18: I Know He is Able, But is He Willing?
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How to Maintain Faith in the Goodness of God
As we have shared previously, the ability to maintain the Higher Christian Life is found the same way it was originally obtained: by faith. We have come to understand that, in the same way the confession of our sins leads to instant forgiveness, it also leads, according to 1 John 1:9, to our instant and immediate cleansing “from all unrighteousness.” And for this promise to become a living reality in you, it must be believed by faith. Unfortunately, many believe this truth only until they wake up the next morning feeling something less than they did the night before. Then, they surrendered their life to the Lord, confessed their sins, received forgiveness and spiritual renewal, and in the early morning hours of the next day, all of that seems like a distant memory. In effect, they are saying to God, “Hey, I know You’re powerful and able to do what You promised, but I’m not sure You’re willing. I mean, I know You can, I just don’t think You will. At least not for me.”
And this is where the war with doubt is lost. We impune the character of God by viewing Him as someone who is miserly with what He has promised to give His children abundantly. Or maybe He shows favoritism, like an abusive, narcissistic father, who loves some of His children more than others. But why would we assume such hurtful things about our Lord?
When our emotional feelings begin to fade, and often they will, we are torn between believing what He promises in His Word or what we are feeling at the moment. Which one is true? What happens when my faith falters and I now believe what I see and feel and touch, and not what I know to be true? When the peace, the serenity, the assurance God has accepted my offer of myself to Him (Rom. 12:1) begins to fade, what am I to do? Was it supposed to be permanent? Or was it designed to be fleeting, like the early morning dew? Is there something I did or didn’t do to make it fade away? Is this what the Higher Christian Life is really like, up and down, forward and backward, close to Him one day and distant cousins the next? Is that all there is to the abundant life He promised? Or is there something I’m missing?
Rest assured, the experience of the Higher Christian Life can be permanent. It should be permanent. It is expected and designed to be permanent. But often we are clueless as to how to maintain our intimacy, passion, and fervency with Him. So let’s look briefly (we will develop these in greater detail over the next few days), at three simple truths that are vital in helping you experience the permanent, residing joy of learning how to abide in Him (John 15:4) as we maintain the Higher Christian Life.
I Know He is Able, But is He Also Willing?
When we claim God is able to “keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and then add the disclaimer, “Uh, but I just don’t think He will,” we are displaying the very opposite of abiding faith. In fact, we are blaming God for our failures and disappointments and calling Him a liar. That’s right, He promised and didn’t deliver. That makes Him a liar. Or, maybe He kept His promise to others, but just not to me. Again, that makes Him a liar. And that places us on shaky ground with the Lord.
So as a foreshadow of what is to come later this week, let me quickly share with you three truths you must believe to experience the continued blessings of the Higher Christian Life. And these truths speak to the character and trustworthiness of God. Again, our faith must be centered in His promises and ability to complete the good work He has started in each of us (Phil. 1:6), and that He won’t rest until we are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).
One, you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness. You must settle it in your mind, once and for all, that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). And this is especially true of Him being able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24). Yes, even you.
Two, you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling. Of course, He is willing. That’s what a good God does. He will not command you to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and then give you no means to obey His command.
And three, you must learn to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping. It is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours. His job. And He is not only willing to bring you across the finish line, but He is also able to carry you across the line if necessary. So we must learn to trust Him to finish what He began in us, for His glory, no matter how we feel at the moment. Remember, whatever the need, He can. And even better than that, He will.
Today, think on these three statements about the character of God, and we will begin to unpack them in detail tomorrow.