8. Struggling To Apprehend The Promises

“MUSINGS WHILE IN THE HOLD”

Chapter Eight
Struggling To Apprehend The Promises

TRULY my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved.  How long will ye imagine mischief against a man?  ye shall be slain all of you:  as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence.  They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.  Selah.  My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.  In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.  Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.  Selah.  Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.  Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.  God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.  Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.  (Psalm 62).

 How much emphasis and confidence should the believer place upon, or put in, these verses?  In reading them, we are most willing to say, “Oh! how wonderful was the faith of David.”  This is truly excellent, and just how the God of the Bible should be acknowledged.  We utter this type of accommodating verbiage, but is this really what abides in our inner being?  If God were to try the veracity of our published and professed convictions, would there be found that which is firm and God wrought, or would we be utterly amazed as to the shallow and bewildering degree of actual faith.  “We know that the Lord’s people cannot always reach such a measure of composure as to be wholly exempt from distraction.  They would wish to receive the word of the Lord with submission, and to be dumb under his correcting hand; but inordinate affections will take possession of their minds, and break in upon that peace which they might otherwise attain to in the exercise of faith and resignation.  Hence the impatience we find in many; an impatience which they give vent to in the presence of God, and which is an occasion to themselves of much trouble and disquietude.”  (Psalms by John Calvin).

Proved by the Father and having faith rigorously exercised is not pleasant.  It will always expose what is erroneous and lacking, while purging and strengthening what is genuine and acceptable with God.  The word appears gloriously precious until we are tried by its promises.  “Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him.”  (Ps. 105:19).  See also Heb. 12.

 These trials may be long – “how long, O Lord,” but they will not fail of God’s appointment.  “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”  (Prov. 6:23).

 When the specific purpose of God is to divorce one from self, God usually leaves one by oneself.  This is when the child of God first begins to grasp the significance of truly being alone.  Fearfulness and terror take hold of him like a great wind from the wilderness and smite his heart to the core.  Overwhelmed by the thought that God has taken the position of an uncaring, unaffected observer, the sorrowful supplicant offers up heart-wrenching screams of disjointed unutterable pleas for divine relief.  “… but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  Tis enough Father, cast me not off forever, remember that I am but dust.  “My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.  Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.”  (Rom. 8:26; Ps. 55:4-5).

 When the scriptures are studied, one soon observes that the promises of God are the very instruments He uses to mold and refine the vessels of mercy.  At the same time, the great God of all has by sovereign authority obligated Himself countless times to be faithful in those promises.  “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!  how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.”  “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”  “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”  (Ps. 139:17-18; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Tim. 2:13).

 The eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord is that the called will be conformed to the image of His Son.  (Rom. 8:29).  This, without argument, implies laborious discipline and goes well beyond regeneration.  We often do not perceive the conforming until many troubles and corrections have hammered, purged, and lacerated our robust sinful nature.  What is essential is a daily emptying of self, a crucifying, and a killing of the flesh, which results in the denial of our own ambitions and being completely submissive to the God of heaven and earth.  This, to say the least, is a substantial undertaking.

 When the conforming process begins, we may apprehend it only slightly, but apprehend it to some degree we must.  We may not properly define it for what it is or for its absolute purpose.  In time, however, God will wrap up a bundle of His promises and sharpen their meaning until we cannot refrain seeking their ultimate fulfillment in our daily lives.  The strain of satanic warfare is amplified and the pitch becomes extensive.  So much so that the weak-spirited soul no longer entertains any thought of their actual fulfillment as a result of his own efforts.  “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”  All other devices and efforts are useless vanity.

 There are times when the severity of the struggle is so grave that it becomes all-absorbing.  Thoughts of desertion and being forsaken by God funnel into the fettered soul of the impotent sufferer.  He prays for light, and darkness comes.  While seeking for good, he finds only evil.  In the solitary state, the broken hearted saint sees only the dark side.  “When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.”  “He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.  Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.”  “He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.  He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.  He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.  Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.  He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.  He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate.  He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.  He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.”  “He hath filled me with bitterness…”  (Job 30:26; Lam. 3:2-3, 5-9, 11-13, 15A).

 It is in this deep torment that the promises of God become a troublesome thing and His word is comfortless, and seems as if it were written for everyone but you:  “I remembered God, and was troubled.”  “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?  Is his mercy clean gone for ever?  Doth his promise fail for evermore?  Hath God forgotten… ?”  (Ps. 77:3a, 7-9a).

 Take special care to notice that it was the God of Job, David, and Jeremiah who dispensed these mighty afflictions.  These men knew what it was to be tried by the word.  They were emptied of self, and found that God was truly the only sovereign one.  If they expected instant fruition (a habit common to all) from the hand of their benefactor, they were surely most dejected.  However, we must remember that when we find ourselves in these conditions, God is not yet finished with His servants.  When the purpose of God is deemed sufficient, He will bless our latter end more, much more than the beginning, and we shall come forth as gold.  “But he knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”  “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning… ”  (Job. 23:10, 42:12).

 The promises of God do not lose their credence as a result of their long awaited accomplishment.  Time spent in the hold may be tense and lengthy, but faithful is He that promised.  It is in waiting so long where the wicked one seeks to take advantage of the weakened believer.  “The constant temptation in a time of growing crisis is to be up and doing.  Inactivity seems to be the worst possible policy.  ‘Do something, anything!  Don’t just sit there!  Do something!’  That is Satan’s advice to the soul.”  (Exploring The Psalms by John Phillips).

 Scripture after scripture may well delineate the truthfulness of the Holy and Just God.  Still, if what He has promised remains unfulfilled for what seems too long a time, the once confident child becomes restless and doleful.  It is then, in a reduced frame full of uncertainty and mistrust, that the adversary executes his antagonistic charge.  He will interject the thought that these promises are not for you.  God made bold statements but they are for a different dispensation.  Anyway, your sins are too great and too many.  There are countless others far more worthy than you who received much less in this life than what you hope for.  In any event, if God could grant to you what you desire, surely by now He would have done so if it was ever His intention to accomplish such in and for you.

 In times like these, prayers are offered up to God with more importunity than ever, but heaven is silent.  The impression now is so devastating that all ability to function spiritually has vanished.  “Where is your God?” is the reproach of Satan.  “Where is MY GOD?” is the trembling thoughts of the despondent.  No answer, no discernible leadership, no seeming help from God is forthcoming.  This apparent lack of divine support brings with it objections, questions, doubts, fears, and if not relieved soon, eventual rancid unbelief.

 “The natural mind is ever prone to reason, when we ought to believe; to be at work, when we ought to be quiet; to go our own way, when we ought steadily to walk on in God’s ways, however trying to nature … And how does it work, when we thus anticipate God, by going our own way?  We bring, in many instances, guilt on our conscience; but if not, we certainly weaken faith, instead of increasing it; and each time we work thus a deliverance of our own, we find it more and more difficult to trust in God, till at last we give way entirely to our natural fallen reason, and unbelief prevails.  (A Narrative of some of the Lord’s Dealings by George Muller).

Can we ever look to the scriptures again with any real confidence and tranquility after seasons of unbelief?  If by the grace and persuasion of God we can, then every promise that had been our companion before we slipped is still truly ours, and will be the greater when it has secured its God-ordained object.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”  “Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.  My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips … It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven.  Selah.  (Ps. 37:23-24, 89:33-34, 37).

How different if one is enabled to wait on God’s own time, and to look alone to him for help and deliverance!  When at last help comes, after many seasons of prayer it may be, and after much exercise of faith and patience it may be, how sweet it is, and what a present recompense does the soul at once receive for trusting in God, and waiting patiently for his deliverance!  (George Muller).

“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you… blessed are all they that wait for him.”  “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.”  “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”  “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen.”  “Jesus said unto him, if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”  “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”  “… and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.”  “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  (Is. 30:18; Lk. 18:7-8; Matt. 7:7; 2 Cor. 1:20; Mk. 9:23, 11:24; Matt. 8:13; Rom. 8:32).

 What does all this mean?  Notice if you will how a hundred objections enter your mind, and just as many disparaging “ifs, ands, or buts” when you contemplate the awesome promises of God.  There just are not very many who without reserve believe these faithful injunctions, or have Jesus Christ as their true and only expectation.  We do not anticipate supernatural interventions.  Wondrous exploits from the hand of God are rendered fanciful and viewed with suspicion in our present day.  Instead of minimizing their value to accommodate little faith, should we not in all honesty confess that we greatly limit the power of the Holy One and concede we just do not have faith that is strong, giving the glory to God.  (Rom. 4:18-25).  Only by admitting our glaring weakness and seeking the abundance of God and His gift of greater faith, will we be able to cast aside all human boundaries which unbelief has conjured up to dethrone God.  Only by the miracle of grace can man be brought to a position of belief and trust that honors God.  “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  (Mk. 9:24).

 The writers of the Bible were no strangers to Jehovah.  God help us to apprehend the promises of this Psalm and all other portions of Holy Writ to such an extent that He will likewise be no stranger to us, or we to His testimonies.  May we ever know Him as the giver of true faith, and the bestower of solid confidence.  In God and His Holy Word let us receive greater comfort, strength, trust and faithfulness in His mighty promises.

 We close with a quotation taken from a little book entitled According to Promise:

 The Lord our God, who bids us believe, also enables us to believe… Timorous souls find much difficulty in laying hold upon the promises of God as being made to themselves: they fear that it would be presumption to grasp things so good and precious.  As a general rule, we may consider that if we have faith to grasp a promise, that promise is ours… There can never be presumption in humbly believing God; there may be a great deal of it in daring to question his word … We must believe the promises, each one for himself, and declare that we know it to be true, or it will bring us no blessing.  No good works, or ceremonial performances, or rapturous feelings, can supply the place of simple confidence.  He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  Some things may be or may not be, but this must be.  (Charles H. Spurgeon).

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