I once knew a man in our fellowship in Dublin who used to challenge us regularly. He didn’t really mean to: he just spoke out of his heart and somehow that allowed no equivocation, no dodging the facts. We would be singing a hymn or a chorus, and really enjoying ourselves, when he would stop to ask: “Do you really mean those words you’re singing?” A very simple question, but one that required an honest answer. It wasn’t a matter of legalism, it was simply a question that reached into your soul and threw a light on your walk.
I have always tried to live by that insight: not to sing words I didn’t mean or believe. Now, there are times when I must sing out in faith, not feeling the truth of the words, but knowing that they are true nevertheless. I may not feel the joy, or the reassurance, or even the basic assurance, as the circumstances of life intrude and temporarily blind me to the reality of my life in Christ. I can be mean at times, I know. I can be bad-tempered, bad-mannered and not very nice: but I know God loves me, that he will always love me.
That is the criterion I use to judge myself sometimes. Do I really know the truth, even when I don’t seem to feel it, or when I am faced with doubts about myself and fears about life. Those are not bad things: Paul confessed that: “…when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.” 2 Cor. 7.5. I know that, in the forty-five years I have known the Lord, I have been poverty-stricken and very comfortable, healthy and ill, and all of the things that make this life what it is in a fallen world.
But, there are certain things, certain verses of Scripture, that I keep holding on to in the bad times, and rejoicing in when things are going well. I know that, if I can speak these out in joy and sadness, always knowing they are true, then the end is not yet. There is, for example, one Psalm that makes non-believers very uncomfortable, but means the world to me. Psalm 139 talks about how nothing is hidden from God, that he knows all we think and feel and say, even before we know ourselves. It speaks of our days being ordained even before we were born: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” [verse 16]. The Psalmist says that God “hems me in, behind and before”, and he finds this so reassuring. Do you?
The Lord wants us to know the joy and the peace that he brings to us, not just to believe it is possible, but to know it, even in the worst circumstances. His love for his children is eternal and “his lovingkindness is better than life”. What a lovely word: “lovingkindness”. That is his heart towards his children. Are you one of those? There is no reason not to be: don’t be content with second-hand relationships with God. Don’t think you need someone to intercede for you. He died for you, and he loves you. The writer of Hebrews says it so plainly: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” [Hebrews 10.19-23]
If you don’t know what this means, or you don’t have that confidence and full assurance, ask him. Ask someone, but ask and you will receive. He does not want us to be ignorant, or to go with less than what he has for us. Time to look, and ask, and seek and knock.