God's Faithfulness and Our Faith

Dr. Brian Allison

Do you have assurance of salvation? Do you have the certainty that Christ loves you, and that you belong to Him; that He has purchased you with His own blood and has made you a child of the King, and that you are destined for glory? I was speaking to a young man recently, and he said that he was struggling in his faith. He did not have any joy because he was lacking the assurance of salvation, he was lacking the assurance that God really loves him, and would care for him. When we look at this matter of the assurance of salvation, the assurance that God loves us, the assurance that God accepts us, we are really looking at the question of trust. Those who lack assurance in any way really lack trust in God. Is that your situation? Do you find that you struggle with trusting in God? Perhaps you read His Word, you consider the promises of His Word, you see what the Bible has to say about a loving God and His ways; and yet, you still struggle with trust. You are not convinced that God will 'come through' for you. You are not convinced that God cares for you. You are not convinced that God loves you. You battle with doubts and uncertainty, and, consequently, with guilt and fear. You know that you should be trusting in God, you know that He has power, yet in your experience you are not resting, and thus you feel guilty. Perhaps you say, "Lord, I am being honest...I have difficulty resting in You, especially when things seem to be so difficult and so hard in my life; when things seem to be topsy-turvy, and I am not quite sure what the future will hold. I struggle in my trust." Does this describe you?

I remember hearing about a well-known celebrity who had believed in Christ at one time; but when he lost his daughter in a tragic accident, he abandoned his faith because he concluded that God was not worthy of his trust. If God could be so cruel as to take away his daughter, then apparently He wasn't a God deserving of worship and homage. Maybe you have found yourself in a difficult situation, maybe tragedy has come your way, maybe the stresses of life are piling up on you, maybe you have been rejected, maybe you have received some disappointing news – you found out from the doctor last week that the tumour is not benign, but malignant – and you have begun to question God, and to doubt His goodness and love toward you; and you are not quite sure whether or not you can trust Him, or whether He is even worthy to be trusted. The basis of assurance, the reason for trust, is the faithfulness of God.

God is intrinsically faithful

If we can understand this truth – that God is faithful – we will have a thriving, dynamic faith; we will have a strong trust. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 reads, "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." We cannot understand this verse without first understanding the preceding verse to which it is logically connected. Verse 23 emphasizes the sovereignty of God. Generally, God is in control of everything; and specifically, He is in control of our sanctification. We read, "Now may the God of peace Himself [that is the emphasis] sanctify you entirely ['through and through']; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." God Himself makes His people holy. God is pleased to make His people reflect the very character of Christ, transforming His people into the very likeness of Christ. Yes, we have a responsibility to pursue God, to read His Word, to pray, but it is God Himself Who actually makes us holy; and this is our confidence and our peace. God is mightily at work.

God is not only making us like His Son, but He is also keeping us in His Son until His Son returns. God is engaged in this tremendous, even miraculous, activity of preserving us blameless until we stand before the great white throne of judgement. Now, the apostle proceeds, in verse 24, to provide us with the assurance that God will indeed accomplish this saving work. Having stated that God is the One Who sanctifies us, that God is the One Who preserves us, he says, "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass."

God is faithful in that God is true to His word; He keeps His promises; He does what He says He will do. So, we read in Hebrews 10:23, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." Consider also Hebrews 11:11 in this connection, "By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised." Sarah was eighty-nine years old – and she was barren – when God came to Abraham and to her. Abraham was ninety-nine years old at the time. God came to them with a word of promise that they would have a baby. Sarah initially laughed; but, as the text says, She "received ability to conceive;" and that was because of her faith. How did the faith come? – "since she considered [God] faithful who had promised." Sarah's faith embraced that promise; and the promise carried weight and force with her because she understood Who it was that was promising. She considered, she took note of, she brought to mind, that God is faithful; and even though the promise seemed ridiculous and absurd, she knew that the promise was certain because the One Who promised cannot lie. Sarah gave birth to Isaac.

Faith embraces the promises of God. Faith rests in the truth of God's Word. Faith acquiesces in the propositions of God's Word. But what sustains faith so that it may rest in the Word of God and embrace the divine promises, so that the believer is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that these things are true? The faithfulness of God! In considering God to be faithful – that what He says, He will do – we can trust Him. The faithfulness of God is the bedrock, the foundation, for the reality and growth of our faith. If we do not understand and appreciate that God is faithful, our faith will be weak, we will struggle, we may even lose our faith. In mistrusting God, believers interpret life in a self-centred, unbiblical way, drawing the conclusion that God really doesn't care, or really doesn't love them. The result is that doubts and uncertainties arise. The evil one fans the small sparks of doubt and uncertainty into roaring flames, until eventually one is utterly consumed with unbelief. It is not an anomaly, it is not a contradiction, to have a state of affairs in which Christians struggle with unbelief. Is that your struggle?

Faith is rooted in the faithfulness of God

Understanding the faithfulness of God will set you free. Again, the power of faith and trust spring from, and blossom out of, the soil of the personal appreciation of the faithfulness of God. We are to remember that God is true. Many Christians are like a yo-yo, continually up and down. There is a lack of stability to their lives. One day they are on fire for the Lord, they are a terror for God; but the next day, they are flat on their faces; and they wonder what in the world happened, what was the license plate number of the truck that hit them. Again, that which will strengthen your trust and deepen your faith is having a correct understanding, a proper view of the character of God.

We should not rely upon our feelings. We should not get caught up in ceaseless self-evaluation and morbid introspection, trying to find this object or thing called faith. Faith is not an object, it is not a thing; that is why if you are on the search for faith, you will never find it. You only have faith in expressing it; and you will only have faith when you behold the object of your faith – God. It is in seeing Him, that you must believe. You cannot help but believe. There are so many misled Christians who are seeking for faith, trying to find faith, saying, "If I find faith, then I will be able to embrace the promises of God; then I will receive the power of God." That kind of search is a cul-de-sac – a dead – end street. Again, you cannot find faith. It is not some object or thing. All you can find is the object of faith; and in seeing God, you have faith.

The reality of faith (and trust) demands that we understand the character of God; and particularly, that God is faithful. God cannot lie (see Hb. 6:17,18). He cannot deny Himself. He cannot go back on His Word. He is duty-bound and nature-bound to remain true and reliable. If at any time, and for any reason, God were to renege on His Word and promises, then that would be the end of God. To lie or deceive would be a denial of His very nature, a betrayal of His very character. God is intrinsically faithful, and cannot be other than faithful. That is what He is.

Faith will not come by pursuing self-help books, nor by running to hear this preacher or that one (although hearing the Word is helpful), nor will it necessarily come by fasting and praying for forty days and nights. What will experientially bring faith, and deepen trust, is simply understanding and appreciating that the very character of God is one of faithfulness. This fact was the essence of Hudson Taylor's spiritual secret. Listen to his own words:

I strove for faith, but it would not come. I tried to exercise faith, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fulness of our precious Saviour, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief, I felt, was the damning sin of the world, yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do?

When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): "But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."

As I read I saw it all! "If we believe not, He abideth faithful." I looked to Jesus and saw – and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed – that He had said, "I will never leave thee."

Ah, there is rest, I thought. I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I'll strive no more, for has not He promised to abide with me – never to leave me, never to fail me? ("The Exchanged Life," pp. 7,8).

For some time Hudson Taylor struggled. He loved the Lord, he wanted to serve the Lord, he wanted to be faithful to God, but he struggled with respect to the reality and the strength of his faith. He was weak; and became frustrated and anxious. Then he discovered something about the intrinsic character of God. Hudson Taylor's spiritual struggle came to an end, and he finally entered into the rest of the Lord, in understanding that God's nature and character do not change. Do you understand this truth? Or are you still trying to find faith? Do you appreciate this simple truth? You know whether you do appreciate it, if you have entered into the rest of the Lord.

God's faithfulness and His calling

God is faithful, but He is faithful particularly in reference to our sanctification, in making us holy and in preserving us – "Faithful is He who calls you." God is faithful with respect to our salvation, even though we seem to stumble and fall at times. 2 Timothy 2:13 reads, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself."

Do you see that there is a vital intricate link between God's sanctifying, preserving work, on the one hand, and His calling on the other? Having made reference to the sanctifying, preserving work of God (v. 23), Paul then makes reference to the calling of God (v. 24). It is through God's calling, and on the basis of that calling, that He does sanctify, and will preserve, us. God's calling guarantees the realization of the end of that calling; and the sanctifying, preserving work of God is the means by which that calling is fully realized. Because God has called, believers will, and must, be sanctified and preserved. The sanctifying and preserving work of God is necessarily entailed and rooted in the calling. My friend, if God has called you, He will make you like the Son; He will preserve you blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus. You cannot have one without the other. The calling of God is the basis of His sanctifying, preserving work. I like the way the New King James version renders Jude 1, "To those who are called, sanctified by the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ."

What are we called to? 1 Thessalonians 2:12 reads, "So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." 1 Timothy 6:12 says, "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 Peter 5:10 says, "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." What a glorious end! And the means by which the end of that calling is reached is God's mighty and gracious work.

This calling of God is an inward, spiritual, effectual; call. There is a general call that goes out to all listeners or readers. In fact, as I write these words, there is a general call that is going out as the Gospel is being presented, and as the claims of Christ are stated; and as unbelievers read the words, they are receiving the general call of God to turn to Him. As I invite unbelievers to embrace Christ and believe in Christ, they are receiving the general call of God. But in the general call, God may give a specific, spiritual call. Christ speaks and His sheep hear His voice, and they follow (see John 10:27).

Many have heard that spiritual call, and many have not yet heard it. Galatians 1:6 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14 remind us that we are called by grace through the Gospel. At this point, I want to direct a word to my non-Christian friend. I do not know who you are, but God does. The Word of God says that we are called by His grace – it is through His favour and kindness, it is according to His good pleasure – and that we are called through the Gospel. There is no inward, spiritual calling apart from the Gospel; and thus, I want to simply state the Gospel to you; and God may be pleased, as I present the Gospel, to effectually call you into the fellowship of His Son (see 1 Cor. 1:9).

God calls through the Gospel

The Word of God says that everyone is born spiritually dead in trespasses and in sins. Everyone in his or her natural state and condition has sinned against God, and thus deserves the wrath or punishment of God. We all have fallen short of His glory; and God would be just to send everyone of us to hell in our natural state and condition. That is the bad news; now here is the good news. Though we all have 'blown it', though we have all sinned, the Bible tells us that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to represent sinners and to die in their place, and thus receive God's wrath due to sinners. God's infinite and marvelous love lies behind this plan of salvation, whereby God the Son Himself, the second person of the Trinity, would come down infleshed in humanity and substitute Himself for sinners.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived on this earth for 33 years, doing the works of God. He lived a life of perfect obedience; and then He was nailed to the cross, as ordained by God. He was nailed to the cross, not because of anything wrong that He had done, but because of everything wrong we had done. God the Father made Jesus a sacrificial substitute; and Christ died on behalf of sinners. On the cross, God poured out His wrath on the Son – the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. God turned His back on His Son because His Son was made sin for us Who Himself knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (see 5:21). Christ was the great Sin-bearer; and He died and was buried, and on the third day He rose from the dead. The grave could not hold Him because He had committed no personal sin or crime. He completely fulfilled the Law of God, and became a sacrifice for sin.

God raised Christ from the dead because of His perfect obedience. Christ satisfied the demands of the law, and died once for sin. And now, when anyone believes that Jesus Christ died for him or her, the Word of God says that the punishment which Jesus Christ received, which was the sinner's due, He received on his or her behalf; and His righteousness, which is a perfect righteousness, is put to the sinner's account. Your sin is reckoned to have been judged in Christ on the cross; and His perfect righteousness is imputed to you, so that God sees you as if you had never sinned. In imputing to you Christ's righteousness, God bestows on you eternal life, and He gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit; and He calls you His child. In your repentance from sin, and in your belief that Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord, your debt has been fully paid; your sin has been fully atoned for; and God's wrath has been fully extinguished. You are now received into the presence of God. That is the Gospel!

Do you believe the Gospel? I invite you to believe in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, as the One Who died for your sins, and rose again the third day for your justification. I have just given the general call. Has God given you the internal call? Has God called you by His Spirit? Is God calling you now by His Spirit? You may say, "Well, I do not know what it feels like, I do not know what it sounds like." If you have a sense of the evil of your sin, if you are being convicted of your sin, if your conscience feels uneasy, if you believe that you have offended God, if you believe that you have displeased God, if your life has not been right, if you have a sense of a lack of inner peace, if you know that you have done wrong and God is unhappy, and if you desire change and reconciliation with God, then God may be calling you. God is calling you into the fellowship of His Son and into His salvation. All you have to say is, "Lord, I agree with You that I have sinned, that I have done wrong, that I have disobeyed You and gone my own way. All we like sheep have gone astray. I believe that Jesus died for me. I do not fully understand it all, but I know I need a Saviour, or else I am lost. I know that if I were to die today and stand before You, that You would not let me into heaven, that You would be just in condemning me to hell; and I have no other ground on which to stand, apart from Jesus Christ and His righteousness. I accept Your salvation and Your Son, Jesus Christ, into my heart by faith."

God's calling involves holiness

Those who have responded to God's calling must remember that it is a holy calling. It is a calling that involves living separate and pure lives unto God. 2 Timothy 1:9 reads, "Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling." Why is it a holy calling? It is a holy calling because we are called into communion with God. We are called to enjoy God and to fellowship with God; and God is holy. 1 Peter 1:15 reads, "But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour, because it is written, 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY [there is no option here, you shall be holy], FOR I AM HOLY.'" Similarly, we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:7, "For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification." Holiness is the sphere, the context, in which God calls His people. If you are called into the fellowship, if you have been called into salvation, then you have been called into holiness. That means that you have to despise sin; you have to reject sin. You have to be bent on purity, on living clean lives – not having dirty thoughts or dirty desires. You are called to confess, and even repent from, your sin daily. You can make no claim on the calling of God, apart from the proof that you are hungering and thirsting, not only after righteousness, but after holiness. It is a holy calling.

Notice the emphasis on the present tense of the verb in our text – "Faithful is He who calls you [not called you]." God is not only pleased to call sinners unto Himself and into the fellowship of His Son; but, dear saint, He is always calling His people to eternal glory and to the eternal kingdom. God is continually calling; and He is calling now. He is calling us to Himself, He is calling us to rest, He is calling us to be more like His Son, He is calling us to embrace eternal life which He offers us in Christ. God's calling is not a one time thing. It is not something you did 5 or 10 or 15 years ago when you gave your life to Christ. No, the call of God, the call of the Spirit, comes every day to our hearts when we awake; and we should feel the pressure on our spirits – the conviction of heart – to seek the Lord.

God will be faithful, as we respond to that call, to bring us to the end for which He has called us – "And He also will bring it to pass." Yes, we have the responsibility to respond to the call, but here is our assurance: God will most definitely and perfectly make us like His Son and ensure us a place in heaven (and I hope God gives you the grace to 'hear' this and to lay hold on this truth because it will set you free). You know that what you have been trying to do in your own strength does not work. Only God's work is successful. God's grace is our confidence. God will accomplish His eternal purpose of salvation in our lives. He is not only the Caller, but He is the Doer; and everything He does is successful and perfect.

Are you going to allow God to work His grace in you? Will you fully surrender to Him? To surrender means to live a life of faith and to rest in Christ, being dependent upon Him for everything. Why will God bring this sanctifying and preserving work to pass? Again, He is faithful, and He cannot help but be faithful. That is why you should have assurance; that is why you should never doubt; that is why you should never be plagued with uncertainty. If He has indeed called you, it is a fait accompli – an irreversible 'done deal'. That is why you should trust God. Trust Him to work in your life, trust Him to complete that which He has begun. Trust Him for absolutely everything, for He is supremely worthy to be trusted. Praise His holy name!