Portraits of a mature Christian
Trust in God over our experience
God made great promises to Abraham, but for 25 years, Abraham only had God’s word that the promises would come to pass. It was not easy to believe what God promised, but believing God’s word is a trait of spiritual maturity. God put Abraham through difficult circumstances to teach him to trust God’s word above everything he could see, feel, or understand.
Abraham and Sarah did not always fully trust God’s word. During the 25 years they waited for God to fulfill his promises, they wavered and even attempted to help God along. Sarah suggested that Abraham have a son by her handmaid, Hagar. But that was not God’s plan.
When God promised that Sarah would give birth to a son, both Abraham and Sara were well past the childbearing years. They both chose to believe God rather than what their experience taught them.
Once their son, Isaac was born, Abraham continued to believe God’s word. He followed God’s instructions to sacrifice Isaac because he believed God’s promise that this son would be the father of a great nation. God’s instructions were against every natural emotion and thought. It even seemed contrary to God’s earlier promises. Yet Abraham trusted God instead of his own thinking. The writer to the Hebrews (11:19) tells us that he reasoned that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham was a top student in God’s school of faith. He learned God’s lesson, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
We too are in the school of faith. God gives us his word and then guides us through many different and difficult situations so we can learn to trust his word above our circumstances. The apostle Paul was like a New Testament Abraham. He served God faithfully, but time and again God put him in strange and life-threatening situations. Often he was sick or persecuted, but he never lost faith in God promises. In the reading below Paul teaches us to live by faith in God’s word and not by sight.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the
future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Name some terrible circumstance that Paul passed through in his life. You can get help from 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 and Acts 9–28. As soon as Paul began preaching Christ, there was a plot to take his life. Later he was stoned. He was shipwrecked, bit by a viper, and abandoned by friends to name a few. He was also lied about and insulted.
2. What does it mean to be more than a conqueror?
It means to live in a realm above the problems themselves through faith in God’s ultimate deliverance and good will in our behalf. We don’t have to see the deliverance to be encouraged because we know God is not far away and that he soon release us from our trials. You might also look at Philippians 3:17-21 and Romans 8:18,19.
3. Read through the list of things that Paul says can threaten us. Describe how each could do so.
Death threatens our very existence. It is the most frightening thing we all face. Life sometimes threatens us so that we afraid to leave our homes and face the day. Angels are spirit beings and so we would naturally afraid at first when we would see them. Demons are unseen and yet so unpredictable that the very thought of having them work on us scares us. Present problems and the dread of future problems can overwhelm our sense of happiness and well being. Height and depth may refer to cliffs and seas that threaten our lives. They could also refer to heights and depths in our experiences.
4. How does Paul teach us that God shows his love for us?
He shows his love for us in the cross of Christ. When we think of Jesus death and resurrection that promises us life forevermore and when we think of his Lord’s Supper that brings him near to us—we experience the love of Christ in any and all circumstances.
5. What promises of God’s love stay constant in all circumstances?
The love of Christ comes through his word, the gospel, and it is done deal with all of its beauty. It is proclaimed to us no matter where we find ourselves and it always promises impending rescue through the Savior who once came and will come again for us. See John 14:1-6.
6. How do these promises sustain us in every circumstance?
When we hear the love of god in Christ it gives us hope in the Lord and not in ourselves or others. See also Philippians 4:6-7, Jeremiah 17:5-10.
TREASURES TO SHARE
1. Name some circumstances that have tempted you to doubt God’s love for you.
When we have a serious illness or a serious auto accident, or lose our job or have a large financial setback, or when we lose a loved one—all of those times tempt us to doubt God’s love for us.
2. Go to a friend who is suffering some sort of trouble and read Romans 8:37-39 and explain it to him or her.
In explaining to another person we will also be ministering to ourselves. The Holy Spirit helps the speaker and listener through his powerful word.
3. Explain how Paul is teaching us to walk by faith and not by sight in this passage.
He wants us to know that God is always on our side and is always working for us even though we cannot always see it. We are his children by declaration of the gospel and not because life on earth goes this way or that.
Similar Scripture passages to study
2 Corinthians 4:16–5:10
1 Corinthians 15
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © June 2010 reprinted with permission.