Leads to Trust
Because he holds fast to me, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.(Psalm 91:14)
Just as the faith of salvation comes through hearing the message of the gospel(Romans 10:17) so the faith to trust God in adversity comes through the Word of God alone. Only in the Scriptures will we find an adequate view of God’s relationship to and involvement in our painful circumstances. Only from the Scriptures, applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, will we receive the grace to trust God in adversity.
In the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God: (1) God is completely sovereign; (2) God is infinite in wisdom; (3) God is perfect in love. Someone has expressed these three truths, as they relate to us this way: “God in His love always will what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best; and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”
As we become so convinced of these scriptural truths that we appropriate them in our daily circumstances, we learn to trust God in the midst of our pain, whatever form it may take. It doesn’t matter whether our pain is trivial or traumatic, temporary or interminable. Regardless of the nature of the circumstances, we must learn to trust God if we would glorify God in them.
In order to trust in God’s sovereignty, love, and wisdom, we must know Him in an intimate, personal way. David said in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name put their trust in you; for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. To know God’s name means coming into a deeper personal relationship with Him as a result of seeking Him in the midst of our personal pain and discovering Him to be trustworthy. It’s only as we know God in this personal way that we come to trust Him.
Hebrews 11, commonly known as the Hall of faith gives us a glimpse of those who knew God intimately and trusted Him in every circumstances. What sets these apart is the fact that they trusted God in adversity. I suppose it might be easy to say we trust in God when everything is going well. The truth is that it’s in adversity that our faith and relationship with God is defined. God in His sovereign love and wisdom sets a course for us that is designed for us to intimately know Him and often that path includes adversity, both trivial and intense. The apostle Paul says,
“Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Just as it is written and forever remains written, “ For Your sake we are put to death all day long; We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter .” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
There are those who, when adversity comes, immediately begin to question their faith or relationship as though through some lack they are suffering. While it is always a good thing to check your heart, we dare not limit the cause of adversity to our failures and the discipline of God only. Jesus was clear that “in this world you will have tribulation.” And the Bible teaches us that it “rains on the just and the unjust.”
The heroes of Hebrews 11 were ordinary people who chose to trust God and to follow and obey Him both in good times and in times of adversity; trusting His sovereign love and wisdom for their lives.
“By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which it was testified of him that he was righteous (upright, in right standing with God), and God testified by accepting his gifts. And though he died, yet through [this act of] faith he still speaks. By faith [that pleased God] Enoch was caught up and taken to heaven so that he would not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found because God had taken him; for even before he was taken [to heaven], he received the testimony [still on record] that he had walked with God and pleased Him. But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. By faith [with confidence in God and His word] Noah, being warned by God about events not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his family. By this [act of obedience] he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called [by God], obeyed by going to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land, as in a strange land, living in tents [as nomads] with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. For he was [waiting expectantly and confidently] looking forward to the city which has foundations, [an eternal, heavenly city] whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive [a child], even [when she was long] past the normal age for it, because she considered Him who had given her the promise to be reliable and true [to His word]. So from one man, though he was [physically] as good as dead, were born as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand on the seashore. All these died in faith [guided and sustained by it], without receiving the [tangible fulfillment of God’s] promises, only having seen (anticipated) them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. By faith Abraham, when he was tested [that is, as the testing of his faith was still in progress], offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises [of God] was ready to sacrifice his only son [of promise]; to whom it was said, “ Through Isaac your descendants shall be called.” For he considered [it reasonable to believe] that God was able to raise Isaac even from among the dead. [Indeed, in the sense that he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God] Abraham did receive him back [from the dead] figuratively speaking. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau [believing what God revealed to him], even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and bowed in worship, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, referred to [the promise of God for] the exodus of the sons of Israel [from Egypt], and gave instructions concerning [the burial of] his bones [in the land of the promise]. By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt; for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God]. By faith he left Egypt, being unafraid of the wrath of the king; for he endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood [on the doorposts], so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them (the firstborn of Israel). By faith the people [of Israel] crossed the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days [by Joshua and the sons of Israel]. By faith Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed along with those who were disobedient, because she had welcomed the spies [sent by the sons of Israel] in peace. And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith [that is, with an enduring trust in God and His promises] subdued kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promised blessings, closed the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of [raging] fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became mighty and unbeatable in battle, putting enemy forces to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured [to death], refusing to accept release [offered on the condition of denying their faith], so that they would be resurrected to a better life; and others experienced the trial of mocking and scourging [amid torture], and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned [to death], they were sawn in two, they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith], they were put to death by the sword; they went about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated ( people of whom the world was not worthy ), wandering in deserts and mountains and [living in] caves and holes in the ground. And all of these, though they gained [divine] approval through their faith, did not receive [the fulfillment of] what was promised, because God had us in mind and had something better for us, so that they [these men and women of authentic faith] would not be made perfect [that is, completed in Him] apart from us.”
What shall we learn from these?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
May God grant us the faith to live this way especially now in these days of adversity.
Dr. John Thompson