When There Are No Easy Answers
John the Baptist, who had seen God’s Spirit descending from heaven like a dove upon Christ, and had heard the Father’s voice to Christ saying “This is my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased”, later on questioned whether Jesus was really the true Messiah, after John had been imprisoned for some time. John wisely sent men to Jesus to confirm His identity for him. Jesus did give signs to John’s messengers to tell him of, accompanied by words that are both a promise and a warning to all: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (see Matthew 11:2-6)
Jesus wasn’t going to deliver John from prison, and John was eventually beheaded there. We have to be convinced of the ultimate lesson (or certainly a key takeaway at least) of the book of Job: That God is righteous and will never wrong anyone, even if we don’t understand the “whys?” of His works and of what He allows. To be a faithful Christian one needs to learn how to walk beneath the cloud, when God’s mercies aren’t shining and apparent to us. There is no other way to prove that we really trust God and that our hearts are set on obeying Him unconditionally. That is, it’s necessary to follow Him obediently in confidence even when the reward for doing so isn’t before our eyes at the moment- and may even seem a billion miles away from us.
We are told in Isaiah 50:10: “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.”
We are also told in Hebrews 11:1 and 6: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
As Hebrews chapter 11 goes on, we are given the examples of men of faith like Noah, Abraham, and Moses who endured in obedience to God despite not having the promises from God that they were seeking in front of their natural eyes. Since they believed God’s Word, they regarded the promises associated with obedience to Him, as well as the consequences of disobedience which the Word warns of, as absolutely certain. Therefore they endured in a living faith before God, awaiting their ultimate reward. In the process, they witnessed God’s faithfulness to them in the midst of chaotic, difficult, confusing, and/or very uncertain looking circumstances.
We are given the 11th chapter of Hebrews to learn of the victorious servants of God commended there who were of like passions as ourselves. We ultimately have the best example of faith in Jesus Christ who endured the hardest race to do the will of the Father and to purchase our salvation. The 12th and 13th chapters of Hebrews contain a general roadmap for us to follow Him faithfully. The examples given in Hebrews chapter 11 can’t be overlooked though, as they are given to us as key instruction and encouragement regarding running the race of faith, considering everything that we know about these men from the whole of Scripture.
We can also learn from those examples something which we can’t learn directly from Jesus’ example. And that is, how to recover and continue in the faith if we have sinned or failed miserably in serving God. There’s also no doubt a key example here in the Bible through Peter the Apostle. He failed seriously and sinned grievously, but he was persuaded that the Lord would have mercy on him and restore him when he turned back to Him in contrition with a wholehearted intent to be victorious going forward, including in the ways he had grievously failed before. Many who sin and never recover aren’t so much destroyed by a shameful act of sin itself, but rather more so, the proud attitude afterwards that keeps them from turning back to the Lord after they’ve initially gone astray. Acknowledging that we didn’t have it all together and that we weren’t the mature Christians like we might have believed about ourselves to be, can be painfully difficult. But men like King David and Peter cared more about honoring God by getting back on the right path and doing their best in their cast down state than they cared for holding onto self-pity. They give hope that we can repent and, by the grace of the Lord, rise up and yet be victorious in Him, though we have failed badly before. The same lesson holds true if we are confronted by truth that proves our doctrine has been in error, especially if we had been teaching that doctrine publicly. It’s better to change and make right what we said in the past than it is to be dishonest with Scripture to maintain our own satisfaction in the doctrines we were previously believing and proclaiming that don’t hold up in the light of the whole counsel of God. It is hard to lose face by doing this when necessary, yet utterly sensible and worthwhile.
There is a common question that is given as part of a joke. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” And of course, the standard answer is “To get to the other side.” We could seriously ask “Why did/does the Christian take up the cross?” And of course, the answer is “To get to the other side.” Whatever we have to go through in this life to be faithful to Christ, however we should have to die to ourselves to follow Him, there is another side for those who hold on to Christ and won’t let go for anything. God always delivers His servants who patiently endure going through the valley of the shadow of death for His name’s sake- eventually, in some way. Even John the Baptist, who never got delivered from prison in this life, will rejoice in the Lord on the day of resurrection. He will know then firsthand how well worth it that serving Christ and suffering for His sake actually was. We also have the example of Job who was delivered from his affliction and got back all he had lost, within this present life- and more. How we end up here is not ultimately up to us; and we ultimately must live for Judgment Day and eternity. The resolution of Christians’ trials pertaining to this life is usually not as simple as either dying in prison like John the Baptist or getting back double, and then dying full of days and in peace like Job did. Any and all of the suffering and/or prosperity here, if we take such rightly, are intended by God as lessons and opportunities to glorify Him somehow. We should in whatever case look past the happiness or trouble of the moment to pursue that which will be valuable on Judgment Day and in eternity. We are given the true and faithful promise that God will wipe all tears from the eyes of His servants and make all things new for them then, as they will inherit all things and reign with Christ forever in His service (Revelation 7:17, Rev. 22:3-5, etc). The Lord’s tender mercy will surely be known then, when it supremely matters, for the faithful.
James 5:10-11: “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
We are thus told in Proverbs 23:17-18: “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”
The Apostle Paul testified near the end of his life after he had run the Christian race faithfully (he was on the verge of finishing that anyways) “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18)
Hard circumstances and confusing problems could drive us to foolish decisions and words. To find strength in the Lord and rest on God’s promises even when we are suffering due to someone else’s wrong and/or (at least apparent) failure towards us is indeed not easy. But if the Lord is with us and for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? Satan, demons, and some people will be against us- but what can they really do to us that will ultimately harm us and not help us from God’s perspective (which is how things really are)? Nothing, if we are zealous to follow that which is good before God (see Romans 8:26-39 with 1 Peter 3:12-13 (which I’ll quote here): “ For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?”
Yet, complicated circumstances can leave us in times where we especially need to tune in, seeking His help and guidance through prayer and the Word of God. If we aren’t wise in our own eyes, then we’ll be praying a lot and often acknowledging that we need direction!
James 1:2-8: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
The Lord will never guide us contrary to His Word, as His Spirit inspired the Bible. Ultimately faith is confidence in who God is and what He spoke in the Scriptures- which He gave us to be our final authority and guide to walking in a faith which is acceptable to Him- and thus responding/acting accordingly. We are told to hold the profession of our faith without wavering because God is faithful (see Hebrews 10:23). We can hold on to that no matter how difficult or confusing our circumstances are. The Lord is totally sovereign and so powerful that He can even let things fall apart so much that we cannot understand how He could possibly still be in control. Yet it is in how He can even work such moments out for the advancement of His interests and the good of His people who stay faithful to Him over the course of many days/months/years/decades, or even centuries which ultimately prove best that His throne and power are never compromised nor threatened at all. Yet those who do not forward obediently in faith, even while doing so is like walking under a cloud, will never know firsthand such great works of God in their genuineness and authenticity. Even if He doesn’t deliver the one who so goes forward from the difficulty quickly, even if He doesn’t clear up the confusion right away or anytime soon, He still sure has a way to sustain them in the trial; as well a way to deliver when He sees fit to do so.
Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Often, having lack and/or other difficulties somehow in our lives push us to draw near to God (though we can of course still resist). Some thing(s) missing that would be seemingly ideal for us to have, or some pressure/hardship that would be seemingly ideal to have removed (when looked at from a human perspective), just might leave us utterly dependent upon God from our hearts. And to be utterly dependent upon God from our hearts is actually our greatest need! Many of us just get self-satisfied and complacent otherwise. Being left with lack and/or difficulty somehow can be a mercy that, if used rightly, can teach us to really depend upon God’s Word and to genuinely cast ourselves into His hands on a daily basis. Yet on the other hand, we can’t let such hardship make us bitter, because it very well could. Many do fail here. We’ve really got to guard always against at least one of these two: self-satisfied complacency or frustrated anxiety/bitterness (at least something along those lines). At least one of those general attitudes will always be a potential snare to us. We can be victorious by meditating on God’s Word continually (Psalm 1, Joshua 1), praying continuously, and seeking His kingdom first one day at a time. We’re blessedly not required to make our own map for getting through the future for weeks/months/years ahead. That is impossible for anyone to really do anyways. We are required to seek God’s kingdom first and to hold on to Him for today, every day. That is very reasonable for anyone to do.
Enduring to the end of the great, authentic Christian race, as it is laid out in the Bible, is difficult. Yet we have the wise, powerful, everlasting God who has given us the perfect roadmap (the Bible), and who is totally able and reliable to sustain as we turn to Him (on His terms, according as He has revealed Himself in Scripture).
Hebrews 7:24-25: “But this man Christ Jesus), because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
Isaiah 40:27-31: “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Jude 24-25: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
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