A Meditation on My Unbelief (or How I Preach the Gospel to Myself)

[I sat in my bedroom a few nights ago feeling discouraged. There’s usually a catalyst that sends me in a downward spiral, and this particular evening was no exception. There I sat like Christian and Hopeful in the dungeon of despair “sad and doleful.” But God is always at work. I knew I needed a good dose of the promises of God to lift me up. Christian said, “What a fool am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will I am persuaded open any lock in Doubting Castle.” And it did.]

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In a debate between Erasmus and Martin Luther, Erasmus described God’s grace as a parent helping his child learn how to walk. Luther strongly disagreed and rebutted that “God’s grace is like being a caterpillar in a ring of fire. The only deliverance is from above!”

Luther gave us a beautiful analogy of the grace of God in our salvation. But the analogy doesn’t stop there. I need the Gospel of grace every day. As my eyes of faith gaze upwards at the beauty of Jesus and the faithfulness of God’s promises, they often get distracted by something in my peripheral vision, some circumstance or weakness or urgent need. Suddenly, my peace evaporates, my heart beats a little faster, and my stomach churns. What happened?

Nothing takes me down the road of unbelief faster than looking at myself and my deficits, all the things I need but lack. My deficits loom large as my faith shrinks into the shadows. I’m like that caterpillar again, desperate and feeling the heat.

My life is probably like most of your lives, pretty full at the moment. The older I get, the more I sense inadequacy in everything I do. Nothing seems quite complete or ready when the deadline arrives. I’m always thinking back and wondering why I didn’t put more effort into a project or work more efficiently. Sadly, this kind of thinking only leads me to despair and hopelessness. I need to look up. God accepts me because of the merits of His Son. In Christ, His grace abounds to me. This is the Gospel that I must preach to myself every day.

In his commentary on Genesis, Calvin wrote: “Faith cannot stand unless it be founded on the promises of God.” When I get my eyes off my circumstances and look up again, it’s as if I just found the door in a dark room, turned the handle, and entered a light-filled banqueting hall. I walk into the room the same person, limited in ability, resources, and strength, but it makes no difference because this spectacular venue belongs to another whose resources are unlimited.

At this banquet, the tables are always set and the food never runs out. In fact, all the adjoining rooms are storehouses filled with abundant supplies. The only reason I didn’t see this when I was groping around in the dark was because I was distracted by the weight of my shoes that seemed to be slowing me down. It never entered my mind to turn on the light!

God makes some incredible promises to His children, and faith acts on those promises. Unbelief will just continue floundering around in the dark room, gradually weakening his famished victim. But faith will dine lavishly at the table because “God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

And as faith is strengthened by the Bread of Life, he will hear God say to him:

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Faith has chosen the good portion and it will not be taken away from him.

 

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