We're in a series right now trying to learn how to do what this passage says. We are told to "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." So we know we are exhorted to trust in the Lord, and the contrast to trusting in the Lord is to lean on our own understanding. Instead of humble submission to Him, we rely on what we can grasp, understanding, and make sense of.
Trust in the Lord is something that grows and is nurtured through ongoing relationship with God. We must come to know who God is. A.W. Tozer infamously remarked, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." Why would he say that? Because how you think about God and how you understand God determines how you live, what your expectations are, and ultimately whether or not you live with confidence and peace because of your trust in Him.
Last week we started the process of looking at particular attributes of God's character, that when believed and understood, breed trust in Him. We talked about the sovereignty of God. He's over all things that happen. He has all power to accomplish His purpose and plans. Nothing happens by accident or outside of His perfect will. Additionally, God is wise, meaning that everything God purposes and plans flows forth from His wisdom. He knows what is best for us. He always plans that which brings the greatest good and maximum flourishing, ultimately, even when we can't see it or understand it.
The key we talked about particularly last week is that eventually we will all reach the place where what we think God should do or bring about is different than what He does. We will arrive at the place where there is a gap between what we think would be the best plan in the world and for people verses what God wills to do. What do we do in those moments? Do we fret? Do we fear? Do we writhe in anxiousness, worry, and despair? Or do we submit humbly to the perfect sovereignty and wisdom of God? Do we say like Jesus, "Nevertheless, your will Lord, not my will be done."? Do we repeat with Eli, "It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him."?
The sovereignty and wisdom of God are transcendent attributes, that show the otherness and bigness of God. This week, we continue studying attributes of the character of God by looking at the love and faithfulness of God, which show the immanence of God, His closeness and personal nature.
The Love of God
When we talk about the love of God we are talking about the giving of His self for the benefit of others. God's nature is to give Himself away to others to bring about blessing and goodness to them. God's very nature is love. It is His essence, even before the creation of the world. The Triune God experiences love between each member of the Godhead without needing to create in order to love. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit experience and express love to one another. So it's important to catch this: God doesn't need us in order to be love. He didn't need to create so that He could fulfill His desire to love. God is love.
Illustration: a family adopting a child isn't adopting because they're lacking love or needy, but because they desire to give that love to another, to one who hasn't experienced it. That's what the Triune God does in giving us His love.
But the moment we talk about the love of God we quickly have to define and distinguish what we mean. The most popular attribute of God espoused by our culture, and often used as a defense weapon against charges of sin and unrighteousness is the love of God. Christians and non-Christians alike appeal to the love of God as a justification for all sorts of things. People appeal to the love of God as a counter argument when anyone implies God hates sin and intends to judge sinners in perfect righteousness. "Yeah, but God is love" people enjoy saying.
God is love. But our culture today misunderstands the love of God. In fact, many Christians today misunderstand it too. The way that many talk about the love of God is that it dotes on us because we're so special and good. In this way, the cultural understanding of the love of God leaves us the same as we are. It affirms us in our sins. "God loves us" has become synonymous with "God approves of my behavior" even when God has said in His word that He abhors that behavior. Instead, a biblical understanding of the love of God transforms and changes us.
There are two ditches people can fall into. One side of the ditch tends to make the love of God this airy, fluffy, feel-good thing. The other side of the ditch dislikes talking about the love of God altogether because it feels icky, weak, and soft (we'd prefer to talk about the wrath of God). The one side of the ditch feels very feminine. The other side of the ditch feels very masculine. But both are wrong. The path between these two ditches sees the grandeur and glories found in the love of God. We recognize the substance and weightiness to it.
We begin by looking at the 30,000 feet view. The Bible tells us that God loves every single person in this world.
John 3:16 -- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 5:45 -- For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
You can look any person in the eye and say we conviction and confidence, "God loves you." And there is abundance of evidence that God loves them. Even those who curse and hate Him are given breath in their lungs, laughter and full bellies, and marriages and families. All these are gifts from the Lord. All these common graces are evidences of His love.
But while God loves all people in the world, we can also say we confidence that God love His people differently. He loves His bride differently. (Illustration: while I can say with sincerity and affection, that I love the people of The Journey Church. I love you guys. I can also say without apologizing that I love my wife differently. I love my bride with a particular love that is different from how I love you.)
The same is true for God's love. Let's look at the ground-level view of God's particular love for His sheep.
1 John 4:10 -- In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Ephesians 2:4-5 -- 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
So what propelled God to save and redeem His bride from the pits of Hell and despair? His great love. This is not a love predicated on our behavior or response to Him. It's unconditional. It originates with His own decision to love. It was the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Does the Father love us because Christ died for us? Or did Christ die for us because the Father loves us? If it's the former, then the Father's love is conditional. But it's the latter, which shows the love of God for His people as eternal.
1 John 3:1 -- See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
This love displayed in the saving work of Christ applied to our lives has made us children of God, and so we are. What a statement! We are children of God now through faith in Christ's finished work applied to us.
Romans 8:32, 35, 38-39 -- 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Notice, the one who purchased us from the dead and saved our souls, is not done with us, but if He provided our redemption from sins and death, will He not graciously give us all things? Won't He provide and care for us in the minor things? Won't He tend to the needs of His rescued children? Yes! In fact, nothing will separate us from the love God in Christ. Nothing. It is forever lavished on us. The love of God is rich and deep that is lavished on us His sheep.
We see an amazing picture of this in Luke 15 and the Prodigal Son story. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, is telling a parable to reveal the nature of God to the listeners. He pictures a father, who is image of the Heavenly Father, running to meet his rebellious son who is returning home in humble repentance. Jewish men didn't run around much in their tunics, it was undignified. But this father sprints to meet his son, intercept him on the pathway, hugs him, kisses him, and is ready to sacrifice the greatest in the flock for a feast. This is a picture of the love of God for His repentant children.
Listen carefully, to what I'm about to say, if you are in Christ (meaning you have trusted in the finished work of Jesus at the cross and his resurrection as the basis of your forgiveness of sins and standing as righteous before the Father), then there is nothing you can do to make God love you more than He does, and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less. You know why? It's completely unconditional. You don't earn it, so you can't lose it. If you are in Christ, then God has loved you with the fulness of His love, and you will not lose it. He may discipline you for your sin and disobedience, but that is not withholding His love for you. It's the opposite. God disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). You can't lose it.
Somebody here needs to hear this, and let it sink in. Heck, all of us do. Most people live each day thinking the love of God acts like a bank account that goes up when you make positive contributions and behave well, and you think it depletes when you mess up, sin, and have bad days. Most of you live your life each day thinking about the love of God as a scale that fluctuates based on how good you did that day. It's not. The love of God for His sheep is lavished in full. He is pleased with His people, because of the finished work of His Son. He is pleased with His people, because they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
The Faithfulness of God
The attribute of God's faithfulness is the reality that God will always do what he has said and fulfill what He has promised.
2 Timothy 2:13 -- if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
What God says He will do, He will do. He follows through. He's dependable to accomplish His promises. He promised to preserve Noah and his family (and He fulfilled it). He promised Abraham to become a great nation (and He fulfilled it). He promised Abraham a son, even in His old age (and He fulfilled it). He promised Moses that He use him to free the Hebrews from Egypt (and He fulfilled it). He promised Elijah to feed him through the famine (and He fulfilled it). He promised David victory over foreign armies (and He fulfilled it). He promised captivity and exile if Israel didn't repent of sin (and He fulfilled it). And most importantly, He promised a Savior who would atone for sin once and for all, reconciling both Jews and Gentiles to God (and He fulfilled it through Jesus).
The confidence we have because God is faithful is that everything He promises about who we are, what He will do, and the future He intends to bring, is all true. The God who said, "let there be light" accomplish everything He declares. Listen to some of these great promises that are ours in Christ Jesus.
1 John 1:9 -- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Ephesians 1:7 -- In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
Always with us :
Isaiah 41:10 -- fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Matthew 28:20 -- And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
2 Corinthians 12:9 -- But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Psalm 46:1 -- God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Hope of Heaven:
John 14:2 -- In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
John 5:24 -- Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Escape of temptation:
1 Corinthians 10:13 -- No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Judgment for sin:
Hebrews 9:27 -- And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Blessing and reward for obedience: (God rewards and blesses on condition of obedience)
Luke 6:35 -- But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Malachi 3:10 -- Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Over and over again, God motivates His people towards obedience by offering reward. The rewards are often more of Himself, and other times they include physical blessings like protection, provisions, and general prospering. Now, let's clarify something here, God's faithfulness is not a sneaky way of smuggling in prosperity theology. The Bible does not teach a "name it and claim it" or a "blab it and grab it" understanding of God. We don't obey God to simply get from God. We obey God because we love God. God blesses because He is benevolent and kind, which should foster our gratitude.
And I'll tell you another thing this doesn't mean, this doesn't mean God is going to raise up and prosper our nation because He needs America. There is no promise of God blessing or favoring America over other countries. In fact, the only promise we can count on is the same other countries can count on too if they should obey it.
2 Chronicles 7:14 -- if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
God is faithful to His word. That's what His faithfulness is tied to. His faithfulness is not tied to our desires. The faithfulness of God is not dependent upon whether we got what we wanted or not, or God did what we desired. His faithfulness is tied exclusively to His promises and Word.
So we've looked at four different attributes of God in the last two weeks. We've explored His sovereignty, His wisdom, His love, and His faithfulness. How do we preach these to ourselves in the midst of life's difficulties and uncertainties?
For me, since losing Kaleb, I'm constantly going back to the truth that God in his sovereignty and wisdom knows what is best, and has intentions and designs in all His plans. I constantly go back to His particular love for me, for Katrina and the girls, and for Kaleb. That His plans were never abstract or distant from His intimate, personal love for us. And so as we grieve, mourn, and go through life without Him, we cling to promises He has given to us and will be faithful to fulfill. Kaleb is with Christ, according to His promise. We will join Kaleb with Christ, according to His promise. Jesus is returning to make all things news, according to His promise. Until then, He promises to give us all-sufficient grace, strengthen us, help us in our time of need, and comfort us in our afflictions. I'll talk more next week about how that looks on a daily basis. Everyone is help with these truths.
When a terrible diagnosis is given and we or someone we love's future health and life are uncertain, we can preach these truths to ourselves, "Lord, you are sovereign over this illness. You're not surprised or caught off guard by it. If in Your wisdom, You see this as for Your glory and my good, then I trust You, because I know Your plan is particularly tailored according to Your love for me. So help me cling to your promises that Your grace is sufficient for me, and that You will help me as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
When the nation is ripping at the seams, and persecution and/or marginalization in the culture appears to be on the doorstep, we can say, "Lord, nations and rise and fall according to Your word, so I know we are not left to the devises of mere mortals. Help me trust Your wisdom in what You bring to pass, and may I always see any hardships brought about by such things through the lenses of Your great love for me. You will supply my strength. You will meet our needs. You will accomplish Your purposes for my life."
When God's Word instructs you in an area of your life where you are living contrary or in sin, and there is a real battle internally with surrender and submission, you can say, "Lord, Your word is true, and in Your infinite wisdom, you know what is better for me than I do, even though I struggle with these desires to do contrary. Remind me that You love me, and Your will for me is to be obedient because it is how I experience true joy in You. I know You are faithful to help me in my struggle because Your promises are true."
When you just can't understand why a particular circumstance or situation is happening in your life, and you can't connect the dots of what purpose or meaning God has for it, you can say, "Lord, you are sovereign over this situation, and in Your wisdom You have purposed it to come to pass. As I endure it and navigate its challenges, remind me that I am Your beloved child, adopted and delighted in, and that Your purposes for me are never detached from that great love, a love you displayed clearly at the cross on my behalf. Lord, I know if you would give me Jesus for my salvation, then you will give me everything else I need to endure this trial and season, so help me cling to all Your promises, given to me for my hope and help."
The scenarios are endless. The key is learning to understand these realities about who God is, and how God operates in our lives, and to humbly submit to them and cling to these truths in the course of our lives, regardless of what things we face. It's learning to apply these to our hearts, and preach them to ourselves over and over again, many times a day, as we encounter troubles and trials. Only as we do that will our lives be marked by a trust in the Lord, with all our heart, that brings peace in the midst of any life circumstance.
Oh, child of God, do you sense His love for you today? Don't let the weight of sins, struggles, and suffering deceive your heart. Listen to this prayer from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus, and to us:
Ephesians 3:18-19 -- 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul's earnest prayer is that we would have the strength to comprehend (understand/grasp) with other believers the great breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of God and to know this love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. He is praying that we would comprehend something that surpasses knowledge! It's like saying I wish you could have the power to count the grains of sand, which are too numerous to count. Why would you desire for such a thing? Because it is in pursuing the comprehension of this incomprehensible thing that you are caught up in the grandeur and greatness of the thing itself. The more of the incomprehensible love that you comprehend, the more in awe and wonder you'll stand. When you finally start it to see it, it will change you, even if you are only seeing glimpses.
In Christ, with your sins forgiven and clothed in perfect righteousness, God is pleased with you. There is no need for earning approval. In Christ, you have the full approval of God. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you less. And the One who loves you with this great incalculable love, is the One who sovereignly and wisely created the purposes and plans for your life. You are not a statistic to God. You are not one face in a sea of faces to God. He knows every hair on your head, including its color and length, down to the fractions of an inch. At all times you have access to Him through Christ. He hears your internal whispers and cries. The All-Knowing, All-Seeing God who made you, loves you. Won't you trust Him? Won't you submit yourself completely to His sovereign and wise plans? Won't you cling to His promises for you in the midst of your troubles instead of letting fear and worry, bitterness and regret, to rule your life?
Turn to Him today. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.
Do you think God is pleased with you?
How is the love of God as described in Scripture different from the way the world defines it? (1 John 4:10, 1 John 3:1, Ephesians 2:4-5, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:35-39) Why is it important to understand the difference?
Discuss why is it important to understand that if I am in Christ I can’t do anything to make God love me any more than He does or make Him love me any less than He does?
How has God shown His faithfulness in your life?
Why is it better that God’s faithfulness is tied to His promises and His Word instead of our desires?
How is God rewarding our obedience different from the prosperity gospel? Why is the prosperity gospel dangerous?