I was given the great privilege of spending a weekend with some very lovely ladies from South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. They trusted me to come and speak to them on the recommendation of my dear friend, Nancy. The theme for the weekend was, “Trusting and Treasuring Christ.” The time of preparation for this event was of such great benefit to me! But I have to confess to feeling a bit like a pretender as I presented to these ladies bits and pieces of sermons and lessons I have been taught by the leadership of my church over the past few years. I can look through the remarks and see the influence of Pastor Larry here, and Pastor Jarrett there, Pastor Eddie in that place, and Brother Price in this and that. I realized once more how blessed I am to sit under such great teaching each and every time I darken the doors of my church. At the request of a few friends who weren’t able to attend the conference, I will post my remarks here, one session at a time.
It is an honor to be here today. I pray that God will use what I say to encourage you, But I can say without a shadow of doubt that He has already used it to encourage me through the process of studying and calling to mind what I have been taught through the faithful ministry of my pastors. So for that, I thank you.
But let me tell you a little story before I get started. This story is about a young girl who grew up in Africa. And when I came of age, I returned to the United States to attend college. I had applied to Hardin Simmons University, primarily because that is where my sister was attending. When I arrived in Texas, I was informed by said sister that she had transferred to North Texas State, in Denton. Well, it was too late to change my mind, so I went on to HSU.
Now when I graduated from high school, I was given a copy of Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening”. I cannot tell you what a comfort Spurgeon’s words were that first year. It was a difficult year in many ways, and Spurgeon reminded me of the truths of Scripture. I mention this because in my mind, this is what God used to lay the foundation for what was to come a bit later. Spurgeon taught me much of the sovereignty of God in all aspects of life.
During the first two years of college, I was asked to speak at churches about my experience as a missionary kid. I almost always referred to Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me when as yet there were none of them.” So I had a sense of the sovereignty of God, but I had never heard the term, “doctrines of grace”.
And then one day a friend of mine started talking to me about moving to Denton, Texas, where she would attend Texas Women’s University. She went so far as to do research about my desired career and informed me that NTSU (also in Denton) was the only University in Texas that had an actual BSW degree (Bachelor of Social Work). And so, I agreed to transfer after my sophomore year. As my sister had already been living there for two years, it was only natural that I would visit her church in my search for a church home. She suggested I visit a particular Sunday school class in the college department. This class was taught by one Jim Carnes, and he was making his way through Romans at a snail’s pace. I had grown up in a pastor’s home. I had been exposed to the scripture since my conception. But here in this Sunday school class I was hearing things I had never heard before about the sovereignty of God. Jim had printed notes for us each week, and I would take those notes home on Sunday afternoon and open my Bible and study through what he had taught that day. I know a lot of people struggle a great deal with the concept of God’s sovereignty in salvation, but for me it was like coming home.
I remember asking Jim, “How is it that I have never heard these things before?”
And he smiled, and answered, “That’s a really good question.”
Beyond the Sunday school class, Jim and Nancy befriended me. They gave me books to read. They referred me to a good church once I graduated and moved to Fort Worth. And they have continued to be my friends ever since. I owe them a great debt. So I am thankful for this opportunity to encourage people who are dear to them, and I pray that God will use this time for His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom.
Our theme for today is “trusting and treasuring Christ”. In this first session I want to spend some time considering who Christ is, why He is trust worthy. Then in the next session we will talk of what there is to treasure about him, and how we can do that. Much of what I will say is basic to our faith. I believe it is important to remind ourselves of the foundational truths regularly. This is not an easy life. Or at least it hasn’t been for me. I have a tendency to trust what I see with my eyes and that can sometimes be a problem. So I must bring myself back to the basics andremind myself of the things that must be seen with the eyes of faith. Because if I trust only what I can see for myself, I begin to wonder, “is Christ really trustworthy?”
So who is Christ, and is He trustworthy? Well, to begin with, He is God. He is the Son, who is eternally begotten of the Father. He is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.
John 1: 1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory and the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
From this passage we can see that Christ is God. He is eternal. He is the Word. He created us, so we owe our very existence to him. Because he created us, we can trust that He knows how to sustain us. He knows our needs better than we know our own. He has numbered our days, and we will live the exact number of days that are ordained for us. I playfully refer to myself as a hippie, because I am somewhat committed to a crunchy lifestyle. I eat organic when possible, I use non-toxic cleaners and toiletries, I drink tons water, etc. And as much as I believe this is a good stewardship of the life I have been given, I must regularly remind myself that I cannot do anything to add or take away one second of the days that are numbered for me. I must trust Christ to sustain me until that day when He will see fit to take me home to be with Him.
Secondly, He is our Savior. He did not create us and then leave us to ourselves. He became flesh and dwelt among us.
Philippians 2: 5 – 11 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father. Here we are reminded that not only did Christ give us physical life, he also went to great lengths to give His people spiritual life. He became a man, lived a sinless life, offered himself up as propitiation for our sins through his death on the cross. He rose again, conquering death and is seated at the right hand of the Father. This accomplished our reconciliation to the Father. This is peace on earth, good will to men. The same information is given to us in:
Romans 5:6-11 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through HIm. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
Not only can we trust Him because of who He is, we can also trust Him because of what He has done. Recently I have been exposed to a counseling concept called the “trust equation”:
Trust = consistent behavior/time
We can certainly look through history and see that Christ has consistently done what He said he would do. From the beginning He has provided a way of salvation for His people. We see this in
the Old Testament through the nation of Israel. God destroyed the world with flood, but he
preserved the life of Noah and his family. He called Abraham and Sarah out of a life of paganism, brought them to a land of promise, and provided a son for them from whom a great nation would be generated. He preserved Jacob’s life, though his deceitful and conniving behavior caused his brother Esau to desire his death. He preserved Joseph though his brothers wanted to kill him, Potiphar’s wife wanted to ruin him, his cellmate forgot him. Joseph was raised up and put in a position to be a savior (little s) for his people by providing a place for them to live and prosper in the midst of famine.
Then a new pharaoh was raised up in Egypt and the Israelites became slave labor. God provided Moses as a little ’s’ savior for His people by leading them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and on to the promised land. Throughout the following years Israel went through many wars, captivities, kingdom divisions, rebellions. And through it all God continued to faithfully preserve His people, continued to faithfully provide types and shadows of the coming Messiah, continued to provide a way of salvation. And then the Savior came, bringing peace between God and man through his death and resurrection.
I am struck by the parallels between the the history of the Israelites and my own spiritual journey. I see the hardness of my own heart in the story of Lot who had to be basically dragged out of Sodom because he lingered in the face of danger. I lingered in my sinfulness but Christ changed my heart of stone for a heart of flesh, and I was saved from destruction. I see my own propensity to be allured by the things of this world, just as the Israelites were allured by false gods. And Christ has provided His Spirit to discipline me, and deliver me from the evil one. I see the repeated sacrifices of lambs for the sins of the Israelites and am reminded of the constant need to come before the Lamb of God to repent of my own sins, knowing that I have the ultimate forgiveness of Christ’s sacrifice, but still having a battle with the old man day by day. I am privileged to see the continued preservation of God’s people through the ages, and am reminded of the way God sustains me every day.
But one of the problems of sweeping through thousands of years in a few minutes is that we lose sight of the time it took for the people involved. Yes, God provided a son for Sarah and Abraham, but it was when they were very advanced in years. They waited a long time for the fulfilling of that prophecy. So long, in fact, that it seemed absurd to them that it would be fulfilled. So long, that they tried to figure out a way to help it along. Yes, God provided a bride for Isaac, but not until he was 40, and then he prayed for a child for 20 years before Jacob and Esau were born. Jacob was promised Rachel for a wife, worked 7 years for her, was tricked into marrying Leah, and had to work another 7 years for her. (I couldn’t hardly get my husband to wait 6 months to marry me, not sure he would have stuck around for 14 years.) Sure, God fulfilled the prophetic dreams Joseph had as a child, but before he saw the fulfillment of those dreams, he saw the bottom of a pit, where he waited while his brothers argued over whether to kill him. He lived as a slave, he was accused of rape, he was sent to prison and forgotten. I do love Joseph’s story, though, because he gives us such an example of living patiently with integrity while awaiting the accomplishment of God’s plan. May I be so diligent with my life to serve God where ever He may be pleased to have me be at any given time. May I be more concerned with doing what He commands than with being rescued from the difficulties of this world.
I think ultimately the question I have to ask myself is not whether Christ is trustworthy, but whether I will trust HIm.
I have a 23 year old daughter who has struggled with chronic illness almost her entire life. We have tried all sorts of medical and alternative approaches to her care, and still there have been times when I thought she would die. There have been times when I have wondered how much one person could be asked to suffer. There have been sleepless nights for us both where we exhausted our arsenal for relief, and were left crying out to the Lord for help. Will I trust Him to
take care of my daughter? Will I trust that her days are numbered and that she is gently carried by her savior? Will I trust that Christ is completing in her what He began? Will I trust that he is bringing glory to His name?
I have a husband who had a stroke 5 years ago whose personality has changed, and whose body is still effected. There are days I can see no possible good in his life from his continued existence in this world. I have grown a thousand spiritual years through this experience, but my dear man seems incapable with his present disabilities to apply anything that he knew before the stroke. He is plagued with paranoia. He is unable to consistently work toward rehabilitation. He is unable to realize the damage that has been caused in his brain, and consequently refuses to believe that he is not thinking rationally. There are many days I leave his side and cry out to the Lord, “Why is he still here?” Will I trust that every day that my husband remains in this world is for his good and God’s glory? Will I trust that his days are numbered, and consequently that none of them is a waste?
I think that one of the reasons we have a struggle trusting Christ is that we don’t have a clear understanding of what we can trust Him for. We are so limited by our senses. We only perceive what we can see and touch and taste and hear. We become very dependent on these things for our understanding of the world we live in. They are great tools, these senses, but they are limited. We are not able to understand with our earthly senses the spiritual truths. We want to fix this world to appeal to our earthly senses. We want to be well. We want to be fed. We want to store up treasures that can be destroyed by moth and rust. But these things are only temporal at best. We need to be thinking in terms of the eternal.
One thing that has been very helpful to me this year is a series of sermons our pastor did recently on the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6 (the first of the series can be found here). When I find myself in a situation where I don’t know what to think or do, I have begun to use this model prayer to help me not only know how to pray, but to bring my spiritual sight into focus. Can we say this prayer together right now to remind us of its content?
Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.
So when I pray, I start by reminding myself that God is our Father: mine, yours, my husband’s,my daughter’s, my church family’s, the universal church. This is important in a society that is all about the individual. We are a collective. We are connected in one body with Christ as our head. The most important thing is not my personal welfare, but the welfare of the church at large. Then I remind myself how this wonderful thing can be true, that the God of the universe is my Father. It is through the sacrifice of His Son that this sinner has been reconciled to the Creator. This Father is in Heaven. This doesn’t indicate distance from me, because He has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in my very soul. What it indicates is that He is in the place of power. He is seated because He has completed His work of salvation and earth is His footstool. There is nothing that can defeat His will. I have no need to fret.
Then I pray that God would bring glory to His name through the situation at hand. That His will would be done, that He would use my particular set of circumstances to further His kingdom. (This always reminds me to pray for my pastors who are charged with the responsibility of preaching the gospel that Christ’s kingdom would come here on earth.) By this point in the prayer, I have already reminded myself that there are far more important things at hand than my happiness or comfort. I am reminded that my ultimate destiny is to live my life in such a way that others will see Christ in me. The focus begins to shift from the temporal to the eternal.
Then I pray for today. Take care of my needs today. Take care of my husband’s needs today. I remind myself how he has provided for my needs in sometimes miraculous ways. If he provided a way to pay my husband’s hospital bill and rehabilitation when we had no insurance, isn’t that harder than what I need today? Is anything too hard for God? I am reminded by this phrase, “give us this day” that I am not to worry about the things of tomorrow. I am reminded that God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies of the field. I am reminded that worry doesn’t change anything other than my ability to cope with life. Further on in Matthew 6 (where we are given this prayer as a model), we are told to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added. This prayer helps us do that very thing. Seek His Kingdom, and we are reminded that all these other things are secondary to real life.
When I get to the prayer for forgiveness, I search my heart for those I need to ask for forgiveness. I search my heart for those I need to forgive. I meditate on what I have been forgiven through the blood of Christ, and I ask that I would have mercy as I have been shown mercy – that I would remember my low and needy estate before a just God so that I could have a heart of kindness for those who cross my path (or make me cross) today.
I go on to pray that God would deliver me from evil. I know beyond a doubt that the first person He must deliver me from is me. You know, since my husband’s stroke changed his personality, I have had several people ask me why I don’t divorce him. I have had people tell me that now that he is in the nursing home, I should feel free to date. Neither of those things are really a temptation for me. I have wanted to run. I have wanted to die. I have wanted him to die.I have wanted to curl up in a ball and just stop facing life. But I am not tempted to divorce him, because I understand that he has brain damage and is not capable of being what he once was. I know that he needs me to manage his care, even if he believes with all his heart that I have abandoned him. Sometimes I can feel pretty proud of myself for that. Look at me, sticking it out in a thankless marriage. Aren’t I special? Oh Lord, deliver me from evil! When my eyes are on what is not tempting me, the things that do tempt me are gaining strength. I am prone to worry, and complain and despair of my life. I must fight against letting my anger lead me to sin. I am an easy target for Satan, because I am so easily distracted by the cares of this world. I must ask God to help me be obedient, and patient for HIs timing. I must ask him for grace and mercy. I beseech him to keep me from bringing shame to the name of Christ by my self-seeking tendencies.
Oh how thankful I am that I can trust Him to do these things for me. I can trust that His Kingdom has come, is coming and will come. I can trust that today as we are gathered here, God is working His perfect plan in the lives of His people. He is drawing us to Himself. He is fitting us for Heaven. He has provided peace on earth between his elect and Himself, which gives us the ability to pursue peace with each other. He will preserve my life every day until my days on this earth are done. And more importantly, he preserves my soul. He gives me the ability to continue to cling to Christ through all the trouble this world throws at me.
As I contemplate these things. As I meditate on how God is accomplishing this through whatever situation seemed so insurmountable in the beginning, it is only natural that my heart would then turn to praise, “Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever! Amen”
But I will let you in on a little secret. There are quite a few days when I do not get past “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”. It is all I can muster. So it’s good that the prayer starts out with the most important thing – His glory and His kingdom.
So, my dear sisters in Christ, I ask you. Will you trust Him? We know He is trustworthy. He is the God of the universe. There is nothing too hard for Him. But will you trust Him? Will you trust him when you want to be married and it seems that all the decent men are already taken? Will you trust him when you get married and that perfect guy turns out to be not so perfect? Will you trust him when you want children and can’t conceive, or can’t carry to full term or lose them to premature death? Will you trust Him when your baby won’t stop crying and you are in such desperate need of sleep? Will you trust Him when your adult children seem to reject everything you taught them to believe? Will you trust him when your years are advanced and your body is having a race with your mind to see which will fail first? Will you trust Him when your husband has a stroke and becomes a very different person (oh wait! that one was for me). But what is it for you, today? What is there in your life that would make you doubt the goodness of God? Will you trust Him?
What we see with our physical eyes can sometimes be terribly overwhelming. It can distract us from what is really true. We must do the hard work of meditating on the person of Christ if we are to be able to cope with the disappointment of this world. We must avail ourselves to regular preaching and teaching from the pastors appointed over our congregations. We need to memorize scripture. We need to familiarize ourselves with doctrinal truth. My favorite tools for this are the London Baptist Confession of 1689, and the Baptist catechism, because they help me to think systematically through the foundations of our faith. I also love hymns and songs that are full of sound doctrine. As a side note, let me encourage you who are mothers to teach your children these things. Not only for their benefit, but also for yours. Because as you go through the catechism questions with them, or help them to memorize a verse, or teach them a song, you are committing them to your own memory.
Let us agree together as sisters in Christ to remember and apply the words we read in Hebrews 10:24, 25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
May we remind each other of the greater things of the Kingdom when the things of this world crowd in to claim our attention. Let us meet together with our congregations to hear the Word proclaimed and to fellowship together with those who will help us think rightly about our trials. This is a journey through a foreign land. Let us march on to beautiful Zion united under the banner of His love for us. We don’t know the way. We don’t know what lies ahead on the path. But we do know the One who leads us. And we know that He is safe. He is trustworthy.