Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Heart Faithful to God

It’s Valentine’s Day and red hearts abound! So it is appropriate that, just a few days ago, God placed me in the book of Nehemiah, chapter 9. There we find a corporate praise to God, which includes a reference, in verse 8, to the patriarch Abram: “You found his heart faithful to you.” God found Abram’s heart faithful.

The meaning of this verse can be found in Genesis 15:6: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” In the footnotes to this verse in The MacArthur Study Bible, John MacArthur writes that this is an “illustration of faith over and against works.” And in Romans 4 we read how Abraham is justified by faith—belief in God—by God’s grace. Works has nothing to do with it. In fact, the term “credited” or “counted” is “used in both financial and legal settings,” according to MacArthur. He goes on to explain that the Greek word occurs nine times in Romans 4, and means “to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account. It is a one-sided transaction—Abraham did nothing to accumulate it; God simply credited it to him. God took his own righteousness and credited it to Abraham as if it were actually his. This God did because Abraham believed in him.”

Romans 4:18-22 says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’”

This is an amazingly clear delineation of faith. Abraham, in his very heart, believed God. It wasn’t superficial, and God knew that, as only God knows the heart (1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 139:23; 1 Corinthians 2:11; Acts 15:8; ). In fact, Abraham’s faith was strengthened by the promises of God (promises yet unfulfilled) and so he gave glory to God, fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He promises. That is faith: unwavering, strong, persuaded and trusting.

The minute we waver, weakening our faith by giving precedence to circumstances, experts or personal skills, we lessen our hope. MacArthur defines weak faith as occurring “when doubt erodes one’s confidence in God’s word.”

It follows then that if we struggle with weak faith, we need to build our confidence in God’s word. And the only way that can happen is if we’re consistently in God’s word and are watchful to see it play out in our lives and the world.

Certainly we can and must seek medical expertise (the writer of Luke himself was a physician). Of course we encourage Godly counsel. And we use the talents God gives us to actively serve Him. But experts, Godly counsel and our own capabilities do not replace our time and trust in God’s Word and our walking in faith with God.

Doctors make mistakes, no matter how much we trust them. Counsel from other Christians can be off the mark in some instances. And our capabilities can fail due to depression, physical infirmity and sin. Our faith must first and foremost be in God, against whom we test everything and everyone, including ourselves. MacArthur writes, “Believing God affirms his existence and character and thus gives him glory.” And what a glorious thing it is to experience God's existence through faith!

The minute we think our circumstances, darkness, trial, despair, disappointments, failures--and even our success and plans for the future--are too big or too small for God, or not needful of God, is the minute we stop affirming his existence and character. It’s the day our faith stops beating.

On this day of abounding hearts, do we find ours abiding in God? Does God find our hearts, like Abraham’s, faithful to Him?

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

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