bring praise and glory to God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Last Wednesday we looked at how God wants us to live successfully and that He has given us His grace to enable us to live life successfully. Wednesday we looked at the first essential discipline – A Daily Time Of Focused Communion With God. Thursday we looked at the second essential discipline – A daily appropriation of the gospel. Friday we will talk about the third essential discipline – A Daily Commitment to God as a Living Sacrifice. Today we will look at Essential Discipline #4: A Firm Belief in the Sovereignty and Love of God
This essential truth doesn’t have the word daily in it, but it must be practiced continually. Years ago M. Scott Peck wrote a book entitled, The Road Less Traveled that began with a three-word sentence:
“Life is difficult.”
Most people would agree with that. If you’ve lived very long you realize life is difficult, or at least it’s often difficult, and sometimes it’s even painful. And . . .
Over time you will experience
Both difficulties and pain.
If you want to live successfully in the coming year, if you want to stand firm in the face of life’s difficulties and pain, then you must have a firm belief in the sovereignty and the love of God.
You must not only believe that God
Is in control of every event in His universe
And specifically every event in your own life,
But that God, in exercising that control,
Does so from His infinite love for you.
Many passages show us the sovereignty and love of God, but I have chosen Lamentation 3:37-38, “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed?” I have chosen this particular passage because it affirms God’s sovereignty over the actions of other people.
So much of life’s pain is caused by the sinful actions of other people. And if you do not believe that God is sovereign and in control of those actions, you will be tempted to become bitter. And if you become bitter, you begin to turn aside from God, and you will not stand firm. You will not endure if you let other people’s sinful actions cause you to become bitter.
One of the ways we can keep from becoming bitter
Is to realize that God is in sovereign control
Even over the sinful actions of other people.
Joseph is the classic illustration of this. Three times in Genesis 45 (especially verses 5–8), after Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers he told them that God had been in control all the way along. For example, in verse 8 he says, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” Then in Genesis 50:20 he says, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Joseph believed in the sovereignty of God, even in the sinful actions of his brothers.
Look further in Lamentations 3:38, God says to us, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” That is, God is in sovereign control over the difficulties and the pain just as much as He is in control over what we would consider to be the good things, the blessings of this life. Now we should thank God for the good things of life. We are to be thankful people. But what about the bad things, the things that we would not choose to have in our lives?
The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:81, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul said, “This is the will of God . . . that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Obviously he is speaking of the moral will of God. Paul uses this same phraseology in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where he says, “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It is the moral will of God that we give thanks in all circumstances.
How do we do this? We do it by faith. We don’t just grit our teeth and say, “Lord, I don’t feel thankful, but you said to give thanks, so I’m going to give you thanks even though I don’t feel thankful.” That’s not giving thanks. We do it by faith. We do it by trusting in the promises of God. We do it by faith in the words of God through Paul in Romans 8:28-29, where he says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Paul defines the good in verse 29 as being “conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is what God is after.
He wants to conform us to the likeness of Christ; so He brings or allows these various circumstances . . . circumstances that we ourselves would not choose. He brings them into our lives because He wants to use those circumstances in His way to conform us more and more to the likeness of Christ. And so by faith we can say, “Lord, I do not know what particular purpose you have in this difficulty or this pain, this trial. But you said that you will use it to conform me more and more to Jesus Christ, and for that I give you thanks.”
We also do it by faith in the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. The writer of Hebrews quotes from the Old Testament when he says, “For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). That word “never” is an absolute word. It doesn’t mean sometimes or most of the time; it means never. You can count on that. Then, we can look ahead to Romans 8:38–39, a passage that we can summarize as saying that God has said that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from His love in Christ Jesus.
It’s possible that sometime in your life things will totally fall apart and you will feel that you have nothing left. There are two things that God will never take away.
God will never take away the gospel.
In the most difficult days of your life you still stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Your sins are forgiven. Even your doubts are forgiven because Christ fully trusted the Father on your behalf.
God will never take away His promises.
These two assurances will remain even if everything else is stripped away. If you were brought to the point of being like Job, this you can count on. You stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He will never, never take the gospel away from you. And you will always have His promise, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
These are the four essentials. I’m sure there are other important considerations, but I believe these are fundamental. And so I would commend them to you:
- 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 God.
As I close today’s blog, I want to inject another word for our consideration in the subject of living successfully in the coming year. That’s the word “perseverance.” The word “perseverance” is very similar in meaning to the word “endurance,” and often we equate the two. But there can be a subtle difference. The word “endure” means to stand firm. We are to stand firm. We are not to be carried about with every wind of doctrine theologically.
We’re to stand firm.
But we need to do more than stand.
We need to move forward.
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul says, “I have finished the race.” Obviously he was talking about motion. And “perseverance” means “to keep going in spite of obstacles.” When Paul says, “I have finished the race,” basically he was saying, “I have persevered.” We do need to stand firm, and the Bible over and over again exhorts us to stand firm. But remember, that’s more than just standing still. If we get that idea, we’ve missed the point. We must move forward. We must persevere. We must be like Paul and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” May you and I be like the apostle Paul.
In closing, I want to come back to the realization that any of us could become a Demas, and it’s only by God’s grace that any of us stands firm and keep the faith. We need to acknowledge our total dependence upon God and our total indebtedness to Him. We should be thankful for His grace and pray that by His grace we will live successfully in the coming year. As we consistently practice the disciplines we have looked over the last week we can be confident that God will use them to deepen our walk with Him, develop a deeper faith in Him, and be able to live successfully in the coming year and beyond.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”