Even when our accuser is terrifying in his accuracy, sending piercing arrows of doubt, terror, or despair into our souls, magnifying how great and inexplicable our sins of disloyalty against His goodness and our horrifying neglect of the trust of our stewardship, showing us and magnifying how far we are, from what should have been expected to follow true, saving faith. Notwithstanding all of this and the worst of this, Satan’s very accuracy is made a groundless lie by the blood of Jesus who pleads His own wounds as our advocate against his now illicit use of the law to bring condemnation to the conscience of the believer, however weak and halting in faith.
There have been times when, though very doctrinally persuaded and greatly rejoicing that Jesus has once and forever fulfilled all the law on our behalf, I seemed yet to have the greatest battle to fully and quietly rest in that unspeakably precious confidence. It just eluded me as to present comfort.
Though very precious in concept, it just didn’t seem to get through the veil of my flesh to fill me with the comfort and assurance of glory that it should have. This lack of ability to more fully apprehend this great truth of the finished work to my immediate comfort mystified and troubled me very greatly. I needed this well beloved truth to be quickened afresh and made alive in my spirit. Here’s what I think happens:
Once the awakened conscience of the unbeliever, or the sin stricken conscience of the believer has been persuaded of God’s love for the trembling sinner (whom the Spirit by the quickened Word has brought to the place of trembling), it is just here that the accuser’s greatest, most masterful art-form comes into play.
He accuses the trembling believer of unbelief. “Well”, says he, “all of this might be pardoned if you only had faith … Where now is that faith that receives the help and power of God?”
Or he will even use scripture to ask, “How can a double minded person like you receive anything from the Lord?”, and many other such slanderous attempts to send us into a hell of terror and despair in the hour of temptation, or the urgency of deepest desperate need, as in a sudden hour when death or danger is most immediately threatening.
This is not the place to look to the false comforters of easy believism, or the legalism of most of modern evangelicalism that teaches that faith comes easily at the behest of the will. Rather, it is the place we look for the testimonies of the saints who also have passed through such deep waters in their pilgrimage.
It is there we find David in the Psalms, the man after God’s own heart, giving poetic expression to trials and fiercely brutal questionings that describe the deepest depths of destitution, almost despairing of even the ability to ever again trust and hope in God.
The Psalms remind us that with the God who always faithfully “hears the prayer of the destitute” (Ps 102:17), there’s always a way when there seems to be no way.
Just when Satan has all but convinced us that because of our sinful, shameful condition, there is no help in God, it is just there, at the “end of strength”, at the end of “confidence in the flesh” (our works, prayers, or sacrifices), this is the place He will bring His elect. He plans the circumstance to bring us to this place, because it is here, though most painful for the moment, that He has ordained His greatest demonstration of resurrection mercy. And oh, what glory breaks upon the heart of the desolate believer, able now again to believe and rejoice in the sure and certain “hope of glory”.
There, at the end of strength, even the strength to trust fully, that’s where comfort, peace, and hope comes flooding in, NOT by a faith that we can somehow manage to muster, but by a grace that He freely gives to the destitute, those who simply cling to the promise that if they ask for bread, they will not receive a stone in return.
Satan’s lie, intended to cast us into despair, becomes the wisdom of God for our good. It becomes the occasion for promotion in grace to be more and more conformed to His image (Ro 8:28-29). The accuser’s terrorism of the conscience is thwarted, not because of the strength of a faith that we vainly imagine to be within our reach and power, but by the grace of Him who ever lives to make intercession for us that our faith not fail, even when our faith seems most removed from our experience because of the intensity of the assault.
It is as when a cloud may pass in front of the sun. This may block the light and warmth momentarily but can do nothing to change the sun’s unchanging fixity. So it is with the God who keeps covenant by upholding a faith of which He alone is both author and finisher (Heb 12:2).
Did He ever give us faith? Then He does not retract what He has pledged in the everlasting covenant to keep to the end, whether our circumstance will let us feel the immediate comfort of this or not.
Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows them that are His..: 2 Timothy 2:19
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Philippians 1:6
The One who holds us, must hold our faith and faithfully renew it by His continual intercession He ever lives to make, else it would most surely fail. The faith that first quickened life must at times be revived in our experience if we are to know the security of His peace in the storms that we all must face. This peace is not only our peace with God. It is more than the peace that God gives. It is the very peace “of God”. That is to say, the peace that belongs to God.
After He has rebuked and chastened those upon whom He has set His eternal, electing love, He will restore faith to the place of its settled rest in Christ alone, as His peace, even the “joy of the Lord” (Jn 15:11; 17:13) returns to the full strength of its brightness, all clouds dispelled.
Joy returns in the morning, as faith and settled trust returns, reminding us that we were never in control of that most precious gift in the first place. It is not our faith that holds Him faithful; it is His mercy that holds even our faith when we cannot feel anything but the unbelief and doubt that we abhor, that breaks our hearts and then terrorizes our conscience with all the thunder claps of Sinai.
As a regenerate man, David went through such billows of uncertainty and terror stricken fears, just as Peter would have sank beneath the waves if not for the outstretched hand of the Lord. Thankfully, Peter wasn’t left to the strength of his sinking faith, not then, and not later at the denial when his faith did not fail, only because of Jesus who ever lives to pray for His elect in a way that He does not pray for the world (Jn 17:9; Heb 7:25).
So was it Peter’s faith that saved him when sinking beneath the waves? The only hint of faith he had was the grace to know where his help comes from. It was only enough faith to cry out for the outstretched hand of mercy that always invariably hears one prayer in particular. That is “the prayer of the destitute”.
He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. Psalms 102:17
When unbelief is hated as an unwelcome invader, God will not impute this deadly sin to the struggling, desperately willing heart of a believer struggling and longing to believe. It is only the unbelief, comfortably embraced by the indifferent, boldly defiant sinner, or the proudly self righteous that will be condemned, NOT the poor afflicted Christian who wants with all their heart to believe and trust, with all the simplicity of a completely dependent child who has nothing to offer but need.
If we believe not, YET He abides faithful: He cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
In deep waters, He gives faith to the faint to lift them above the waves. There have been times when I have nearly despaired if I would ever again return to feel again the sweet consolations of faith and peace. But just there, in that state of near despair, that’s when the Sun of righteousness would rise with healing in His wings.
How precious does the grace to believe appear, the hour we are enabled again to believe and trust and be at rest.
“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Oh for grace to trust Him more.”
There is nothing on this earth to compare to the joy that comes to a heart that was so near, if not altogether despaired of the ability to truly, savingly believe God with the faith that pleases God, and so be supernaturally enabled to see light and life in the face of Jesus in what the writer of Hebrews calls, “the full assurance of faith”.
That sweet return of faith, peace, and hope, after the storm, makes the pain of the fire to be un-regretted. Moreover, the love that fills the heart after chastisement begins to conquer the dread of the fire that love must of necessity (“if need be”) bring again in order to separate the gold from the dross.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ… 1 Peter 1:6-7
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, AFTER that ye have suffered ‘a while’, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 1 Peter 5:10
This is why James can say:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into different kinds of temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:2-4
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire … That’s because Jesus knows there’s no other place that the gold can be acquired except there, in the fire. Revelation 3:18
For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. Hebrews 12:6
Chastening and trials of various kinds are a sign of the electing love of God. It is how He keeps us and makes us more fruitful.
I pray even now that you already have, and will continue to always receive His comfort and help through every trial of your faith, which is really just the resilience of His faith working in you to keep you through Jesus’ never ending, unfailing intercession for His elect.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
The faith that saves is not generated ‘by’ us. It is not the cause but the fruit of His regenerating work ‘in’ us. It is the quickening work of the Spirit enabling us to believe at the end of all self reliance, even to trust and believe.
Must we not believe, repent, and obey the gospel? Certainly we must, but none of this will be savingly accomplished by any strength or power of our own, but by His Spirit ALONE.
Lastly, you can see I have copied a few trusted brothers and Marlene whom you know. I seriously invite them to check me for any theological errors, or anything that might have been made clearer along these lines.
I also trust them for anything they may feel to add for your encouragement. I don’t want to say anything that might be in any way misleading or needlessly troublesome to one of His precious sheep, but this has been my perception that has calmed my fears and eased doubts amidst sudden storms of deepest testing. So I submit this account of my own experience and personal application of the Word for the body’s judgment and/or helpful input.
Test all things; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
In His tender covenant mercies, Reggie