The gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ is specifically designed to minister comfort to God’s elect in this world of sin and sorrow. In fact, the Lord God directly commands his servants, in preaching the gospel, to comfort his people (Isa. 40:1-2). That is my aim as I endeavor to instruct you in the blessed doctrines of the gospel, as I try to set before you the glorious character and gracious operations of God our Savior.
With that in mind, allow me to show you three of my favorite texts of Scripture. I certainly do not mean to imply that these three texts are of any greater importance and authority than other portions of God’s Word. That is not the case. We know that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Still, there are some passages of Holy Scripture that God the Holy Spirit graciously uses to minister to our own hearts needs and become our favorites. Here are three of my favorites. They set forth the three most precious, delightful, soul-cheering truths of the gospel by which my faith is continually strengthened, my soul is continually encouraged, and my heart is continually comforted in this world so constantly filled with trials, temptations, and troubles. My three favorite texts are Psalm 115:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and Romans 8:28. Look at them with me.
“Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3). Here the psalmist David plainly declares the great supremacy and glorious sovereignty of our God. Our God is supreme over all the gods of the world. He who truly is God is God who rules over all things, at all times, in all places, absolutely. He is the absolute, unrivaled Sovereign of the universe, who always does his will in heaven, earth, and hell. “He has his way in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him - What doest thou?” The God I worship, trust, and love is in total control of the universe!
“He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). With those words, the Apostle Paul sets before us the effectual, substitutionary sacrifice and atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God was made to be sin for his people. He died under the wrath of God for God’s elect, for every sinner who trusts him. Thus he accomplished our redemption and obtained our eternal salvation. As he was made to be sin for his people by divine imputation (Having our sins imputed unto him!), even so, by that same divine imputation, all for whom he died are made to be the very righteousness of God in him (Having his righteousness imputed unto us!).
“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Here the inspired Apostle declares the holy, wise, good, adorable providence of our God. Nothing is more comforting to a believer’s heart, nothing so effectually quietens our fears as the assurance of our heavenly Father’s good providence. Any study of divine providence ought to reprove our hearts because of our horrible, inexcusable unbelief, while, at the same time, encouraging us truly to trust our great, gracious, glorious God. I will share with you five statements I heard Pastor Henry Mahan make in a message I was privileged to hear many years ago. I found them to be like barbed arrows piercing my heart. I trust they will be the same to you. These are five heart-piercing, convicting, humbling facts.
1. “We have entirely too many fears for a people to whom the Lord God has said, ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness’" (Isa. 41:10).
Why can’t we believe God? Has he not proved his great faithfulness to us? David heard God’s promise and believed him. His faith in God gave quietness to his heart. God’s promises quietened his fears. Didn’t they? He spoke in quiet, confident faith when he said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Ps. 23:4). "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Ps. 4:8). "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up" (Ps. 27:10).
2. “We have far too much anxiety and worry about earthly, material things for a people to whom the Son of God has said, ‘And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?’" (Matt. 6:28-30).
It is written in the Scriptures, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philip. 4:19). Why should I worry, fret, and pace the floor by day and by night, when God my Savior has promised that my Father will for his sake provide me with everything I need in this world? Why should I concern myself about that which God, who cannot lie, has promised?
"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6:34).
3. “We have far too many doubts concerning God’s mercy, love, and grace for a people to whom the Lord Jesus Christ has said, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out’" (John 6:37).
The Lord of Glory declared, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:28). Many of us have trouble here. I acknowledge that I do. My shameful, sinful, baseless doubts are inexcusable. I will not attempt to justify them or excuse them. Upon what grounds dare we call into question the mercy, love, and grace of God? We have absolutely no reason to entertain any doubt concerning him! Shall the God of heaven fail to perform his promise? Perish the thought!
The Scripture says, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life.” I believe the Son of God. I have life. That is not a presumptuous statement. Indeed, it would be the utter height of arrogant presumption to say otherwise. How dare a man call into question the promise of God, ever? Paul was a sinner, just like us, saved by grace, just like us. He didn’t question God’s promise, neither should we (2 Tim. 1:12; 4:6-8; Rom. 8:31-39). "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.h Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I will not doubt God’s love because of something I have thought, or said, or done. His love is unconditional and free. I will not question his grace because of my sin. His grace superabounds where sin is found. I will not be suspicious of his mercy, because I do not deserve his mercy. His mercy is for the undeserving. I will not doubt his faithfulness because of my unfaithfulness. His faithfulness stands forever (2 Tim. 2:13, 19).
4. “We spend entirely too much time grumbling and complaining about our trials and troubles for a people to whom the Lord Jesus has said, ‘These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’" (John 16:33).
We should not be surprised when troubles come our way. We ought to be surprised when they don’t come. As long as we live in this world, we are going to have trials, troubles, temptations, and sorrows.
“God in Israel sows the seeds
Of affliction, pain and toil.
These spring up and choke the weeds
That would else o’er spread the soil.”
Every ounce of gold that has ever been perfected and made valuable has been refined by fire. And if God puts the gold of his grace in us, he will also make us pass through the fire. He declares, "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction" (Isa. 48:10). "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you" (1 Pet. 4:12).
Trouble is not a strange thing. For the believer, the absence of trouble is a strange thing. Yet, when we meet with some great difficulty, some heavy trial, some heart-breaking sorrow, though we may not say it, our first shameful, wicked thought is usually, “Why me?” Our first thought really ought to be - “Why not me?”
“Shall I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to when the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?”
Our trials are nothing compared to what others have had to endure before us. Our sorrows are nothing compared to the sorrows our Master endured to have us. Our griefs are nothing compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us!
5. “We have entirely too much attachment to this world and to this present life, for a people who are looking for a city whose Builder and Maker is God.”
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." We know that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. We have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Believers are a people who long to be with Christ. Yet, it is so difficult for us to be torn loose from this present existence called life. I can not explain that. I just know it is so.
I also know that the only way for us to be delivered from these carnal principles, the only way we will ever be delivered from the cares of this world, the only way we will ever be saved from our fears, concerns, doubts, grumblings, and attachments to this world is to find something better. Our religious works will be dropped like a hot potato, if we ever see and get hold of Christ’s finished work. Our boasted good deeds will be of no value, if we are allowed and made to see what Christ has done for sinners by his obedience and death as our Substitute. Our righteousnesses will appear to us as they really are, as filthy rags, if ever we behold the righteousness of God in Christ. Our goodliness will wither and die like mown grass in a furnace, if we ever see the goodness and glory of God in Christ (Isa. 6:1-6). If ever we see Christ, there will be no more argument about our goodness, debate about our worth, and fuss about our will.
Even so, our fears, our doubts, our grumblings, our complaints against our little trials, our complaints against our God’s providence and purpose will disappear in proportion to the faith we have in his promises (Isa. 43:1-5; 46:4)
"But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west…And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
The more we believe his “I will,” the less we will fear. The less we believe his “I will,” the more we will fear. May God the Holy Spirit cause us to believe that which he has revealed in Romans 8:28, teach us to understand it, give us grace to walk in the light of it, and daily apply it to our hearts effectually to quieten our fears. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."