I believe but …

As far as normal human thoughts are concerned, it’s quite a fantastic concept that our Lord, who died 2000 years ago, is about to return and return quickly. Yet, we do believe his promise with all of our heart: “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev 22:12). As a community, this is our core belief which is bound up in the hope of eternal life and the resurrection of the dead. But did we notice that the Lord also said, “and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Is there something intrinsically in us, as human beings, and as a community, that makes us doubt that this is what will really happen? We know that God has the power to send His Son to this earth and to set up His kingdom, but we may doubt that He has the power…to save us! We know of the judgment seat, the worthy and the unworthy, the sheep and the goats, but all too often, we do not see ourselves as being part of those sheep, and part of God’s wondrous plan for the future.

Perhaps we are all too often like the man who desperately pleaded with Christ to heal his son. The Lord said to him, “all things are possible to him that believeth.” Immediately the father saw the challenge lay with the strength of his own faith. He cried out, and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief ” (Mark 9:23–24). Does that mirror the state of our own faith? Perhaps something deep inside us thinks that we are not good enough, that we are most unworthy and that God couldn’t save. This could be a good way of thinking if it keeps us on track, striving for the kingdom but if it stops us from seeing ourselves as being in the kingdom and by God’s grace being the recipient of the Lord’s reward, then it is not good. We can talk ourselves out of being part of the kingdom promised to us.

The child’s father was not the only one that lacked belief at that time. Christ wasn’t just talking to him, when he said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto me” (v19). There was a whole generation of people whose faith was lacking. This included the disciples (v18). For three years of Jesus’ ministry, their faith wavered at times. Are we so different to them and the faithful of old, all of whom were not without fault, whose faith and failures are penned for our learning?

Fear not, our names are in the Book of Life

For mutual exhortation, let us think of the Lord bringing his reward with him. This is our destiny! This is what awaits us, so let’s be excited about that because the Lord himself is excited at the prospect! He assures us, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). To those who overcome, it is His desire to grant us a place in His kingdom. Our names are written in the Book of Life (Rev. 3:5). God doesn’t want to get out the blotter, removing our names out of that book, unless He really needs to.

Nearing the end of his life, the Apostle Paul maintained a very positive attitude. He wrote to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim 4:7–8). In these last and evil days, we also need to share the confidence of the Apostle Paul that the Lord will reward those who truly love his appearing.

Yahweh thy God is with thee

Earlier we made reference to the problem of a wavering faith. There was a man who was given a great commission. He also needed a great deal of encouragement from God. God declared to Joshua, “Have I not commanded thee, Be firm and bold, do not start, nor be dismayed, for, with thee, is Yahweh thy God, whithersoever thou goest?” (Josh 1:9 Roth). Joshua was 85 when he heard those words from God. He was two thirds of his way through his life!

Those words were not said to somebody timid or frightened, for Joshua was a mighty saviour, a deliverer of Israel and a great leader in battle. He had climbed Sinai with Moses. He was a faithful spy, a man of great faith and courage who was able to stand up to a nation and strongly state his belief. Near the end of his life he was able to stand and declare with conviction, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 24:15). He was able to encourage others with the same words that he had heard from God 25 years earlier.

Joshua was not the kind of man, we would think, that needed God to encourage him. He was a great man of faith. His name means, “Yah shall save”. But he did need encouragement! If God encouraged Joshua to be firm, to be bold and not to be dismayed: “For Yahweh thy God is with thee wherever thou goest,” then we can receive the same assurances. We can believe that He will certainly be with us and be happy to encourage us wherever we go in life’s journey.

Salvation to him that overcomes

Our God is the God of all comfort, and He wants to save us. Seven times in the first four chapters of Revelation we read the words, “To him that overcometh …” It doesn’t say what to overcome, but to those that overcome they are promised that they will eat of the tree of life, shall not die again and eat hidden manna. They will have power over nations, be clothed in white, not be blotted out of the book of life, be made a pillar in the temple and be granted to sit with Christ in his kingdom. What a reward! Take for example, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21). There is but one action word. We just have to overcome. The “overcoming” will of course be different for every one of us. We are encouraged to overcome whatever it is that is an issue or an obstacle in our lives. Yet sometimes it can feel too hard! Do we feel the overcoming is a very hard task or that we often don’t feel up to the battle? The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is certainly very weak! The word to “overcome” in Revelation means, “to conquer, to prevail and to gain the victory” but often that seems too much.

Can we take comfort from the words of the Lord, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved?” (Matt 24:13). If we can’t overcome, can we “endure” which means to remain, abide, persevere and have fortitude? Can we do this? If we just persevere, “the same shall be saved.”

Standing and waiting

But at times, is it too much to expect us to “endure”? If we can’t persevere or have fortitude, what about standing firm as Paul exhorts in Ephesians 6? He encourages us to, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (v11–13). Can we stand? Possibly, even standing, can be too difficult?

If we are old, or weary, or downcast can we just wait upon our God? There is good spiritual counsel to this effect in the Psalms. Take for example, Psalm 27: “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (v14). Or again, in Psalm 62: “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” (v5–8).

Can we just wait upon our God? Really that’s not much, is it? In saying that, this is not to diminish our responsibilities before Him, but rather to highlight the responsiveness of a benevolent and loving God who wants to help us, be with us, love us, and see us make it to the kingdom. Lest we focus on what we must do, we should appreciate that the work is all His, the pleasure is all His and the goodness is all His to bestow. He just wants us to wait, to love and to abide with Him. Surely we can respond to that?

The all surpassing benevolence of our God towards us is well illustrated in Psalm 145: “The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD preserveth all them that love him” (v14–20). What great comfort and encouragement is found in those words, especially when our faith wavers!

“Comfort ye, my people”

God wants to comfort us because we are His people. This is well expressed in Isaiah 40. The overarching theme to this chapter is found in the opening verse, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (v1). Marvelously, our every need is met: “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” (v29–31). When we wait upon Yahweh He will lift us up, strengthen us, renew us as with wings of eagles and help us to run! In the midst of weariness or in bouts of despair, what great comfort is felt when we look up and see and know that God is doing that for each one of us?

Though little, we are not insignificant

The prophet graphically describes the omnipotence of our God and the miniscule smallness of flesh. Our thinking is so finite, our nature so perishable and weak, it fades away and is destined to finish as the dust (v6–8). Yes, we are as grass of the field, we fade, we whither and perish. There are poignant words in one of our hymns, “Almighty maker of my frame, short is the measure of my days … my days are shorter than a span; a little point my life appears” (Hymn 391). A little point! Compared to the awesome grandeur of our God, our lives are really just a point! That’s nothing is it? Our life could be seen as such a small, insignificant dot, especially if we were looking down from the perspective of heaven, as our Father does. It is perhaps incomprehensible for us earthbound creatures that our God is “He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in” (v22). We are small and insignificant, as grasshoppers, but God doesn’t see us that way, if we are waiting upon Him!

We might be small but at the core of our rocksolid faith we “believe that he is (exists), and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” At the centre of that reward is the forgiveness of our sins. We believe in the sure mercies of David, who was forgiven much. What an incentive for us to overcome! Despite the dreadful visitation of sin in David’s life he was found to be a son of Jesse, a man after God’s own heart. May that soon be said of us!

The promise of eternal life

The Apostle Peter said in his second epistle, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (3:13). The Apostle John in his first epistle adds, “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (2:25). This is our hope. The end is in sight! The joy is set before us!

The question remains, while we sit here, are we still … waiting? This is what God wants from us, a longing and a fervent waiting for Christ to come … and to come quickly! Then we can read again that glorious last chapter of Revelation and see ourselves there by the grace of our God and His Son, who said “My reward is with me …”