Publication: Pastoral Letter, July 2008
Dear Friend in Christ:
Here are questions to consider: Are we in a permanent transition? Will things be in a state of constant change? If so, can we not just survive but be “more than conquerors” in times of instability? Is the Lord using change to bring us back to things that do not change?
We usually think of transition as a temporary move from one place of stability to another. But what if we are moving to another place which will soon become obsolete? Can we find stability in an unstable world? The answer is yes!
I am currently in my biggest transition ever; my wife of 47 years has gone to be with the Lord. I cannot describe the magnitude of this change. And, I am watching others of my generation complete their journey as well. Of course, there are also serious changes going on in our world: Culture ,politics, economics and the rapid change in technology that is driving societal change. The big political slogan of our current election is_change. To some, change may be a positive promise; to others of us, it may raise serious questions. In any case, we cannot prevent change. But the idea of transition and change is not foreign to biblical faith.
Hebrews 13:14 says flatly, “We have here no continuing city, but seek one to come. Hebrews 11:10 says of Abraham, our father in the faith, “He waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” For the follower of Jesus, the implication is clear, the Promised Land is not here. While there are many promises to be obtained here, there is not permanence this side of the New Jerusalem.
We live in culture of instant gratification. “We want it all and we want it now.” This psychology militates against long term thinking, delayed reward, and biblical faith.
Recently, I read about a study conducted years ago with preschoolers. They were placed in a room full of toys and given four cookies each. They were told, “Do not eat the cookies and after one hour, you will receive four more cookies.” So what happened?
Some of the children ate all four cookies before the hour was up. Others ate some of the cookies and bargained for more, since they had some left. A few did not eat the cookies. Those children were tracked years later, and the ones who demonstrated delayed gratification proved to be more successful than the others.
The Bible says that we will “reap in due season if we faint not” (see Luke 18:1; Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3). Delayed gratification is not only a life principle, it is a Kingdom principle. I wrote to you last month, “Cross before Crown.” We wait for a heavenly city.”
The Bible tells us we do not have a permanent city here. We are sojourners. Spiritually speaking, we have no permanence and we have no walls on this earth. In fact, Philippians 3:20 tells us that our citizenship is in heaven. False hope that puts permanence in an earthly system will lead to disappointment and disillusion.
It is true that we have much to do here, such as provide for our families, support the church, serve others, and make disciples. But true disciples will be prepared for the journey – the greatest transition_from here to eternity. So what does make us stable in an unstable world? What abides when all else gives way? The apostle Paul answers that vital question in 1 Corinthians 13:13 – faith, hope and love.
FAITH MOVES US
Faith is one of the three primary engines that move us to go on toward completion in Christ. The Book of James tells us that faith works. A “faith” that does not move to action is not faith at all. Yes, there are several kinds of biblical faith:
- Creedal Faith – the kind once and for all delivered the saints (see Jude 3). It is what the apostles received from Jesus and taught the church (see 1 Timothy 4:1).
- Natural Faith – It is what the father of the son who had a mute spirit said to Jesus, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief” (see Mark 9:24). Word-Based Faith – “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (see Romans 10:17). Saving Faith – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (see Acts 16:31).
- Divine Faith – A gift of faith from the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:9).
Hebrews 11 is the great chapter on faith. In each case that is mentioned there, the individuals acted: Able offered; Noah built; Abraham journeyed, and on it goes. Their faith turned an invisible promise into a visible result. Hebrews 10:36 says, “After you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”
Our daughter Charlyn went to Costa Rica in 1994 to work with children. She did so in faith, without funds. In 2007, she received a gift of $100,000 from someone we did not know that would complete the money needed for the first home. Meanwhile, she married a fine young man, adopted five children and they had two of their own. Faith moved her and her husband to the place of obtaining. Our two sons have also walked in faith, as did my parents. Faith moves us through transition and delayed gratification.
The apostle John writes, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (see 1 John 5:4).So what if the world is in transition? So are we! I encourage you to build your faith by reading and hearing the Word of God, by fellowshipping people of faith, by prayer for increased faith, by hearing great testimonies, and by avoiding cynical talk.
Faith is a substantive belief that if we act on His word, He will act on our behalf. The issue before us is not to react to change, but to act in faith to bring change. Faith will keep moving us toward the promises of God. Faith abides, and if we abide in faith, we can find stability in unstable times.
The second reality is that we abide in hope. Hope brings endurance. A friend named her daughter “Tikvah,” the Hebrew word for hope. Tikvah means a rope or chord tied to an expectation. We have “tikvah” in Christ, the home of true hope.
One of my favorite hymns is “Christ the Solid Rock.” I love the verse that says, “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” When my wife, Carolyn, was diagnosed with cancer, my task was to encourage her hope in Christ. Ultimately, she had the Blessed Hope, not hope in our mortality (see Titus 2:13). And, though we sorrow, we sorrow not as those who have no hope (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).Our rope is tied to Christ, to whom we have fled for hope. That hope is our anchor “behind the veil,” where our Forerunner has gone (see Hebrews 6:18-20). Such hope has brought endurance to our family in times of great stress and change.
Job’s friends attempted to destroy his hope by accusing him of sin, but he had not sinned. Sometimes life does not seem logical. But Job maintained his hope until it was rewarded (see Job 14:7-9). Ezekiel’s hope was tested by God in the valley of dry bones. But by the anointing of the spirit and by the prophetic word, he finally saw the restoration of Israel (see Ezekiel 37).
Some of life’s greatest tragedies come through misplaced hope in a false friend, sexual gratification, addictions, fame, power, wealth or even the government. Trouble can strip away false hope. But in the time of trouble, there is a door of hope (see Hosea 2:14-15; Psalm 27:1-6).It is then that we can flee for refuge and find the anchor of the soul, “both sure and steadfast” (see Hebrews 6:19).
Years ago, my wife and I took a ten-day trip in a small boat. I needed an anchor that would hold us in troubled seas. I selected a Danforth anchor because when the rope was pulled in rough seas, the anchor would dig deeper into the bottom; it would not drag. Tying our rope of hope to a dragging anchor is a formula for disaster. Hope firmly tied to Christ will not drag! “In every high and stormy gale. My anchor holds within the veil.”This is the hope that the apostles and early Christians demonstrated. It held them through the most difficult times. And this is the hope that we have to offer those that we see who are in trouble. So, what moves us to give them hope?
Faith moves us forward, hope enables us to endure stormy changes, and love moves us to give what we have. As Paul says, “Now abide faith, hope and love – the greatest is love. Why is love even greater than faith and hope? When faith has been fulfilled and hope has been realized, love is eternal. Faith and hope will be left here, but love will be the climate of heaven.
Love moves us to give. “God so loved that He gave…” (see John 3:16). “Greater love has no man than this, than a man lay down his life for a friend” (see John 15:13). Love is both a noun and a verb; if we have it, we do it.
Recently, the President gave our nation’s highest honor, posthumously, to a soldier who threw himself upon a grenade in order to save his fellow soldiers. He gave his life for his friends. Love moves us to give our very lives.
John 12 records the story of Mary who poured her precious ointment on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The ointment was valued at one year’s labor. The fragrance filled the house. But it was more than one year’s labor, it was her dowry – her future. Her gift was unreasonable to some, but love is a reason beyond all reason. Lovers are givers. When we give, it is a fragrance, a testimony that “fills the house.”
I love the song, “The Love of God.” The last verse, written by F.M. Lehman, says:
“Could we with ink, the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, ere every stalk on earth a quill, and every man scribe by trade, to write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.”
Jesus is the manifestation of Divine love and this is the love He gave to us. It is nor our love, but His, that gives. Lovers are not takers, they are givers.
So, it is possible for us to not only survive change but triumph in it, if we walk on in faith, tie our hope to Jesus Christ, and love as He did. Don’t “eat your cookies” yet. There is more reward ahead if you will deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow him.
I have observed other ministries that feel the tightening of our economy, as we have. I have personally helped to subsidize our calling to serve and encourage you. I pray for your peace and prosperity in these times of change. As God enables you, keep us in your prayers and giving. And, support your local pastor and church. These voices need to be heard in our time. Thank you for your love, prayers, and financial faithfulness. If these monthly letters are a blessing, let me and our staff know, and remember to visit us online at www.csmpublishing.org. God bless you.
Charles V. Simpson
Scripture Reference: Luke, Galatians, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, Acts, Jude, 1 Timothy, 1 John, Job, Ezekiel, Titus, 1 Thessalonians, Hosea, Psalms, John