Scripture Reading: Isaiah 3-4
Help Me Remain in the Faith
The most common question we ask of God is “why?” Difficulty, discouragement, and toil come into the life of every person, and when we, as Christians, find ourselves not immune to these things, we often ask God why that should be so.
Just as there is common grace, when unbelievers who are in rebellion against God and His will for them enjoy the blessings of God, so too is there common suffering, when believers who through faith in Christ are objects of God’s grace, set free from the penalty of our sin, suffer the reality of living in a fallen world among those who are objects of God’s wrath.
The answer to our question of why is more implied in these chapters. Common suffering is the consequence of three things: (1) God calling sinners to repentance through what has been called the “awful grace of God” (awful because it is painful; grace because it leads us to His undeserved goodness); (2) God demonstrating His judgment on sin as a testimony to His holiness; and (3) God working out our sanctification (the process of making us holy) as His children.
In considering how we might remain in the faith when walking through times of common suffering, we can reverse engineer insights from chapter 3.
First, when going through times of common suffering, affirm the glory of God with your speech and actions.
Isaiah 3:8 (ESV) — 8 For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence.
The intensity of our feelings can often cloud the immensity of our understanding. Our feelings are incredibly short-sighted. Feelings only know what is going on right now, but reality is so much more than right now. It is in these times of common suffering that we need to govern what we feel with what we know to be true through the Word of God, the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our spirit, and our experience of the grace of God through our salvation and His past grace to us. When we put scripture to memory and build in our minds memorials of God’s grace to us, we are arming ourselves against the doubt that can come from suffering.
Second, when we go through times of common suffering, let it drive you to repentance and holiness.
I have never been on a sailboat, except in my dreams, but I have a romantic ideal of them. One of the things that amazes me is how an experienced sailor can use the same wind to head west that is driving others east. Repentance is a grace of God that drives us west. Left to ourselves, we will never find it; suffering will drive us east to defensiveness and self-justification (“I don’t deserve this! God is not a good god!”).
Isaiah 3:9 (ESV) — 9 For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.
Instead of repenting, they became open and proud about their sin. This is how sin works – there is no standing still; we either repent or go deeper into sin.
We must look to times of common suffering and ask ourselves what God is revealing about our hearts that needs to undergo the knife of sanctification. Is there pride? Is there too great a love of this world and the people and things in it? Is there a weakness of faith? Is there an area of sin I had not seen in myself before?
The goal is to remain in the faith.
Perseverance is the test of genuine faith. Many people begin a journey of faith outwardly, but do not finish it because it never was faith inwardly. Our remaining in the faith through common suffering is the affirmation that God has indeed done a work of faith in us. Perseverance is a moment by moment discipline. We don’t commit to persevere once, but millions of times over our life. Perseverance in faith is the Christian life. But, it is perseverance with a promise! In Isaiah 3:10, God promises reward for our perseverance.
Isaiah 3:10 (ESV) — 10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
In Isaiah 4:3, God promises deliverance from perseverance.
Isaiah 4:3 (ESV) — 3 And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,
The day is coming when perseverance will no longer be needed. It is needed for today, but always only for today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. God’s mercies are new every morning. In eternity, sin will be no more and the curse of sin will be no more.
So, if today you are experiencing common suffering as well as common grace (and we all do every day in differing measures), remain in the faith – with each thought, each word, and each action.
1 Peter 1:3–7 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.