The Planks of the Faith: Remembering for Re-Membering, Part 7

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I have to admit, like any person who, after not having had eat or drink or fellowship for an inordinate period of time, I’m famished for being at this table with you—most “in- Spirit”, many in-person—as I have the chance to interact with many folks about the fare we enjoy and seek to employ.

I love “running the good race” in the midst of a shared community of fiathbecause it’s God’s feast (of His True Truth and Love) for the born-again, hungry, and serving heart!

In a literal sense, over the span of my very short life (nearly 60 years young), I have run many, many races. Athletically, the good news is that I have been blessed with being fit (by genetics and training) and adept (by great coaching and mentors) at many sports. The bad news is that I’ve never had the heart for plain-old, down-right, fierceness and win-at-all-costs, crush-the-other-guy competitiveness.

I loved the training, the teamwork, the mastery of the mechanics, the “gymnasium” (being mostly outdoors), the adulation, and especially—much later in life as an ultra-marathoner in the mountains—the fellowship of the shared vision, the shared accomplishment, the shared pleasure of enjoying nature, and the shared fruit of pain and fatigue after running the good race… in a God-glorifying and people-blessing way.

Today, for me, “running the good race” (Acts 20:24; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24) is devoted to fulfilling the Feast of the Heart mission of reformation, revival, and constructive revolution—with any persons in the reach of my circle of concern and/or influence.

And there is no more satisfying marathon than I have ever been a wretched-yet-redeemed participant in!

To Review: The Planks in Place Thus Far:
That There Is One Only God.

The Means by Which We Know God.

The Written Word of God.

The Sufficiency of Scripture.

The Trinity.

The Deity of Christ.

The Deity of the Holy Spirit.

The Creation of All Things.

Today’s Plank of the Faith: The Doctrine of God’s Providence
This pillar of the faith is so big and important—as “big and important” as God Himself—that it can certainly speak for itself by means of how the Bible reflects God’s Providence from start to finish.

However, the volume of learned exegesis (the critical explanation or interpretation of a text, esp. of Scripture) and the range of “princely-to-pauper witness” of humanity to support this foundational doctrine is so vast and remarkable that it is quite impossible to get one’s arms around even a tiny drop in the ocean of it all!

A Toe in the Water of My Own Witness: Please carefully make an accounting of your own!

Please pay careful attention to what I would like to offer in my own story—because it’s not of my making, and it’s universal in its relevance to all of mankind. Please know that my entreaties from the heart for this issue is best and most honestly seen as A MEANS to a far, far more important and unspeakably better END: The increase of one’s faith in the Person and the Providence of the God of the Bible!

For whatever perfect, inscrutable, difficult-yet-divine, and reasonable reason God’s Providence has done so, my story—especially its redemptive fulfillment—has resulted in my having a purpose and passion for “theodicy”:

Offering an explanation and witness of how a loving God could not only allow suffering, but providentially, personally, and universally orchestrate and use each one of our unavoidable trials as a central part of His redemptive plan—one heart at a time.

Don’t worry (even if I could) I’m not going to try and go into this issue in any detail here and now!

HERE’S THE RUB: I have learned—and far more importantly the Bible teaches—that of all the things in life that will yield the abundant, multifaceted, sweet, most beautiful fruit of trusting more and more in God’s Providence, it is how we treat our suffering.

Even as I write these words, I am weeping. I am weeping tears of the most bitter-sweet kind because I know in my own heart, and I know by means of so many, many stories of trials being transformed into God’s and His precious Son’s and Daughter’s triumphs…

That God has in store for us an INCREASE of faith, and trust, and reliance, and peace, and rest, and evangelism, and love of Jesus in word and deed, and the love of fellow man: Our Faith in the Providence of God is multiplied AND meted out to others IN THE INCREASE every day!

Which, by the way, is everything!

People who trust in God’s Providence more and more each day have been unspeakably blessed—along their journey and by faith—by incrementally yet surely closing the gap between the BITTERNESS of suffering and the SWEETNESS of its fruit: Loving and Trusting God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit more and more, and then by giving it away to others in need of the same.

At first, the BITTERNESS feels like an infinite distance from the SWEETNESS. In fact, a distance so far the two cannot even co-exist.

But as our faith in God’s Providence increases—and the eye-witness accounts of real transformations that occur in those who treat their suffering redemptively—our tears of deepest pain AND highest joy are intermingled, enjoined, stirred together (by the Holy Spirit) into an elixir of Jesus Christ’s bitter-sweet crucifixion and resurrection His Truth and Love… in our own hearts!

And can’t help but flow into the lives of others.

This truth and journey is exactly what the apostle James refers to when he outlandishly says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom…” (James 1:1-3).

Sanctified suffering is secure in Biblical wisdom and produces more and more wisdom and a faith deepy grounded, rooted, adiding in God’s perfect Providence (Romans 8:18, 28; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Peter 1:6)

“The Weeping, the Window, and the Way”: A Rendition of God’s Protocol for Redemptive Suffering
Please review an overview (especially on Page 2) of what I describe as “God’s protocol for redemptive suffering” in my book.

This is a birdseye view of what occurred on Christmas night 2002 while with my father as he lay dying in the snow.

Why pay close attention to it? Because there is no way we can “train and learn”, “muster-up our intellect and works”, or “self-help ourselves” into more completely trusting in God’s Providence! It’s organic. It’s about sowing and reaping. Faith lived in word and deed over time. It’s about seeing the truth, and being set free to experience it…living it… in real life…each day.

It occurs by the daily and faithful intermingling of life’s bitter-sweet reality, day by day, in faith and service, the sacraments, in the fellowship of a church and of other Believers, until Jesus returns—in obedience to God the Father’s Providence—to make all things new.

Lastly, please be warned and encouraged to move in the right direction: If “the above and below fare for the faithful” goes unheeded (for the unbeliever) or uncelebrated, unpracticed (for the born-again), the gap between our unavoidable suffering and the potential sweetness it offers to include… will WIDEN.

And get wider and wider, more distant and out of reach over time—until the gulf, the maw, the abyss of darkness is so wide and deep that nothing but despair will be one’s life and destiny.

And then God’s Providence will not merely seem elusive and inconsequential, but God will remain captive to the enmity (the hatred of God) born of EveryMan’s Original and unredeemed Sin.

Hell is nothing more and nothing less than man’s ill-conceived eminence over God’s Person and Providence—for time and in eternity.

Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence
“We believe that this good God, after he created all things, he did not abandon them to chance or fortune but he leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.

Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground (Matt. 10:29-30) without the will of our Father.

In this thought (True Truth) we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

For that reason, we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans (E.g., “The gods are not to be feared; death cannot be felt; the good can be won; all that we dread can be conquered.” (Epicurus: Comparable to “Humanism” of our day.), who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.” (Article 13, The Belgic Confession of Faith, 1561—emphasis, parenthesis added)

Until we sup’ again to chew on and ingest Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man, may God’s Person and Providence richly bless your every thought, word, and deed.

I know you’ll join me in as we celebrate God’s most wonderful Providential blessing, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7)!!


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