Growing Strong in Trusting His Promises – Romans 4:17-21

ASPIRE: How do we grow strong in our faith?  How do I strengthen my capacity to trust the Lord?

1.         We grow strong in faith as we know what “is written” (v.17).  One must know well God’s promises before you can trust them.  You must know someone well before you have a greater capacity to trust them fully. 

2.       We grow strong in faith as we praise and worship God.  Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”  What does it look like to give glory to God? Well, one thing for sure is that we get our eyes off of ourselves and the greatness of our problems and put them on the greatness of our God and His promises.

3.        We grow strong in faith as we refuse to allow our circumstances to dictate our emotional state and feelings.  Appearances can most often be deceiving and misleading. They were with Abraham and Sarai. They were at the cross of Jesus, and they will be in your life as well.

This passage sets forth two options for us.  One is wavering in faith.  Another is growing strong in faith.  There is no other option for those of us who follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  One is the pathway of walking by sight.  The other is the pathway of walking by faith.  Both types of people are aware of the same promises of God.  It appears that Abraham had plenty of opportunity to either grow weak (v.19) in his faith or to grow strong (v.20).  When he lied about Sarah, he was wavering in unbelief.  When he heeded Sarai’s counsel about going into Hagar, he was wavering in unbelief.  When he offered Isaac, he was strong in faith.  This see-saw story of the “friend of God” is our story, my story, your story. 

In a meeting with a small group of missionaries in China, Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship) reminded them that there were three ways to do God’s work:

“One is to make the best plans we can and carry them out to the best of our ability.

Two, carefully lay out our plans and determine to carry them through, we may even ask God to help us and to prosper us in connection with them.

Three, another way of working is to begin with God; to ask His plans, and to offer ourselves to Him to carry out His purposes.”              

— Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Biography of James Hudson Taylor (London: China Inland Mission, 1965), p. 271.

O For A Faith That Will Not Shrink Tho’ Pressed by Every Foe

A wonderful hymn with rich words and simple melody

O For A Faith That Will Not Shrink –

Bathurst/Glaser/Mike Murphy of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, GA

Click Here to Listen to MP3
O for a faith that will not shrink, Tho’ pressed by ev’ry foe
That will not tremble on the brink,
Of any earthly woe, of any earthly woe

That will not murmur nor complain, Beneath the chastening rod
But in the hour of grief or pain,
Will lean upon its God, will lean upon its God

A faith that shines more bright and clear,
When tempests rage without
That when in danger knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt, in darkness feels no doubt

That bears unmoved the world’s dread frown,
Nor heeds its scornful smile
That seas of trouble cannot drown
Nor fiery darts defile, nor fiery darts defile

Lord give us such a faith as this, And then whate’er may come
We’ll taste even here the hollowed bliss
Of an eternal home, Of an eternal home
We’ll taste even here the hollowed bliss, of our eternal home

Three Family Faith Busters

Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 4.47.18 PMEvery Christian parent  desires to see their children embracing a vibrant faith in Jesus and serving well His kingdom purpose throughout their lives (3 John 4; Acts 13:36). To this end, our children’s ministry recently hosted a number of parents from both inside and outside our church to hear noted speaker and best-selling author, Vicki Courtney.

During our evening together, Vicki set forth three ways that Christian parents often struggle to pass the baton of faith to their children. She introduced her theme by sharing her concern about the alarming number of young people who are jettisoning the faith of their fathers and are leaving the church in alarming numbers. She quickly pointed out that this phenomenon is not a youth problem but a parent problem. She called the following three things “Family Faith Busters.” Here’s a quick recap.

1. The first family faith buster is failing to model for our kids that the Lord is our primary affection. Moses calls us in Deuteronomy 6:5 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.” The Hebrew word for ‘love’ means ‘to have affection for.’ How often do we model for our kids that something other that the Lord is our primary affection? At times, we value the approval of our kids more than the Lord’s. We have to confess that at times other things and people are more precious to us than the Lord. She proposed that parents start by honestly assessing: “What are your top three primary affections?”

How easy it is to push our kids in athletic competition and academic performance due to our own idols of approval and control. How often we allow cultural standards of beauty to define our kids rather than God’s Word (1 Samuel 16:7). She challenged us to identify those things that are more precious to us than Jesus and to bring them to Him just like Jesus urged the woman at the well.

2. The second family faith buster is failing to acknowledge and embrace our role as the primary disciplers of our kids. Our consumer-oriented society coupled with our nagging sense of inadequacy cause parents to drop back and punt the spiritual nurture and equipping of our children to the children’s director, youth minister, and/or Christian school. Vicki urged parents not to look at discipling your kids as a classroom exercise, but asked us to anticipate and ask the Lord for discernment to seize those teachable moments when we are “walking along the way” (Deuteronomy 6:7). She challenged us to work on balancing being a protector without being a provoker. She parsed this out with two key scriptures (Colossians 3:21, Ephesians 6:4). Finally, she urged us to pray for our kid’s peer group. 1 Corinthians 15:33 cautions that “bad company corrupts good morals.” She proposed advising our kids to have weekday friends and weekend friends. We want our kids to serve as salt and light in the world, but they also need strong Christian friends to will encourage their pursuit of Christ and His will. This simple strategy serves as a way for our kids to foster friendships with fellow believers in our church family who can sharpen them spiritually (Proverbs 27:17). This way our church becomes our primary community, as it should be.

3. The third family faith buster is focusing on behavior modification rather than heart examination and transformation. Most of us parents settle too quickly for a morally restrained heart rather than pray and work for a supernaturally transformed heart. Her contention is that many Christian kids are being urged to obey apart from repentance and faith in Christ, which means they are rendering sub-Christian obedience. How often we use guilt and shame to secure our kid’s obedience rather than shepherding their hearts and ours with the gospel of grace.

All parents are tempted to settle for outward conformity. In recounting his own anguish with a prodigal daughter, Jack Miller wrote: “No one grows into grace through a Christianized environment. No one gets to God by moral self-improvement. [Our kids] only get to God by being transplanted from their natural soil into the life of Christ by a personal faith in Him” (Come Back Barbara, p. 30). We are all prone to unconsciously forget this foundational truth.

One of the ways that Vicki reminds her kids of this foundational truth is that when they leave home for school or an athletic event or just hanging out with friends, she reminds them to “RTC” – Remember the Cross. This is not just something for our kids to remember, but also a reminder we need ourselves as we confess our particular failings as parents, but also experience the pardoning grace of God revealed in that cross that motivates us anew to center our lives only on Christ, to embrace our parental calling as the primary disciplers of our kids, and to knead the gospel of grace into the hearts of our children and not settle for outward conformity. Let us rise up and “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4).

More resources and books by Vicki Courtney:

Five Conversations to Have With Your Daughter

Five Conversations to Have With Your Son

Excerpt from Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Address

Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Au...

Queen Elizabeth

“Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes [or a little more] need saving from ourselves. From our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person–neither a philosopher nor a general. . .But a Savior, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. . .It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”

Queen Elizabeth, 12/25/2011

Living and Dying Well – Encouragement from Christopher and Mary Love

Tower Hill Scaffold Site

On August 22, 1651, the authorities beheaded Christopher Love for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ at Tower Hill, London, England.  His biography entitled “A Spectacle Unto God” chronicles his life and especially the love that his and his wife Mary shared. This couple had three children…she was pregnant with another child.  They had several children that had died in childbirth…that had passed on to heaven. It’s so incredibly amazing to see the love between these two people in their early thirties.

Christopher writes to his beloved wife on the day of his glorification: My most gracious beloved, I am now going from a prison to a palace.  I am going to heaven where there are two of my children and leaving you on earth where there are three of my babes.  Those two above need not my care but the three below need yours. I know that you are a woman of a sorrowful spirit…yet be comforted. Though your sorrow be great for your husband’s going out of the world, yet your pain shall be the less in bringing your child into this world. You shall be a joyful mother though you be a sad widow. Be not troubled to think what shall become of you and yours after my death… for be assured that my God and and the God of the widows and the fatherless will not forsake you but will wonderfully provide and be comforted in this: that though men take your husband from you, they cannot take your God from you. So do not think that you have lost your husband. But you are only parted from him for a while. In the meantime, your Savior will be your husband and a father to your children.

As he walked up to that podium and as he gave his brief presentation and prayed, there was a man who had come with great joy to see this ‘trouble-maker’ killed. But when he heard his speech, and when he heard his prayer, he was converted on the spot.

Christopher Love says, “there is but two steps between me and glory.  It is but lying down upon a block that I shall ascend upon a throne.  I am exchanging a pulpit for a scaffold and a scaffold for a throne. I am exchanging a guard of soldiers for a guard of angels to carry me to Abraham’s bosom.”

What confidence this engendered when you have this type of assurance of having an advocate in heaven. We see that in Acts 7:54-61 with Stephen. Here’s a man of God so soaked in the promises of scripture that, even in the midst of a human court condemning  judging him, he could smile.  He could face such brutality with confidence and calm because he had One who speaks to the Father on his behalf.  He speaks now on your behalf.  You can face life and death with courage and calm because Jesus sits and stands at the Father’s right hand.

The Stone Rolled Away – A Practical Lesson

Mark 16:3-4 – And they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

Let us observe how the difficulties which Christians fear, will sometimes disappear as they approach them. These holy women, as they walked to our Lord’s grave, were full of fears about the stone at the door.

“They said among themselves, Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?” But their fears were needless. Their expected trouble was found not to exist. “When they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away.”

What a striking emblem we have in this simple narrative of the experience of many Christians! How often believers are oppressed and cast down by anticipation of evils, and yet, in the time of need, find the thing they feared removed, and the “stone rolled away.”

A large proportion of a saint’s anxieties arise from things which never really happen. We look ahead to all the possibilities of the journey towards heaven. We conjure up in our imagination all kind of crosses and obstacles. We mentally carry tomorrow’s troubles, as well as today’s. And often, very often, we find at the end, that our doubts and alarms were groundless, and that the thing we dreaded most has never come to pass at all.

Let us pray for more practical faith. Let us believe that in the path of duty, we shall never be entirely forsaken. Let us go forward boldly, and we shall often find that the lion in the way is chained, and what appears to be a hedge of thorns, is only a shadow.

— J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels