My hope is in God’s promises, not that “things aren’t as bad as they appear”

June 4, 2018

I’ll blog more about this treasure: It’s called an “interleaved” journaling Bible—from Crossway.

In Psalm 119:41-2, the psalmist writes,

Remember your word to your servant,

in which you have made me hope.

This is my comfort in my affliction,

that your promise gives me life

Nine years ago, I experienced what I’ve called on this blog my “evangelical re-conversion.” During those days, weeks, or months, the Lord convicted me: for too many years, I had neglected God’s Word—even as I was attending seminary in large part to study it; even as I was (supposedly) preaching it every week. I had failed, repeatedly, to put myself under its authority—which is to say, God’s own authority. So I repented.

(I say “re-conversion” because my change of heart represented a return to a part of my identity that I had left behind around my sophomore year of college. Note that “sophomore” is derived from roots literally meaning “wise fool.” Truer words…)

I also repented of the harmful idea, which I learned in seminary, that somehow the Bible isn’t God’s Word at all, or is only God’s Word in a secondary sense. (This idea comes courtesy of Karl Barth, “a dreadful man”—C.S. Lewis.) The Bible, we were told, at best “bears witness to” God’s Word, who is Jesus. Indeed, I’m sure that a sentence like this one showed up in my commissioning papers before the Board of Ordained Ministry. (Sorry, guys!) In the past, I’ve dealt with this question-begging fallacy: there is literally nothing we know for sure about the “Word of God who is Jesus” apart from the Word of God that is written down, the Bible. Moreover, since the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Christ, inspired the writers of the Old and New Testaments to write what they wrote, I have little patience for pitting the “red-letter words” of Jesus in the gospels against the rest of scripture.

Regardless, this blog has in part been the fruit of this re-conversion. “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

Yay, me!

But then I encounter scripture such as the verses quoted above, and I’m humbled: My one and only source of comfort and hope when I’m “afflicted,” the psalmist says, is “your word” and “your promise”—which he elsewhere describes with synonyms such as “commandments,” “precepts,” “rules,” “testimonies,” and “statutes.” He is referring to all of scripture—the Bible itself. Psalm 119 is in fact a psalm of praise for God’s Word.

I’m humbled, I say, because I realize how unlike the psalmist I am! When I am “afflicted,” I don’t usually place my hope in the promises of God’s Word—for example, that in all things God is working for my good, that I shouldn’t despise the Lord’s discipline, and that what others, including Satan, mean for evil, God means for good. Instead, when I face trouble, my “hope” and “comfort” is this: after assessing the circumstances in which I find myself—after reviewing a list of possible outcomes as best as I can determine them—things aren’t as bad as they appear. After all, I can work this angle; I can talk to this person; that person owes me a favor.

Having consoled myself with my own power to make things work out all right, then I’ll ask God to console me.

Isn’t that hilarious? No wonder I get stressed out so easily! No wonder I often get angry!

What would happen, Brent, if you actually tried believing this Bible in which you take pride in believing?

I repent.

One Response to “My hope is in God’s promises, not that “things aren’t as bad as they appear””

  1. Grant Essex Says:

    I was challenged today as to whether I believe all that is in “the law of Moses”. Specifically, I was asked if I thought that stoning of homosexuals and adulterers was appropriate. My view is that the Bible tends to be self correcting. When faced with this same question, Jesus did not challenge the Law. Rather, He modified it by saying in essence, “Sure, let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Similarly, He clarified the Law regarding what was Adultery, what was Murder, and so forth.

    Once you start picking and choosing your Scripture, you undermine it all. It is either the inspired word of God or it is not.

    What’s the Biblical saying? We choke on a gnat, but swallow a camel.


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