Faith Fuels Faithfulness
God’s past faithfulness is a prod for my faithfulness. Faith fuels faithfulness. God has been faithful to fulfill His past promises, and His future ones will certainly come to fruition.
God’s Past Faithfulness
Mary recalled God’s past promise and praised Him for His present fulfillment (Luke 1:54-55). Zechariah remembered that God spoke “by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old” (Luke 2:70) and he realized that those promises were being fulfilled before his face. God kept the mercy (v. 72) and the oath (v. 73) He promised, and He delivered His people.
God kept His promise because He’s a promise keeper. He will keep all His promises. He does, in fact, give light to those who sit in darkness (v. 79) and He will yet give perfect and eternal peace. We know this because His word is true. He has kept it. Yes, in radical and unexpected ways—way surpassing what is suspected—He has kept it. Yes, sometimes it takes longer than fickle humans would like, but God always delivers on what He says.
Trusting God’s Faithfulness into the Future
God has been faithful in the past and He will be faithful in the future. So, I should therefore trust in His promises that are yet to be fulfilled. Just as Christ came, He is coming back! Although it’s true that He’s coming in a much different way and for a different purpose. But just as on a real day in history He came, so He’s coming back. And just as Jesus brought salvation and peace, so will He bring salvation and peace when He returns, but it will be of a different kind. The peace that Jesus will bring upon His next return will not be merely of the heart and of relationship with God, it will be whole—pervasive. God’s peace and glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Peace will be palpable. Every foe and woe will be vanquished.
So, amid a land of war and woe, and where the enemy reigns and claims his own, may I never weary or tarry or tire, because God’s promises are true. Though the battle may bruise and be scary, may I ever remember He has been faithful and true, and He is good. The reality is, soon every tear will be wiped dry, and the sun will eternally shine.
Perspective on God’s Promises
A failure of faithfulness on my part is probably a failure of faith. I have doubted God’s faithfulness. My faith faltered. I have thought of God as failing. But God has—over and over again—shown Himself to be faithful. God has not failed. My faith failed. Our faith is often frail.
When I see the past and the present with the proper perspective (one that takes into account the reality of God’s radical faithfulness), the future fulfillment of His promise is seen more clearly. That is, with faith—the assurance of things unseen. So, faith fuels faithfulness.
Prayer for Faith
So, here’s my prayer:
“God hedge me up with faith. Let me not see mainly my failings, let all be eclipsed by a vision of Your faithfulness. You have been good and faithful way beyond what I deserve. Help me see that, so I never desert in disbelief. The reality is You are good, have done good, do good, and will do good. Let the past pave the way for my future trust.”
“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands
“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands
One of the most profound parts of the Christmas story is the small phrase “In those days.” This concept comes up repeatedly in the Nativity story. In those days there was a powerful Roman Caesar, a cruel Edomite king, a young virgin girl, an elderly Jewish priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, a righteous but clueless man named Joseph, startled shepherds in the fields, Magi from the East, a devout man named Simeon, an old prophetess named Anna, and John the Baptist. In those days…
God’s timing has always been perfect and will always be perfect.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…” (Ps. 139:16)
“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live… so that men would seek Him…” (Acts 17:26-27)
“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman born under the law” (Gal. 4:4).
“The mystery… to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment…” (Eph. 1:9-10).
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…” (Rom. 5:6).
“He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time” (1 Tim. 2:6).
“The time has come… Repent and believe…” (Mark 1:15).
The coming of the Messiah was with exact timing. God does all things with precise timing.
Historians point out some elements of the exact timing of the arrival of the Messiah:
Pax Romana (Roman Peace)
For around 200 years (BC 27-180AD) there was remarkable peace or lack of war in the Roman empire. This provided a safe passage for the Messiah and His message.
Julius Caesar was killed and his stepson Octavius, later named Augustus, established peace by powerful armies and began taxing people to pay for those armies. He traveled with 23 legions—23,000 men. This tax is what is spoken about in Luke 2:1. Augustus also began the practice of deifying the Caesar. A practice the Jews and Christians resisted.
During a period of 700 years the Romans built 55,000 miles of roads. These roads were built to move troops and maintain order in the kingdom (similar to our modern interstate system of highways).
The Roman roads were:
- straight, the Fosse Way only veered a few miles in 180 mile length
- paved with stone, had bridges, and drainage
- marked with signs and mapped
- protected and patrolled
- taxed and tolls were collected
- durable, it was the 19th century before roads of this quality and scale were built again
The Romans thought they built roads for the glory of the empire, but in reality, they built them for the glory of God. The Roman roads enabled the Gospel to quickly spread throughout the Roman Empire.
All the way to the British Isle and Germany and France, which affects many of us to this day.
At the time of Christ, the entire Roman empire spoke and wrote the Greek language and used Greek logic. This enabled the good news of Jesus to spread.
The Greeks came first then the Romans. The Greeks by way of Alexander the Great introduced language, culture, and logic. The Romans used Greek culture and language but established Roman government and military might.
There were two Greek languages used, Classical Greek and koine/Common Greek. The koine Greek used Phoenician or Hebrew alphabet.
The Greeks, following Aristotle’s influence, introduced inductive inference/reasoning (e.g. Geometry). Also, reasoned arguments like:
- All humans are mortal, I am a human, Therefore I am mortal.
- All have sinned therefore I am a sinner.
Sometime about 300BC in Alexandria Egypt, the Old Testament was translated into koine Greek. Tradition says by 72 translators. This translation is known as the Septuagint or LXX. Again, this prepared the way for the Gospel—God’s Word in man’s language. There is little to no doubt regarding the OT text because of the scholarship of these translators.
Beginning around 600BC, the Jewish people began to emigrate to the Mediterranean basin and eventually into all Europe and the Middle East. This was the initial channel for the Gospel into the cultures of the world.
In the first century (at the time of Christ), there were more Jews living in Alexandria Egypt than in all Judea (see Acts 2:7-11). Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD and all the inhabitants killed and the Jews were driven out of the land. The land was renamed Syria-Palestine. So, Jews emigrated to North Africa, Persia, Caucuses, India, China (Kaifeng) North Europe, and eventually the Americas.
The North American Jews are the most intermarried of all the groups. According to DNA, the North European Jews came from four Germanic women. It is thought Jewish merchants followed Roman legions to Germania and married local women.
Synagogue is a Greek word. Before the coming of the Messiah, the Jews began to develop the concept of the “spiritual temple” as opposed to the actual physical Temple in Jerusalem. So there were synagogues in all the towns and cities of the Roman empire. The priest became rabbi (cf. Mark 1:21).
This kept Judaism alive in all the diaspora. There were two distinctives:
- Calendar – Sabbath and Feast days (The Greeks and Romans did not have a weekend in their calendar)
- Diet – kosher diet
Also, many Gentiles began to enter Judaism. For example, Cornelius in Acts 10:1-2. It was first to these synagogues that the apostles went with the Message (cf. Acts 17:1-4).
“In those days…”
Someone has said: A miracle is an event with precise timing that brings glory to God. This was part of the miracle of Christmas. “In those days…”
Our whole lives are made up of a series of miracles, from arrival to leaving this world. God is still orchestrating all the events of the world and in our individual lives—for His Glory and our good.
As Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
The second appearing of the Lord will also be with exact timing. As Matthew 24:36 says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
What is God doing with precise timing in your life today?
Colossians 1:9 should be our prayer: that God would fill us with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
May we all have confidence in the Lord’s good timing this Christmas. As God did long ago—He makes all things beautiful in His time!
Amy, my missionary daughter, has had to wait for a visa and I have had to tell her repeatedly, you need to be patient, this is often the hardest thing for missionaries to do—be patient and wait for the Lord.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8-9).
“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands. And God is faithful.
 See Matt. 1:18-19 for Mary and Joseph, Matt. 2:1 for King Herod, Luke 1:5 for Zechariah and Elizabeth, Luke 2:1 for Caesar Augustus, Luke 2:8 for the shepherds in the field, Luke 2:25 for Simeon, Luke 2:36 for Anna, and Luke 3:1-2 for John the Baptist.
 Romans was wrote in precise Greek language and logic.
 Aristotle was born near Thessalonica (384-322BC). He was the tutor of Alexander the Great. What bearing does this have on Acts 17:11? Also, note: Very little of Aristotle’s writings remain yet no one doubts the authenticity of his work. Yet many doubt the Scriptures?!
 The apostles went to the Jews first (see Acts 17:1-4).
*Photo by Ivana Cajina
In the shelter of the Most High
Sunday morning in church we were looking at Luke chapter one and my attention was drawn to verse 35. The angel said to Mary, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”1
This phrase brings us to Psalm 91 verse 1: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. “
If we go on and read the entire Psalm. We have some serious food for thought regarding the present situation we are in regarding COVID.
“For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease” (v. 3).
“Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness” (v. 6).
“No plague will come near your home” (v. 10).
“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me” (v. 14).
There are many other promises in this powerful Psalm but the one regarding disease and plague stands out. These promises are contingent on sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty.
So does this mean no true believers in the Almighty will get COVID? We know this is not true. Many believers have contracted COVID and been healed—100% recovery rate. Some recovered on this planet in this time and space and others are now experiencing the ultimate recovery and healing—instant healing—in eternity. In thinking of a friend with COVID, he will be healed; it is a confirmed fact, one way or the other he will be healed. The Almighty has said so—Psalm 91 ends with the final and ultimate shelter: “and give them my salvation”.
So what does it mean to shelter in the shadow of the Almighty? To me sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty means being always conscious of God’s presence and “shadow” around me. He is always there and by faith, I see His shadow. He has said, “I will never live you nor forsake you.”
Isaiah put it this way, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God in the eternal Rock” (Is. 26:3-4).
To abide in the shadow of the Almighty means to have our heart, minds, and faith fixed, fastened securely to the promises of the Almighty. Not fixed ultimately on medical science, our insurance policy, the government, our diet and health regiment, a vaccine, but fixed on the Almighty.
My prayer for all of us this season will be that we are sheltering under the Almighty—not mainly sheltering in place but under the shadow of the Almighty.
1 Using the New Living Translation for all of this.
Insights from Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret
I really enjoyed reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. You should read it. Here are some observations from my reading…
Summary of the book: Trust. Trust and unreserved commitment to the Lord is how I would summarize Hudson Taylor and this book. Before he went to China he said: “‘I shall have no claim on anyone for anything. My only claim will be on God. How important to learn, before leaving England, to move man, through God, by prayer alone'” (33). And that’s what we see happen. He learned to trust God alone. He trusted God even with his children. He said, “‘I find it impossible to think that our heavenly Father is less tender and mindful of His children than I, a poor earthly father, am of mine. No, He will not forget us!'” (125). And in dark days, God enabled Taylor to say: “The battle is the Lord’s, and He will conquer. We may fail—do fail continually—but He never fails” (p. 154).
Insights from the book:
- The impact that one person can have is tremendous when they trust the Lord and have an unreserved commitment to do His will (cite the number of believers in China now, p. 12).
- “We want, we need, we may have, Hudson Taylor’s secret and his success, for we have Hudson Taylor’s Bible and his God” (p. 16). That is such a good reminder. The same God that brought Israel out of Egypt, rose Jesus from the dead, and provided for Hudson Taylor is the same God who is Lord of all now.
- Hudson Taylor wore Chinese clothes even though this was unprecedented and looked down upon by some (cf. e.g. p. 65). This is an important reminder that God and His Word must govern us, not the expectations of others.
- Hudson Taylor had “the Lord’s own yearning of heart over the lost and perishing” (19 cf. p. 32, 112). “We may have more wealth in these days, better education, greater comfort in traveling and in our surroundings even as missionaries, but have we the spirit of urgency, the deep, inward convictions that moved those that went before us; have we the same passion of love, personal love for the Lord Christ? If these are lacking, it is a loss for which nothing can compensate” (p. 127). This reminds me that I need (God help me!) to develop at heart for the lost and love and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ who is their only hope.
- “It was not easy to keep first things first and make time for prayer. Yet without this there cannot but be failure and unrest” (p. 22). Prayer and delighting myself in God is vital.
- “The One Great Circumstance of Life, and of all lesser, external circumstances as necessarily the kindest, wisest, best, because either ordered or permitted by Him” (p. 79). I need to have a bigger view of God. This is vital in part because “The secret of faith that is ready for emergencies is the quiet, practical dependence upon God day by day which makes Him real to the believing heart” (p. 100).
- “’My father sought the Truth,’ he continued sadly, ‘and died without finding it. Oh, why did you not come sooner?’” (p. 95). This quote reminds me of the absolute importance of heralds going to share the good news of Jesus.
- “In these days of easy-going Christianity, is it not well to remind ourselves that it really does cost to be a man or woman whom God can use? One cannot obtain a Christlike work save at great price” (p. 27). This quote—and Hudson Taylor’s life—reminds me and reinvigorates me to seek hard after the Lord.
- “How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith… but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity” (p. 158). This quote answers a very important question. How to have more faith? Meditate on Jesus!
- “If God should place me in a serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me” (p. 165). This is a good reminder that whatever I face, God will be there with me as my ever-present, every-ready, and all-powerful help.
- I need to trust the God who is simultaneously the Lord of the universe and my Father.
- I need to faithfully pray in reliance and desperation to the One who is Lord and Father.
- I need to renew my commitment to spend and be spent for the Lord. I need to renew my commitment to discipline myself for the sake of godliness.
- I need to meditate more on Jesus (His person and work).
- I need to trust that God can use one poor and needy sinner such as I to accomplish great things for His glory.
- I need to develop more of a heart for those who are without hope and without God in the world.
- I need to keep first things first and seek God above all things—even good, healthy, and productive things.
- I need to remember that whatever challenges are in front of me God’s grace is sufficient. God is all-powerful and He is with me. He is my Father!
 Taylor says, “I was enabled by His grace to trust in Him, He has always appeared for my help” (p. 153).
Jesus on Anxiety
We all worry. We all struggle with anxious hearts.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 are helpful. Listen to what Jesus says:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:25-34).
Jesus is talking to poor people. Some of them are subsistence farmers. They hope each day to have enough food to make it to the next day. The people Jesus is talking to have no running water in their homes and no toilets. They have no refrigerators and no supermarkets. They have no health care. Their welfare and even their lives depend on whether or not they get the right amount of rain.
We have many “cares of the world” (Matt. 13:22) and we have to build bigger houses for our “abundance of possessions” (Lk. 12:15). We have many things to think and fret about. So, sometimes it’s hard to see how what Jesus says applies to us. Yet, the truth is, if the first recipients of Jesus’ words were called not to be anxious, how much more does it apply to us?!
This passage applies to us. The problem is we often fail to understand Jesus’ first point and so it’s downhill from there for us.
1. First Jesus makes a point by asking a question: isn’t life more than ______________? (v. 25)
The way we answer this question tells us a lot about where our hearts are and how much help we will get from this passage. If our life is all about stuff then we have to fret and be anxious. Because we have to protect our stuff! It is of absolute importance.
2. Jesus tells us to look at the ravens (Lk. 12:24).
Well, do you know what a raven is? They are rather nasty. Ravens were listed as unclean animals in the Old Testament (Lev. 11:15; Deut. 14:14). Ravens are trash birds. And they’re like the only bad animal in “Winnie the Pooh.” So, what’s Jesus’ point? He is saying God takes care of ravens. Ravens! He’s going to take care of you! Don’t be anxious. God will provide.
3. Jesus tells us about the benefits of anxiety: Nothing. Anxiety adds… nothing. It doesn’t help at all. (v. 27)
4. Jesus tells us to look around to see the lilies and wildflowers. Who takes care of the wildflowers? No one. Well, that’s kinda right but kinda really wrong. No human takes care of the wildflowers. God does! God beautifully dresses wildflowers. They don’t worry. God takes care of them. We should trust God, He is capable.
5. Jesus tells us that we should be different from those who don’t know God. We shouldn’t worry and ask: “Will I have what I need to wear?” Why? Because we have a Father in heaven. We have a very capable Father. Through Jesus, God is our Dad.
So, we should trust that our heavenly Father will provide for all our needs (v. 32). And He will know what our needs truly are.
Of course, if we read this and we don’t trust our heavenly Father then it comes down to us. We must fret and fear and plan. We have every reason to be anxious. If we think we are lord of the universe and king of the domain then we must be always on patrol. We must protect our stuff, even if it means no sleep.
6. Jesus tells us there is something better to seek. Something that can’t make us fearful because nothing can touch it. Jesus’ Kingdom cannot be shaken. And it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Lk. 12:32). That is good news for the weary.
7. Jesus tells us to be where we’re at. Today’s troubles are sufficient. Let’s be where we are today and do what God has called us to today. And let’s trust Him for tomorrow.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 34).
Verses to Instill Faith and Fight Fear
- Is there something you’ve been anxious or fearful about in the past?
- When you’re anxious what are some ways you fight anxiety?
- What are some takeaways from Matthew 6 that Jesus says that could help you?
 “A worrier is storing ‘treasure’ in the wrong place. If what you most value can be taken away or destroyed, then you set yourself up for anxiety” (David Powlison, “’Don’t Worry,’” 58).
 Edward T. Welch says, “Whatever is most important is the thing that rules us” (Edward T. Welch, Running Scared, 198). He goes on to say, “Do the opinions of other people control you? What you love and value is showing. You love reputation, love, respect, adoration” (Ibid., 199).