Saturday, June 18, 2011

How Firm a Foundation (from the archives)

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16-17

As Christians, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to be different from the world – to live differently, to be holy as God is holy. How do we do this? And how do we know what to do? God has provided for us by leaving us His word, the Bible.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

In the first verse of this well-known hymn, we are reminded that God has laid the foundation for our faith in His excellent word. In subsequent verses, the hymn tells of the promises God has given us in the Scriptures.

Verse 2 is not included in the “standard” version of this hymn printed in many hymnals, but it gives us a wonderful picture of God’s provision for His children. He will give us strength for whatever our current situation demands.

Paul encourages the Philippians that my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (4:19) God will supply all your needs -including strength, God-given strength, to face each day and each situation.

This is a common theme for Paul. In letters to both the Ephesians and the Colossians, Paul prays that God would grant His people strength.

…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. Ephesians 3:16

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossians 1:9-12

In verse 3 we are reminded that God will not forsake us – he will help us and hold us in his omnipotent hand. Since I’ve written on that theme for many previous posts, we’ll move on to verses 4 and 5.

These verses remind us that life will not be easy – we will go through the deep waters and our pathways will lead to fiery trials. Notice the author’s writing of verse 4 – “When through the deep waters I call thee to go” - Sometimes we take ourselves through the deep waters, but oftentimes, God leads us there. Not because it’s fun, but rather, for our continuing sanctification. It’s in these deep waters that we draw near to God and cling to His promises. It's also through the deep waters that we are changed into the likeness of God’s son. The following passage reminds us that in these times, God is with us!

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

Verse 5 is a picture of the Refiner’s fire. When silver is being refined, it must be held at a certain HOT temperature for a certain amount of time – and during the process, the dross, or the stuff that clouds up the silver – floats to the top and is taken out. The process of purifying is complete when the silversmith sees his own image reflected in the silver.

The silversmith has to be very careful to use the right amount of heat for the right amount of time, so that the silver is perfected. The silversmith must sit and watch, with his eyes fixed on the furnace, for if it goes too long, or gets too hot, the silver will be injured.

This is how God works in us – he uses the fiery trials of our life to refine us – to get rid of the dross, the junk – to make us more perfect and holy. Although it’s usually not pleasant, God knows how hot to make the fire, and how long to keep us in it, so that when we come out, we are more like Jesus and less like our sinful selves – and, since He has his eyes on us the whole time, we know that we will not be injured.

Verse 6 encourages us that when we are old, we will be able to prove his unchangeable love, and verse 7 gives us the assurance us that God will never leave us.

Micah 7:18 tells us that God delights in unchanging love, and the Bible is chock full of examples of His love for His people – love that did not change over time or was not dependent on circumstances. In fact, we know that He loved us so much, that He sent Jesus to die for us, so that we can have eternal life! We can rejoice knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

It doesn’t matter what might happen or how we might be shaken – we can rest knowing The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

How Firm a Foundation
Words by John Rippon

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

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