The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
Psalm 145:18-19 (KJV)
(Read Part 1 here)
I’m an English major.
I knew I wanted to be one after the first English class I took in college. When the due date for our first research paper was near, my professor stressed to us the importance of finding valid sources for our topic. For clarification, he explained to us the differences between primary and secondary sources.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
Primary sources are the original accounts of a study. They’re usually written by people who had direct connection to the topic or event you’re looking at, and they were probably written at the time in which it occurred.
Secondary sources are secondary accounts of a study. While they can be helpful, you can come across secondary sources that may give inaccurate information, since they are based on interpretations or analyses of primary sources.
Depending on what you’re researching, it’s fine to use either one. But if you’re looking for some pretty reliable, first-hand information, a primary source is your best bet.
Over the past few weeks, I have been meditating on what it means to understand God as our primary source.
God calls us to cast all cares on Him. I thought this was a “simple” idea, but I didn’t know what it looked like to give Him every emotion, every concern, every dream, and every thought. I had to realize I couldn’t hide anything from Him.
Psalm 145 states that the Lord is near to those who call on Him in truth. Not only are we being encouraged to seek after God, but we are encouraged to seek after Him believing in the truth of who He is.
Now I ask the question–who do you think God is?
Is He nonexistent? Is He cruel? Unfair? Just? Loving?
I have good news. God is not a mystery. In fact, He has revealed Himself to us clearly in the Bible.
There are secondary sources that have painted a distorted image of God that is not based on what the Bible says. Based on its own interpretations and analyses, society has created its own image of God that has deviated from the truth–but the only way to know the true character of God is to go to the primary source, which is His Word.
2 Timothy 2:7 encourages us to think over what God says–through this we gain understanding. In order to think about what God says, we must know Him and know what He says. It’s impossible to know God if we’re running from Him. In fact, the further we go, the further we will be from the truth.
I’ve found that many have fallen into the trap of attributing the evil in this world to God. If we realize who God is, we will learn that evil is the result of a fallen world that has run away from God. Again, the further we run away from God, the further we go into confusion, darkness and destruction.
A great illustration of this is in the book of Jonah. God called Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh, a city that had completely turned away from Him. Jonah knew that Nineveh was a wicked city, but he was stubborn and ran away from God (Jonah 1:3). Jonah sought out a ship heading to the city of Tarshish, away from Nineveh, but he was soon caught in a storm. The other sailors threw him overboard, believing he was responsible for the storm due to his disobedience.
Although God had allowed the storm, He shows grace to Jonah and provides safety for him–giving him an opportunity to acknowledge his sin and repent. Instead of allowing Jonah to drown, God provided a whale that swallowed him, and in the belly of the whale is where we see Jonah’s heart change. He cries out to God in prayer, asking for forgiveness (see Jonah 2). What’s incredible is that during this time he acknowledges that salvation comes from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). He saw what God was doing and that He provided grace even in his disobedience. After three days passed, Jonah was vomited from the whale and went to preach, as God instructed, to Nineveh–a city that desperately needed the truth. Because of this obedience, the people of Nineveh did repent and the city was not destroyed. God had compassion on them.
What we learn from Jonah’s story is that there is nothing we can hide from God. Jonah physically ran away from Him, but a lot of our running away is internal–in our heart. We also learn that despite our failings and our sin, God is incredibly patient with us and provides us with the opportunity to repent and come to Him. He’s so gracious that He still provides for us–just as He showed provision for Jonah. The message of repentance that God asked Jonah to preach to a lost city is still the same today.
Because of our sin, we live in a fallen world. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory–His standard. God is so loving, that although the world has fallen away from Him, He has provided salvation to bring us back to Him. God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. This way, we would not remain dead in our sins and have to suffer eternal punishment in hell. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we can have freedom and eternal life in Heaven.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (KJV)
This passage from Romans explains that in order to have eternal life, we must confess our sins with our mouths and believe that Christ has been raised from the dead. This is salvation. This is an eternal promise that shows God’s love for us. What’s amazing about God’s love is that while we have access to eternal life after death, He doesn’t abandon us during our time on earth.
God has a purpose for our time on earth. Unfortunately, sin and evil still exist in the world, so as a result, there are trials in this life. Nevertheless as followers of Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin–we no longer live under its power to control our lives.
When we follow God, He allows growth and fruit to bear in our lives, because it’s not in His nature to withhold. He is a God who gives. By giving His Son, He demonstrated His love for us. He serves as a model for us. He shows love is action. He is a God of action–that is, He is living and He is working–and all His action is of love. We were made to be image-bearers of Christ. If we get His character wrong, we’ll get ours wrong. In order to know our purpose, we must know Him first and foremost.
God is not the author of sin, but rather He is the solution to it. If He was an evil God who was the author of sin, He would have allowed us to suffer in this dark world–BUT He provided salvation. Therefore, His plan is not for us to suffer and stay in our sin but to be free from it. Through life’s trials, we can be perfected in Christ. Through these challenges we gain so much more of a clearer understanding about why it was necessary for Him to provide a way out of them in the first place.
It is a huge mistake to think we are “too far gone” for God. The blood of Christ is far more powerful than your sin. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins to the Lord, He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He gives everyone the opportunity to repent and be free from the bondage and shame of sin. To truly be free from sin, after we repent, we must live righteously and no longer in our sins. We’re given a new identity in Christ–a new life, separated from our past–so our actions should reflect this.
Now, knowing who God is, how have I personally learned to persevere?
Through God’s Word, I have been able to understand the character of God–and that through all things He is glorified. Through trials He is glorified. He works all things together for good to them that love Him. We will fail over and over again. There’s nothing that God doesn’t know. There’s nothing you can hide in your heart. Yet He still promises to comfort those who come to Him. Nothing can separate us from His love.
It’s important to understand our role in perseverance. We must seek God and obey Him. If we say we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15).
How do you expect to hear God if you’re not even trying to listen to Him? How do you expect to feel close to God if you’re not spending time with Him? How do you expect for God to take control if you’re not letting go of your control?
God gives us a choice to choose Him. John 1:12 says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” He chose to choose us. He chose to give the ultimate sacrifice for us.
Understand this: God cares for you. He loves you. His only Son died for you. He has the best for you. How many times does He have to deliver us for us to learn to trust Him?
Here’s the thing: we don’t have to go through a terrifying lesson like Jonah had in order to understand the consequences of running away from God.
We don’t have to wonder about God. It is foolish to run to secondary sources in the world looking for Him. Instead of running to what the world claims God to be, find out who He is for yourself. Go to the primary source that actually reveals the truth.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:3-5 (KJV)
When we go through trials, we can react in two different ways. We can allow the trials to grow us and become closer to the Lord or we can succumb to sin. Understanding who God is gives us the foundation to have confidence that we will persevere through Him–because He loves us and wants us to persevere.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
John 8:31-32 (KJV)