Ruthless Trust: The Long View

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March 15, 2020

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    The Sunday message was on Ruthless Trust. As we studied Titus 2:1–3:8, we saw that faith, hope, and love are the very nature of the Christian life. Faith connects us to the generous grace of God that saves us. Hope anchors us in the future promises of God for us. Now we live with love in action. Love in action is the virtuous life, the wide range of qualities of good character. It is the character of Christ being formed in us. Ruthless trust perseveres, continues on, presses on, and endures with patience. This devotional explores what is involved in ruthless trust that perseveres and endures.

    DAY 1: Perseverance, Endurance, and Patience

    Look through these short scripture verses and observe the context for perseverance, endurance, and patience. These are a cluster of virtues that are part of trust. Romans 5:3-4; 15:4-6 Colossians 1:10–12, 22–23 Hebrews 12:1–3 2 Peter 1:6 2 Timothy 3:10 Colossians 2:6–7 Every day, in every way, make every effort to endure, to continue, to be patient, and to persevere in following Jesus. Grounded in faith, anchored in hope, live in the love of Christ. Pray every day for grace, faith, hope, love, and ruthless trust.

    DAY 2: The Reality of Problems and Pain

    We are exhorted to endure, to persevere, to press on in our faith, to stand firm, to patiently wait as God is at work. None of this even makes sense, unless there are forces at work against us. And there are many such forces at work against us. At times life is hard. We struggle. There are problems. Things get difficult. We have trials and tribulation. The result is pain. We hurt. We suffer physically, emotionally, and spiritually. What do you do in times like this? This is crucial. The old hymn of the Christian faith, God Hath Not Promised, describes this: God hath not promised skies always blue, Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain. God hath not promised we shall not know Toil and temptation, trouble and woe; He hath not told us we shall not bear Many a burden, many a care. Read 2 Timothy 3:10–12. Verse 10 is a core verse. What is Paul referring to? Now turn to 2 Corinthians 11:21–33 to see Paul’s history of pain and suffering. In this he learned to endure. His faith grew. So did patience and trust. If God promised there would be no problems, no pain, and no suffering, then we wouldn’t need the virtue of ruthless trust. Read Hebrews 12:1–3. Jesus himself suffered and he is the exemplary model of endurance. And we are encouraged by his example to endure and persevere in our race of life and our journey of character. Reflect on your current situation. What are your problems? Where do you hurt? How are you doing with endurance, perseverance, and pressing on? Pray every day for grace, faith, hope, love, and ruthless trust.

    DAY 3: The Presence, Power, and Promises of God

    Yesterday you read two of the verses of God Hath Not Promised. Here is the refrain that follows each verse: But God hath promised strength for the day, Rest for the labor, light for the way, Grace for the trials, help from above, Unfailing sympathy, undying love. This is what God has promised to you. Take a moment. Read that verse one or two more times. Read it slowly, prayerfully, gratefully. God promises to give you his grace, his strength, and his wisdom (see 2 Corinthians 12:9–10). God promises to be with you and that he will never leave you alone in your difficulty (see John 14:25–27). God promises that he will complete the good work he has started (see John 5:17 and Philippians 1:6). Jesus NEVER stops working in your life. God promises that he will make all things work together and bring good out of even the worst of circumstances (see Romans 8:28, the core verse, and then 8:31–39). Christian pastors and theologians through the long centuries call all of this the Providence of God. It is the generous, constant care, nurture, and power of God at work in his creation, and in your life. It is this sovereign work of God that makes ruthless trust possible. It is why you can live with faith, hope, and love. Pray every day for grace, faith, hope, love, and ruthless trust. And that you would believe. I recommend the book Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. Check it out to go much deeper.

    DAY 4: A Powerful Purpose

    Viktor Frankl has written one of the greatest books of modern times: Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a Jewish psychologist who lived in and through four Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz. He had a basic question: How can a woman or man endure and survive such horrific experiences? Why do some survive and others don’t? Here are a few of his thoughts on purpose and meaning: He who has a “why” to live can bear almost any how. What matters is the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. Everyone has her or his own specific vocation and mission in life. Everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. In that, you cannot be replaced. One of the great deficiencies of our age is a loss of purpose and meaning. In this, Christians are not exempt. But of all people, we should be the most purpose-motivated people of all (thank you, Rick Warren, for The Purpose Driven Life). Our lives are full of holy meaning. Life is beautiful. Life is sacred. People are made in the image of God. There is sin and evil in the world. And there is a job (or better, a vocation) we have all received as we make our way through this sacred life. You are on a mission from God to work with him for the repair of the world and for the renewal of all things. You are here to be a blessing for others. You are meant to make a difference. You matter. You are needed. You count! Read Ephesians 2:8–10. And it is that powerful purpose, infused with deep meaning, that is essential if you are to endure. Purpose and meaning provide the motivating reasons to keep on keeping on. Purpose and meaning empower you to not give up. We don’t quit just because it is hard. Read 2 Timothy 2:10–13. So, why are you here? What matters most to you? What are the assignments (plural) God has for you? Who are the people who most need you to not give up – EVER? Dig deep and press on. Pray every day for grace, faith, hope, love, and ruthless trust.

    DAY 5: It’s a Process

    It is a lifelong process. Character formation will continue for the rest of your life. Meaning and purpose will grow deeper. They will morph and advance in and through you as the years go by. We are all headed home, but we are not there yet. You’ll get there. God will keep you secure in his grace and love. But press on. Continue walking. Fight the good right. Run the long race. Keep the faith. Read 2 Timothy 4:6–8 and Hebrews 11:13–16. There is much more for you to come. No matter how young or old, there is always more. So make every effort (2 Peter 1:5, 10) to grow strong in grace, deep in faith, and mature in love. May the fullness of Christ’s character become your character. We began our series with Paul’s words on good and evil in Romans 12:9, 17, 21; 14:16; and 16:19. Read Romans 16:25–27 as the final benediction of this series. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  
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