“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on DOMA, among other things going on in our country that are wicked and ungodly, I can’t help but think of John Knox, the great reformer of Scotland. Chiseled in the wall regarding Knox are the words: Un home avec Dieu est toujours dans la majorite, which means “One man with God is always in the majority.” These words were written of Knox concerning him as a man of prayer. That isn’t all the man is known for, but surely this is a wakeup call for the people of God to be a people of prayer. As Samuel Rutherford reminds us: “Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God’s master fencer to teach us to handle our weapons.” Our greatest weapon is prayer (Eph. 6:18). Let us learn to handle it well.
The Christian life is undoubtedly, among other things, one of endurance (Heb. 10:36). In Christ by grace through faith we have need of pressing on in Christ by grace through faith (Heb. 12:1). Our lives hidden in Jesus are continuously a matter of faith or believing the Word of God and clinging to it and hanging on or living by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Dt. 8:3; Mt. 4:4). Our lives are in need of continual confession of sin and repentance and faith. Those justified by faith continue to live by faith. We are those who must continually think on our ways and turn our feet to the Lord and His ways (Ps. 119:59). Such a life is “hard” with suffering (Heb.10:32 ) and especially hard as a “struggle against sin” (Heb. 12:4) in which we must not grow weary (2 Thess. 3:13; Heb. 12:3). In fact, in many places God’s Word calls us to hold fast and stand firm as the children of God in a world hostile to us where we are exiles and strangers and pilgrims (Ps. 119:19, 54; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11; Heb. 11:13-16). We live in a place that is not our home and that seeks to turn us away from our pursuit and new love and so we have need to remain steadfast and firm (Ex. 14:13; Ps. 119:51, 61; 1 Cor. 16:13; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 6:13; Phil. 4:11). Our sin within, the devil, and worldliness all strive hard against us to entangle us and weigh us down. Life in Christ by the Spirit unto the Father is a life of turning again and again to the Word and to prayer and the sacraments (in public worship) for the strengthening of our hearts by grace (Heb. 13:9). Otherwise we will not be able to stand firm in the grace of God (1 Peter 5:12) amidst enemies that seek to destroy and deceive and detain us in our pursuit of Godliness and Holiness unto the Lord. Standing firm in the faith is indeed a hard struggle for which we must put on the “armor of God” and carry our “sword” and look continually unto God in prayer (Eph. 6).
Interestingly, God has also given elders to the Church who are to “hold firm” (Titus 1:9) to the Word of God and thus provide stability for the sheep as those who know and believe and love and proclaim and defend the truth, the Word of God, in which the people of God are sanctified (Jn. 17:17) and enabled to stand fast and not grow weary. In other words, the Church is and is to be a pillar and buttress of truth where the saints are enabled to grow to maturity and not waver in the faith. Godly elders help us to hold fast our confession firm to the end.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, the Father’s smile is upon us in Christ Jesus, and our Savior died and lives to save us to the uttermost. We have need of endurance in holding fast our confession (Heb. 4:14; 6:18; 10:23; Rev. 3:11). United to Christ, we have enemies that seek to undo us and entice us and weigh us down. But greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world. The fight against sin, the devil, and worldliness are indeed wearying. There might be times when we are ready to throw in the towel. In fact, we very much relate to the apostle Paul who considered it better to be at Home with the Lord than in this life of sin and misery where it is hard. But, like Paul, we leave our time in God’s wise and Fatherly hands. He has planted us here and bids us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and the glory to come. He promises us that He is with us and that His grace is sufficient. How do we keep going in this life and not grow weary? We must ever keep looking to Christ — backwards to the cross of Christ, upwards to the intercession of Christ, and forwards to the coming of Christ. We must attend to the means of grace since that is what God has ordained to strengthen or give life to our hearts for pressing onwards and upwards to the goal (Phil. 3:14). We will run the race with endurance only as we devote ourselves to the public gathering of God’s people on the Lord’s Day, to the private exercises of reading and meditating upon God’s Word and prayer. It is in this way that we walk by the Spirit and live in reliance upon Him, humbly waiting for and walking with our God in Christ Jesus.
And let us remember that this holding fast our confession of Christ and enduring in the midst of enemies is not joyless. We are not those who walk around in a perpetual sullen state; rather, we are those who rejoice in the Lord always. We are those who like Paul and Silas are able to pray and sing hymns to God even at midnight in a prison (Acts 1625; cf. Ps. 119:62) because our joy isn’t tied to our circumstances. We count it all joy and a privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake and in Christ. We don’t delight in our suffering and various trials but in our sovereign and loving Father who works all things together for our good. May the Lord teach us and give us what Jeremiah Burroughs calls the “rare jewel of Christian contentment” so that we might have that “sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”