I concluded the last post with a very bold statement:
The promises of God are as good as His presence – and sometimes more timely.
Sometimes we may feel God’s immediate presence with us. Sometimes we may not. Some days are like heaven on earth. Some days are more like hell on earth. Some days we feel inclined to build tabernacles on the mount of His presence. Sometimes we struggle with obstinate demons in the valley of trials…wondering if Jesus is ever going to show up! But we can always know what is ultimately true and thus firmly establish our faith by the Holy Scriptures. For as our Lord said, “Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) And again, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)
While Jesus was dying on the cross, He was heard to say, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This was a direct quote from Psalm 22:1, which exactly describes many of the specific events surrounding Jesus’ death! And though it may have accurately described the immediate experience of aloneness that Jesus was having (remember: He had taken upon Himself our sins and was incurring the infinite wrath of God, including experiencing our state of spiritual separation from the Father), it was also part of the Old Testament Scriptures that proclaimed not only the suffering of the Christ but also the glories to follow!
The cross and its suffering did not catch Jesus by surprise. He had predicted both His death and resurrection on many occasions. So we see that it was not the manifest presence of the Father that uniquely and powerfully sustained Jesus through the entire trial of His faith. Rather, it was the clear teaching of all the Scriptures, that declared His ultimate victory over death and the grave, that kept Him through the dark hours of incredible physical pain, deep suffering, grief, and isolation from His Father’s manifest presence. Again, this is why I say:
For Jesus, the promises of the Father were as good as His presence – and sometimes even more timely.
Beloved, it could be that this is the key to victory in the trial you are now facing. You are longing to experience God’s manifest presence, and remembering past seasons where His presence seemed so immediate and intimate. But today you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. You don’t feel His presence. Your heart is not gushing over with pleasant praise and emotional release. But rather than continuing to question why God seems so far removed from your sufferings, why not seek to establish yourself more fully in His great and precious promises?
Jesus is our great example in this. So let us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!” Because, as the Bible says, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross, with all its shame, suffering, and isolation from the Father’s manifest presence, by keeping before His mind the certain future fulfillment of the promises of resurrection and exaltation.
As believers in Jesus, we never live in a situation in which the Father has turned His back on us – thanks to Jesus fully paying our debts!). Yet like Jesus we often have to encourage ourselves with the faithful promises of God’s future grace, to sustain us in present difficulties and trials.
This is also the present key to the victory that overcomes the world: Our faith in the future and ultimate fulfillment of all the promises of an all-powerful, ever-faithful Father. We know that heaven and earth will pass away but not one word of the Father’s promises will fail. Can you receive this? Our’s is a future orientation, beloved. We are given the “firstfruits” of the Spirit now, so that we gain a hunger for the fullness that is coming with Christ returns and brings with Him the fullness of the inheritance. Like Paul we know that as long as we are “in the body” we are “absent from the Lord.” (See 2 Cor 5:1-10) For we walk by faith and not by sight.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
Faith is primarily the product of embracing the promise of God regarding “future” grace. The best is always yet to come. This does not mean that we give up on expecting breakthroughs and advances in the here and now. God is up to great things now – but this is temporary. The ultimate orientation of the New Testament is always a longing for the bodily presence and coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead. This is the “great hope” of the church.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be…He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelations 22:12,20)