This coming Sunday at Trinity we will have the privilege of hearing Jerry Bridges. I have reread a number of his books that I have in my personal library this past week and here are several helpful quotes gleaned from my reading.
Knowing that indwelling sin occupies a heart that is deceitful and unsearchable should make us extremely wary. We need to ask God daily to search our hearts for sin that we cannot or will not see. That was David’s prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). God’s primary means of searching our hearts this way is through His Word, as we read it under the power of the Holy Spirit (The Pursuit of Holiness, pp. 64-65).
The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of it. We tend to give a seeker just enough of the gospel to get him or her to pray a prayer to receive Christ. Then we immediately put the gospel on the shelf, so to speak, and go on to the duties of discipleship. As a result, Christians are not instructed in the gospel. And because they do not fully understand the riches and glory of the gospel, they cannot preach it to themselves or live by it in their daily lives.
To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed towards you (The Discipline of Grace, p. 58).
The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience (Transforming Grace, p. 12).
God is never surprised; never caught off guard; never frustrated by unexpected developments. God does as He pleases and that which pleases Him is always for His glory and our good. Our lives are cluttered with a lot of “if onlys.” “If only I had done this,” or “if only that had not happened.” But God has no “if onlys.” God never makes a mistake; God has no regrets. “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). We can trust God. He is trustworthy.
I readily admit it is difficult to believe God is in control when we are in the midst of anxiety, heartache, or grief. I have struggled with this many times myself. Just as we must learn to obey God one choice at a time, we must also learn to trust God one circumstance at a time. Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings but of my will. I never feel like trusting God when adversity strikes, but I can choose to do so even when I don’t feel like it. That act of the will, though, must be based on belief, and belief must be based on truth.
The truth we must believe is that God is sovereign. He carries out His own good purposes without ever being thwarted, and He so directs and controls all events and all actions of His creatures that they never act outside of His sovereign will. We must believe this and cling to this in the face of adversity and tragedy, if we are to glorify God by trusting Him.
I will make this next statement as gently and compassionately as I know how: Our first priority in times of adversity is to honor and glorify God by trusting Him. We tend to make our first priority the gaining of relief from our feelings of heartache or disappointment or frustration. This is a natural desire, and God has promised to give us grace sufficient for our trials and peace for our anxieties (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:6-7). But just as God’s will is to take precedence over our will (Jesus Himself said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” — Matthew 26:39), so God’s honor is to take precedence over our feelings.
We honor God by choosing to trust Him when we don’t understand what He is doing or why He has allowed some adverse circumstance to occur. As we seek God’s glory, we may be sure that He has purposed our good and that He will not be frustrated in fulfilling that purpose.
Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts