“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
I have a dear friend whom I affectionately call, T (actually my nickname for her is The Great New York T). She and I are about as different as night is from day. You see, she is from up north. (Even worse, she is from NEW YORK – the ultimate in Yankeeland!) and I am as southern as grits and cornbread.
The story of how we became friends is a novel unto itself, but the short version is, we met through a remark made to her by my son about visiting a Bible study we were having in our home.
From the get go we were strange friends indeed. It took both of us a while to fully understand each other’s accents and mannerisms, and we have had (and still have) some great laughs over our cultural diversity (Although we both love New York style cheesecake. I mean, who doesn’t?)
Regardless of what our differences are in accent and culture, T is one of the most honest and down to earth Christians I have ever met. Her faith is solid, unshakable, and simply profound. The Lord has used T many times to strengthen my faith by observing her faith in the Lord in action.
One of my favorite T-isms of all time is this: “I’m just keepin’ it real, Alice.” And she does. Not only that, but she also helps me to “Keep it real.”
So with a tip of the hat to the Great New York T, I’m going to do my best in “Keeping it real.”
Do you ever get tired? I mean tired in not just your body but in your mind—in your spirit? I do. One of the great things about the Bible is that it presents even the most godly people (the ancestors of our faith) with brutal honesty.
For example, God included in the history of Abraham not only the story of Abraham’s great faith, but his (sometimes spectacular) failures as well.
As we read Abraham’s saga, we come to understand our great Creator by seeing how an infinite and holy God dealt with sinful man; especially when these godly men (and women) failed Him. None of the great people of faith whose stories are recorded in the Bible had their histories “glossed over.”
No, the Lord made sure that the events recorded in His Word gave the truth about the people whose stories reside within the pages of God’s Word. We see the great triumphs of the faith of those such as Moses, Abraham, David, Paul, Peter etc. And we see with equal clarity their frustrations, their faults and their (in some cases) colossal failings.
God never, ever sugarcoats sin or its effects on fallen Man. At every turn and in every case from Genesis to Revelation, the effect of sin and, therefore, the utter necessity of a sinless Savior is on full display for all to see and heed. From start to finish God, through His Word, is “Keeping it real.”
There are some days when the presence of the Lord in my life is so strong, and my fellowship with Him in prayer is so sweet that I weep from the sheer awe and beauty of it. Yet by the same token, there are many other times when I feel like a bug hitting a windshield—shattered and splattered. As T would say, “I’m just keeping it real.”
During those times when I feel more like a bug on a windshield than a saint of God, times when it seems like everything is spiraling out of control, or when it seems like I’m a circus performer trying to keep ten plates spinning in the air without dropping any—at times like these when I see myself for the utter failure that I am, it makes me so very glad that God put the Bible together the way He did.
I’m so very grateful that He knew that many, many times that we, His children, would need to have things put into their proper perspectives—to have things kept real.
For example, I am so grateful to read in Genesis that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God from the very get go (and failed in a place and state of absolute perfection), it floods my heart with such gratitude to learn that God had already provided the way of salvation through His Son Jesus.
To read of the promise of a coming Savior right there in the garden, at the very point of Man’s greatest moment of failure of all time; well, the impact of the love and mercy of God just doesn’t get any more real than that.
Or when I read of Elijah, who after his great victory over the prophets of Baal, immediately fell into an exhausted depression and was both physically and emotionally spent, so much so that he slid right into a state of despair and fear that practically immobilized him. Well, I can certainly relate to the reality of that, too.
Many times, especially after we have just been through an exhausting physical, emotional or spiritual battle, we are most vulnerable. It is during those times of great emotional and spiritual weariness that we have the privilege to go to God’s Word and read how He provided for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of His servants with the loving care of a tender Father toward His exhausted children.
It is so spiritually uplifting to read of how our Lord (the only sinless man who ever lived) was tempted in the wilderness by Satan for 40 days and nights. We gain comfort and strength from the lessons Jesus taught us in this account—about how we, too, can triumph over temptation and the assaults of the evil one.
For example, we learn from Jesus’ own experience there in the wilderness how to be victorious when we are tempted—by doing what He did, using Scripture to defeat Satan’s attacks upon us. Knowing how to defeat our adversary is the key to keeping things real when we are engaged in spiritual battles, or just in everyday life.
And what about the times when we have failed our Lord big time? You know, those times when our sin and failure has been nothing less than colossal?
When we have failed God spectacularly we can go to the Word and read the story of David (a man after God’s own heart). We can read of his great failure and of how when he was confronted with his sins, David became deeply convicted. We learn through the Bible how David repented and was forgiven and restored to right fellowship with the Lord.
Through David’s story, we learn of the ever present possibility of believers to sin, even grievously. But even better, we learn that the mercy of God to forgive us when we do commit sin, even great sin, is real.
Thank God that He included in the Bible not only the victories won by his servants, but that He also saw fit to record the instances of their failures as well.
After all, sin and the consequences that result from sin, and God’s absolute forgiveness and grace given to us in the aftermath of our failure and subsequent repentance, is the very essence of the reality that we live with daily in this sin-infested world that we must inhabit—for now.
Or how about the times when there is a burden and a longing in our souls that is so great, so huge that we can do nothing but weep; those times when our wounded hearts are so raw that we can’t even form the words to express the howling hurt that floods every corner of our hearts in a yawning chasm of pain?
What about the reality of those times when our burdens are so real, so heavy, that it almost seems as if they have actual physical weight? How has God provided for us during those soul crushing times when even breathing seems to be too much to bear?
It is during those times when we find within the pages of God’s Word the stories of Hannah who so longed for a child that she could not put into words the longing of her soul. Or Mary and Martha when their grief was raw over the death of their beloved brother. Or the Roman centurion whose daughter lay at the point of death; this hardened soldier of Rome who sought out and knelt without shame before the Jewish healer, Jesus of Nazareth, and pled for mercy for his little girl.
Or what of the persistence of Peter, James and John, Paul and Silas who were imprisoned in dark and brutal dungeons all for the sake of Christ? Those men continued to preach in the name of Jesus regardless of the beatings they were given or the number of times they were arrested.
On and on the stories run from the Old Testament through the New Testament. The realities of the sufferings, the failures and the triumphs of this “great cloud of witnesses” are set down for us in the pages of the Bible that our Lord has recorded and preserved for us in His Word.
Our loving and merciful Father heard the words of each person’s heart; words that were too great to issue from the orifice of their mouths; words that only their hearts could speak. And He does the very same for us today because He is the everlasting and unchanging God who declared the “end from the beginning” and who is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities” (see Hebrews 4:14-16).
And so, through Hannah’s life as well as the lives of all the others recorded for us in Scripture, we learn that, yes, even in pain so deep that human language cannot convey the words—that the mercy and sustaining grace of God is sufficient and it is real.
I thank God that He has seen fit to give to us a written account of His plan for the ages, and that He has preserved for us His Word—inerrant, infallible, unchanging and real.
I am so thankful that He has recorded the reality of His absolute triumph over sin with its devastating consequences on all of His creation.
Finally and most especially, through reading God’s Word, I am bowed down in deepest humility and gratitude for the reality of His marvelous grace made available to even the vilest of sinners; that through Jesus’ death, burial and bodily resurrection, that eternal salvation was made possible and is freely offered to all who will come to Him by faith.
Folks, sin is a reality. But, oh thank God that salvation for “whosoever will” is even more a reality!
The wickedness of the fallen world we live in is real. The evidence that depravity is increasing is becoming more evident by the day. The certainty that the attacks upon genuine believers in Christ is ramping up in both frequency and intensity are becoming more evident as well.
All of these things are the reality in which we now live. But we must not be afraid. Both suffering and triumph are reality to the follower of Christ.
Since our Lord has already given us “the end from the beginning,” let’s renew our efforts to spread the gospel to as many as we can for as long as we can. Let’s pick up our Bibles and head out boldly into a lost and dying world. Let us tell everyone we meet that there is a Savior and that He is real.