I Was Just Thinking …
God’s Word teaches that throughout life, the Christian is engaged in a warfare with the powers of sin and darkness. With each of us, Satan’s objective is to destroy our confidence in Christ so that we will despair and leave off following him. We know that this is Satan’s objective from 1 Thessalonians 3:5, where Paul said he was sending a messenger to that church that “I might know your faith, for fear that somehow the Tester had caused you to fail a test of faith and that our labor would be in vain.” Paul knew that Satan, the Tester, was trying to destroy the Thessalonians’ faith, and that if he succeeded, all the effort Paul had expended in bringing them to Christ would be in vain.
Since Satan’s objective in this warfare is to destroy our faith, our objective as Christians must be to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and “hold fast our first confidence firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:14). We will have won the battle when we come to the end of life and like Paul are able to say, “I have fought a good fight … I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness …” (2 Timothy 4:7). Some, however, do not win; they make shipwreck of faith (1 Timothy 1:19). The Bible teaches that “through much tribulation we must enter thekingdomofGod” (Acts 14:22). When I consider the many trials through which Christians must go—some of which you’ve told me about in your letters—and how such difficulties have cause some to make shipwreck of faith, I ask myself whether I will be able to sail through the storms that may lie ahead of me.
Surely my confidence that I will not make shipwreck of faith cannot depend on my ability to marshal a faith and courage that will carry me sublimely through whatever crisis may arise. Indeed, as one who has devoted his life to the study of Scripture, I can cite many reasons why I and others should experience nothing but God’s perfect peace despite all crises. But experience has shown that when feelings of anxiety rage in the heart, my attempts to quell them by citing reasons, even when these are based on scriptural teaching, are no more effective than a water pistol would be in stopping a 30-ton truck.
How then will I be able to keep the faith and finish my course? My confidence that I will win out rests not on my ability to generate faith but on what God, in Psalm 50:15, has promised to do. “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.” When trial or difficulty strike and I cannot quell the unrest of my heart, I have found that the way to win out is to go to prayer and say, “Lord, you have commanded me to call upon you in the day of trouble. This is a day of trouble, and I am now asking you to help me.” God has never failed to keep this promise. In due time he causes the storms raging in my heart to cease. He enables me to lay hold upon appropriate promises of Scripture so that I experience again his peace and joy. Note that according to Romans 15:13, it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can rejoice in hope.
God also does wonderful things in changing circumstances so that a way of escape through the trial becomes evident (1 Corinthians 10:13). Indeed, he “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask of think” (Ephesians 3:20), and he loves to deliver those who call upon him in a day of trouble by doing things that we never dreamed could happen. “God is unto us a god of deliverances, and unto the Eternal belongs escape from death” (Psalm 68:20).
In the day of trouble, Satan always tries to persuade us that we are in such a predicament that there is no way out. But in such times I have found it helpful to remember that no matter how difficult the situation, it is nothing compared to the difficulty I will be in if I say to God, in effect, that I don’t believe he is telling me the truth when he commanded me to call upon him in a day of trouble. He promised to deliver me no matter how great the trouble might be. If calling some human being a liar so arouses his wrath that it is well night impossible ever to make up, then we should tremble in realizing how greatly God’s anger will be aroused—and what trouble we will be in—if we do not believe him. According to Hebrews 10:33, if we shrink back from God’s promises and persist in unbelief, he will then have no pleasure in us. Since that would be the ultimate difficulty, we have no choice but to believe God and to call upon him in the day of trouble.
Sometimes our days of trouble come because we have sinned and acted foolishly, and Satan likes to tell us that therefore we cannot claim the promise of Psalm 50:15. But once when this happened to me, God showed me Psalm 107:10-14
Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. 13 Then they cried to the Eternal in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.
So, even if our day of trouble is the result of having sinned, God’s promise to deliver us when we call upon him remains unchanged!
Hence, through confidence not in ourselves but in the promises of the living God, we know we will keep the faith and persevere to the end.
Daniel P. Fuller