Hanging on the promises, hoping in God
If you are anything like me, there will be times when you need to be refreshed and encouraged, times when you feel a distance from God. It may be just because you are prone to low periods. Winston Churchill called them his "Black Dog" days. Or it may be that you have been tempted so much that you feel weak and low, or even that the temptation led to the sin and you are struggling over whether a child of God would really think or act that way.
And it may be that someone has told you to cling to the promises of God, but right now it feels hard to do that. For some people accepting the promises of God apply to them is hard anyway. This can especially be so of those who have been at the wrong end of other people's sin in a way that has led them to feel worthless. For others it can be hard because they are prone to look inside and see the murkiness that lurks there. Then there is the "good things happen to other people, but not me" group.
Whatever might be the reason for feeling down, or for doubting promises, we need to remember that what makes us children of God is not what God sees in us, but what God does for us in Christ Jesus. One wise minister stated that for every one look at ourselves we should take ten at Christ (Robert Murray McCheyne). It is good counsel. And the promise becomes ours through faith, faith not in ourselves but in the goodness and mercy of God expressed to us in Christ Jesus. We take God at his word when he says that he is abundantly more willing to forgive our rebellion than he is to punish us. By faith we believe God to mean it when he says that "whoever" believes in Jesus, "shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). We trust him to be faithful when he declares that "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God" (1 John 4:15).
The Puritan, William Bridge, wrote this,
"But remember this as an everlasting rule, that your very relying upon the promise makes it yours." ("A Lifting up for the Downcast" (1649. repr. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), 44).
When we do that, when we rely on the promise regardless of how we feel, we are trusting the one who makes the promise. We are remembering that the promise is given even though we did nothing to merit it. We are placing our confidence and hope, not in what we see in ourselves, but in what we see in the character of God. And in so doing we honour God. John Piper says,
"When we hope in God, we glorify God as the fountain of deep and lasting joy." ("The Pleasures of God" (Fearn, Ross-Shire: Christian Focus, 2001), 234).
And when we hope we do not do so from a position of self-confidence, or strength. We do so in our weakness and in dependence on him who can do what we cannot. We hope in his mercy and compassion. We cling to him as the only one who can deliver us. There is no point looking anywhere else for deliverance; certainly not in our own fickle feelings. If we want to grasp the promises of God and be assured of his love, we must stop navel gazing and look to the Saviour whose love is shown in the stripes on his back and the wounds in his hands, feet and side. We need, in short, to hope in all that God is for us in Christ Jesus.