Blessed Believing

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 1:37,45

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

Luke 1:45 RSV

Here’s a beautiful verse of Scripture about young Mary’s faith. The words came in spontaneous joy from her kinswoman, Elizabeth. Listen: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Think about that with me today, about blessed believing: the kind of faith that God looks for in each one of us, the kind that makes us genuinely happy, truly blessed.

A WORD FROM THE LORD

For this kind of believing, we need first of all a word spoken by the Lord. You remember the message Mary had received. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” When she said, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Real faith always begins with a word from God, especially a certain kind of word, a word of promise.

Much of what we find in the Bible consists of statements about past events. Methuselah was born. He lived so many years and he died. Accepting those records as true is faith of a certain kind, but it’s not what we’re talking about today. Or consider how much in the Bible has to do with various commands. “You shall have no other gods before me . . . Honor your father and your mother . . . You shall not kill . . . You shall not steal . . . You shall not commit adultery.” We can “believe” those commandments in the sense that we accept them as coming from God, but that again is not full-orbed faith, not the blessed believing of which we’re thinking now.

Mary had received a divine promise. You know what a promise is. The dictionary defines it as “a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified.” Or again, it’s “an assurance that something will happen or will not happen in the future.” Promises of both kinds, whether of what we engage to do or of what we indicate will happen, have to do with the future. When we believe a promise, when we trust the One who is making it, we say, in effect, “Yes, it shall be so.”

God makes Himself known in the history of His people as the God of covenant. A covenant is a solemn agreement between two parties. It involves obligations on both sides. The person who initiates the covenant (in this case, God) makes certain promises, assumes certain responsibilities. “I am the Lord your God. You will be My people. I will be with you.”

God promises to Abraham a progeny through whom all the world will be blessed. He promises David an enduring dynasty. He pledges to Israel a prophet like Moses, a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. He promises to the world a Savior. And in the fullness of the times, to Mary a child born to be king.

And that’s not all. He makes promises to you. All the promises, you see, are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. If you trust in Jesus as your Savior, if you are seeking to follow Him as your Lord, everything that God has promised is your inheritance. When God says in His Word, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” that means you. When He says, “Ask, and you shall receive,” He’s addressing you. When He promises, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God and it will be given to him,” that’s you, when you need wisdom. When He says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” that’s a promise with your name on it. Yes, and when He gives His word, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” that’s for you, if you believe in Jesus. That’s where blessed believing starts, with God’s faithful promise.

PLEADING THE PROMISE

Blessed believing means, secondly, that we take God at His word. Understanding that has been tremendously helpful to me. There was a time in my life when I believed that God would do anything I asked Him to do if only I believed it hard enough. On that view, faith is like a psychological feat, a pressure we bring upon God to get Him to do what we want. If we can “psyche ourselves up” to believe strongly enough, whatever we desire will surely happen. That’s how the thought about that runs.

But I found through sad experience what many others find also: it doesn’t always work that way. When I want my favorite athletic team to win, and pray that it will happen, and get myself believing it really will, that team isn’t always victorious. At least half the time, prayers like those are not answered. It doesn’t happen as we expect. But those are trivial things, you say. Yes. But also at a far deeper level, we’ve all prayed for strugglers with cancer, believing totally in God’s ability and willingness to heal, and yet have seen those loved ones languish and die. I received a letter today from a lady who has been asking for 15 years that God would give her a husband, believing that, expecting it to happen. Yet it hasn’t. She’s disappointed. More, she’s bitter.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that confidence in God isn’t important. I’m not saying that prayers with faith don’t make a tremendous difference. But I’m saying that we don’t always know what God’s will is in the matters we pray about, unless He has given us His promise.

Then it’s all different. If I’m asking God to forgive me for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ, I don’t have to wonder if He is minded to do that. I don’t have to add to my prayer the condition, “if it be Your will.” I know it’s His will – because He has promised it.

In other words, blessed believing is not the confidence that I can prevail on God to do anything I happen to desire. It means rather that I can trust Him to do what He has promised to do. I can pray as David prayed, “Do as you have said.” Or as the psalmist, “Remember your word to your servant, on which you have caused me to hope” (Ps. 119:49).

That’s how we express this blessed believing. We pray on the basis of the promise. That’s what Mary did when she heard of this unspeakably wonderful thing God was about to do in her life. She wasn’t simply passive. She asked for it to happen. Listen: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

When our children were growing up, my wife Helen and I prayed for them as any Christian parents would, and we prayed with confidence. We knew that God would hear us, not because we are anything special in ourselves, not because our children are more important to God than anyone else’s, but because He has promised to do certain things for the sons and daughters of His people. Listen to these words from Deuteronomy 30:6, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” What a promise that is, that God will work by His Spirit in our hearts so that we may more and more come to love Him! And not only ourselves, but also our children! What a word to plead! Here’s another promise. Isaiah 44:3: “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.” Did you hear that? God says through the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost, “The promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:39). So whatever believers ask for themselves with the confidence that they are in God’s family, they ask with equal confidence on behalf of their children. They pray on the basis of the promise. They plant their feet upon it, as it were. They take hold of it in trust. They bring it before God and call upon Him to make it good. That is blessed believing. First the promise of God, then the prayer that appropriates it.

THE BLESSING COMES

Now why are those blessed who believe in this way? Listen again to this word about Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” or “because there will be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Her believing, her prayer, will never be for nothing. It will lead to a fulfillment. It will bring an answer. How that makes our hearts jump with joy!

One of our sons went through a period of questioning and rebellion during his high school years. We were concerned about him because when he made ready to go off to the university, he seemed to have no personal faith in Christ. He was exploring various Eastern religions. Then, two weeks before he was to leave home, he experienced a remarkable conversion and became an enthusiastic Christian. You can imagine the overwhelming gladness that brought to us.

The next morning, I happened to be reading in the Psalms, Psalm 116. These words came to me with moving power, “I love the LORD,” says the psalmist, “because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live” (vv. 1-2). That is blessed believing, friends, when we listen to God’s promises and trust His heart, when we appeal to Him in fervent prayer, sometimes over long periods of time, through discouraging delays. The time comes when the answer is given and our joy knows no bounds. We feel, of all people, most blessed. A grateful love to God wells up in our hearts and we want to keep calling on Him as long as we live.

And we take heart then about all those other promises of God which have not yet been fulfilled. There are still loved ones we’re praying for who haven’t yet turned to the Lord. They are strongholds of opposition to the gospel that haven’t been broken open yet. We don’t yet see people everywhere beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. The Lord Jesus has not yet returned in power and glory for His people. But all those things have been clearly promised. The covenant God, ever faithful, has pledged Himself to bring them about. They will happen. As Mary was told, no word from God will be void of power. No promise will fail of fulfillment. There’s nothing too hard for the Lord. He is able, as the apostle tells us, “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

So we keep on praying. We keep on asking, seeking and knocking. Like Mary, we plead the promise before God: Let it be to me, let it be to us, according to Your Word. And we are truly blessed, blessed already, because the day will come when our waiting will be over. Weeping will have endured through the night but joy will arrive in the morning. God will bring His purposes to fulfillment. He will give to His praying, trusting people the desire of their hearts, and we will know how unspeakably blessed we are.

Remember that phrase in Scripture where Jesus says, “Have faith in God”? Those words can also be translated, “Hold the faithfulness of God.” The Tzeltal Indians in Mexico have a description for faith which is very much like that. It’s a word which says literally, “holding on to God with your heart.” You have His promises in the Word and they’re all yours in Christ. So plead them before Him, those that especially speak to your heart and life now, whatever the promise is in the gospel that you need. And then hang on. Don’t lose heart. The day is coming when there will be a fulfillment, and you will discover, as all blessed believers do, that “those who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.”

Prayer: Lord, make us, we pray, blessed believers. Help us to hear the word You speak to us in Christ. Help us to take hold of it in faith and plead it before You, saying, “Do as You have said.” And then may everybody sharing this program enter into the joy and wonder of what it is to be heard and answered. In the name of Jesus. Amen.