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Sunday, August 03, 2003

11 - Claiming Promises

3 John 1:3 & Isaiah 40:31 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:40 mins 15 secs

Claiming Promises; 3 John 3; Isaiah 40:31


When we are to walk by means of truth it is that we are to walk by means of the Word of God, by means of the promises and principles that are provided for us in the Word of God. We have summarised that by terminology called the faith-rest drill. The foundation of the spiritual life is the filling of the Spirit. The Christian way of life is a supernatural way of life that requires a supernatural means of execution. A so-called Christian life that is built upon a way of life that is no different from just a simple moral life is not the Christian life. The Scripture teaches that we live our Christian life on the basis of the Holy Spirit.

The next level, and this gets into the foundational mechanics of living the Christian life after we are filled with the Spirit, is the faith-rest drill. That concept of drill comes out of an athletic or military metaphor where something is done over and over and over again. It is that repetition that builds a habit of thought and a habit of response in life to what takes place when things don't go the way we think they should, or when we are suddenly faced with a crisis, or all of a sudden we are overwhelmed with the circumstances of life. The faith-rest drill needs to be utilised in minor events on a day-to-day basis as well as those major crises that come our way. If we are not trusting God and developing that skill, that habit pattern of utilising the faith-rest drill on every little detail that comes along in life then when the big things come along we are not going to be prepared but will fall apart and it will probably devastate our spiritual life.

The faith-rest drill becomes the foundation for everything else. For example, the next stage is grace orientation. Grace orientation as a problem-solving device, as a stress-buster, recognises that everything we have in life is due to God's grace, due to His unmerited love and favour. The only way we know about God's grace is through His Word, so the faith-rest drill functions by believing promises that relate to grace. Then the next stage is doctrinal orientation, and in doctrinal orientation we are orienting our thinking to the revealed plan of God so that we no longer think according to the structures of the human viewpoint culture around us called the cosmic system but we have exchanged our thinking for divine viewpoint thinking. This leads to the next stage which is a personal sense of our eternal destiny. We have to exercise the faith-rest drill to believe in eternity, to believe that we have an eternal destiny, and that God has a plan and purpose and there will be accountability for the believer at the judgment seat of Christ. As we grow past the adolescent stage of the personal sense of eternal destiny we come to the next stage which is a personal love for God the Father. This is part of the love triplex as well as impersonal love for all mankind and occupation with Christ. All of those are predicated upon the faith-rest drill. The Scriptures say again and again, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." Keeping God's commandments is a function of the faith-rest drill. Personal love for God is seen through the faith-rest drill, impersonal love for all mankind, loving one another as Christ has loved us certainly demands the faith-rest drill because we have to love people that aren't lovable, may not even be likeable, and may be very objectionable in fact. Occupation with Christ, keeping our focus on Him, also entails the faith-rest drill, as does sharing the happiness of Christ or perfect happiness. So the faith-rest drill must be mastered before we are going to have real maturity in any of these other areas.

There are three stages in the faith-rest drill. The first stage is to claim a promise. The second stage is to think through the doctrinal rationale embedded in that promise. Every promise has a rationale, a series of steps or reasoning that goes on inside of a promise. So it is taking the promise, thinking it through (meditation) and pulling out from that promise the rationale that undergirds and strengthens that promise. As we do that what will occur to us in our thought processes are certain conclusions that must shape our thinking and must become real in our mental attitude experience. The third step is to appropriate those doctrinal conclusions. It is easy to say those are the three stages; it is not easy to go through those stages sometimes. There are certain events and certain crises and certain stages in our life when somehow we find it a little easier to use the faith-rest drill on, and then there are other things that seem to strike at the very core of our soul and our thinking and it is very difficult for us to utilise the faith-rest drill, and again it becomes a moment-by-moment, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour procedure that sometimes may go on for weeks or months before we are able to reach that third stage of making the conclusions from a promise real in our experience.

The first stage of the faith-rest drill is to claim a promise. How do we do that? First of all we have to have that promise stored in our soul. The key is that if it is not there in our soul, in our mind, for us to grab it in a time of crisis then we don't have anything to do, all we are going to do is believe some abstract principle. There are all kinds of abstract principles floating around that people think have something to do with the Bible and they are not trusting a promise, they are just grabbing some sort of self-help principle as an unbeliever can do. So we have to have promises in our soul. To do this we have to make it a priority in life to learn Scripture. We should set a personal goal of Bible memory.

Isaiah 40:31 NASB "Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up {with} wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."

As we look at this passage there are several things that we should note. When we think about claiming a passage we should be rehearsing the verse in our mind. Think through it two or three times and note some observations. Note here first of all that the verse begins with a contrast—"But," translated "Yet" in the NASB. Whenever we see a verse beginning with a contrast we need to look at the verse before it to see what the contrast is based on. In the previous verse the emphasis is on human strength and human ability: "Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly." No one is stronger or more vibrant than a young man, yet even they grow weak. There are some challenges they cannot overcome. Human strength can only go so far and is not capable of resolving every problem in life. So there is a contrast between human ability and the divine ability.

The second thing we note is the verb—"those who wait on the Lord." This is an important word to look at, the Hebrew word qawah. Current Hebrew scholarship doesn't have anything to do with the previously held idea of weaving a rope but it is an expectant or hopeful waiting, to wait with hope, to wait confidently. This picks up the whole idea that we get in the New Testament from the Greek word elpis [e)lpij], which should be translated "confident expectation." This isn't a hope that is just optimistic wishing, this is a hope that is confident certainty. It is the idea of those who are confidently expecting God to be involved in the process. So those who wait on the Lord are those who have their hope or confidence in the Lord. 

The third observation is that they wait on Yahweh. They are not just waiting. A lot of people say, well things will work out. It is just a sort of hope that somehow, someway some impersonal force or some cosmic deity or fate will bring things about and that of we just last long enough things will work out. There is no personal transcendent and imminent God who is infinitely involved in them planning of a person's life that they are trusting in, they are just trusting that somehow, some way things will work out. That is an empty, meaningless faith; nothing more than some psychological gimmick to try to pull one's self up by his own boot straps. That is not what the Scripture talks about where the hope, the confidence is in a person, in the person of God. The name Yahweh to a Jew was always a reminder that God was a personal God who had entered into a contract or covenant with Israel, and it always carried the overtones of God's faithful loyalty to His people. So we are not just simply waiting, we are waiting on a faithful, loyal God who has plans and purposes in human history and they will work themselves out in time. So the contrast is between those who rely on their own strength and ability and those who have a confident expectation on Yahweh, and they shall "renew their strength."

The fourth observation here is the future tense. What is the result, the consequence of that confident expectation? It is not simply that we will renew our strength. That has the idea of getting new strength, that somehow we are running that marathon of the trials and tribulations of life and have made it past the 10-mile mark and you suddenly get a second wind. That is renewing strength and is not what this concept has in mind. The Hebrew verb here is chalath and it has the idea of change or exchange, changing one thing for something else, or exchanging one thing for something else. The idea is not that they get a burst of new energy or get a second wind, it is that they are exchanging their strength and power for God's strength and power. It is His power and ability, not our power and ability.

We can expand on this by looking at a parallel usage of these words in Job chapter fourteen where Job is reflecting on his own trials and testing. Job 14:1 NASB "Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil… [7] For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail." He is in the middle of whining a little bit in this passage. The word there for "hope" is qawah.

After focusing on man's inabilities and weaknesses there is a real note of despair and futility, and that is not something any of us are unfamiliar with. But then he sounds a note of confidence. Job 14:14 NASB "If a man dies, will he live {again?} All the days of my struggle I will wait Until my change comes." He is focusing on the fact that there will be change. The word "wait" here is the Hebrew word yachal, another word for hope and confident expectation. Then he says, "Until my change comes." There he uses the word chalaph and indicates this exchange of his strength for God's strength. This is a picture in Job 14 of how we go through this process. It is not always instantaneous. Sometimes we have to get that promise and claim it, and repeat it over and over again, think it through, and let it begin to sift through our mind over and over again throughout the day. It gives hope, then, as we focus on God's Word. As we focus on God's Word it helps to stabilise the emotions in the midst of the crisis. The reason is that there is hope, not just because we are optimistic, there is confidence because there is a God who is behind the plan, a God who is in control of the circumstances. So when we hit these crises we need to think in terms of why we are going through this suffering.


Reasons we go through suffering

  1. The first reason is because of Adamic failure. Adam's sin is our sin, Adam's guilt is our guilt, and because Adam sinned the entire human race is plunged into spiritual death and many consequences occur. Therefore this suffering is a consequence of our decisions in a secondary sense, there is human responsibility for that suffering.
  2. Because of individual volitional responsibility.
  3. The Lord may impose some divine discipline in order to teach us some things about the Scriptures. Hebrews 12:4-7.
  4. Because we are associated with someone who is involved in making bad decisions.
  5. We are in the cosmic system and therefore there is a certain amount of suffering and crisis that we will go through.
  6. Sometimes we go through suffering and we can't really identify the direct cause, so there are some reasons why we suffer that aren't always obvious. The first of these is evangelism. Sometimes people go through a crisis in order for God to get their attention for salvation, e.g. the Philippian jailer in Acts 16.
  7. A second reason is so that we can learn doctrine. Psalm 119:71 NASB "It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes."
  8. Sometimes we suffer so that we can be a witness or testimony to neighbours, friends or family. 1 Timothy 1:16 NASB "Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."
  9. So that we can be a witness in the angelic conflict to demonstrate that God's will is perfect, Ephesians 3:10 NASB "so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly {places.}"
  10. So that we can comfort one another. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NASB "who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."