God: The Source
of All Encouragement
Dr. James T. Naismith of Scarborough, Ontario, is a retired physician who devotes his full time to a Bible teaching ministry, which in 1986 extended all the way to India. This is his third study on the theme of encouragement.
B. The Nature of God:
Not only may we be encouraged by the names of God, expressing Who He is, but we may also take comfort in the nature of God — what He is. This is a vast subject: many books have been written on “theology”: it is beyond human comprehension. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27) . His glories are infinite and thus inexhaustible. We would never try to drink all the water in a huge reservoir, but would be content with sufficient to satisfy our thirst. So, like the psalmist whom we have been considering, our souls thirst for God, the living God” (Psa. 42:2) — but we shall never exhaust Him; however, He satisfies our deepest longing and encourages us in our greatest trial. Let us think of only three aspects of God’s nature that encourage us:
1. God’s Holiness: We might think, in view of our unholiness, that the holiness of God would be a discouragement to us. The psalmist, however, exhorts us to “give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness” (30:4; 97:12). God’s holiness should fill us with awe and reverence, but also with gratitude. Why? Holiness sets God apart from all others. The first occurrence of “holiness” in the Bible is in Exodus 15:11: “Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praise, doing wonders?” Thank God: He is “God and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee” (Hos. 11:9). This should encourage us, who trust in Him. Holiness embraces not only His purity and righteousness, but all His attributes. As the sun’s rays blend into one all the colours of light, so all the attributes of God blend into the white light of His holiness.
2. God’s Love: Every dimension of God’s love and every manifestation of it should bring us encouragement. “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.” It is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). He loves us not because of what we are and do — but in spite of all. His love is immutable. C. H. Spurgeon, passing a weather-cock, with the text: “God is Love,” remarked to his companion how inappropriate this text was on such a changeable thing. His companion replied: “God is love whichever way the wind blows.”
3. God’s Faithfulness: Faithfulness is that characteristic of God that makes Him totally reliable and trustworthy. Whatever the circumstances of our lives, we can trust Him implicity to remain the same and true to His Word. It is seen in the continuation of His providence daily: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22, 23). He is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23). God’s faithfulness guarantees that His purposes will be accomplished: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you Who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:23, 24).
C. The Works of God:
God demonstrates what He is by what He does. What He does — and has done — should be a great encouragement to us who commit our lives to Him. It was the. remembrance of God’s work and wonders that encouraged Asaph in the time of his great depression, expressed, as we previously considered, in Psalm 77. After his questions about God’s promises, mercy, and grace in verses 7-9, he continues on a brighter note for the rest of the psalm: here is the reason: “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember Thy wonders of old … Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: Thou hast declared Thy strength among the people” (vv. 11-14).
The hymn-writer knew the value of considering God’s works when we are distressed and tried: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” God’s works are seen in many ways:
1. Creation demonstrates God’s power, wisdom and glory. Can we doubt His ability “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20) when we see and consider His great power in creating the universe? Can we doubt the wisdom of His ways — which we often do not comprehend — when we contemplate the wisdom of creation?
2. Providence displays God’s continuing concern for His creatures and His faithfulness in providing for their needs in spite of their failures. Jeremiah wrote: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22, 23). David concurred: “Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness” (Ps. 65:11). Has there ever been a day when the sun has not risen (although we may not have seen it!) or a year when summer has not followed winter (although summer may have been fleeting!)? Has God failed in any of His works of providence? Every morning we see the light of a new day should encourage us: God is still on the throne! The recurrence of seasons in their order each year should encourage us: God is still in control!
“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon amd stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy amd love.”
3. History: Earlier in our study, we considered the psalmist’s encouraging statement: “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” Why? He gives the answer: “For Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.” God’s actions in the past — in the lives of others and in our own experiences — give us confidence to trust Him for the future. The Bible has recorded, for our encouragement as well as our admonition, God’s dealings with His people, Israel, and with individuals such as Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel. In spite of frequent sad failures, God remained faithful. He delivered them from all kinds of circumstances: from enemies, waters, rivers, fires, lions. And shall He now fail us? Surely not! The God who has been “our help in ages past” will just as certainly be “our hope for years to come”!
4. Redemption: The God who encourages us is One whose nature was fully revealed at Calvary. There we behold His holiness and love, His wisdom and power, His mercy and truth. Can we doubt His loving concern for us in our need when we see such a demonstration of His compassion and interest in our eternal need? “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
D. The Purposes of God:
Romans 8:28 is one of the best known, best loved, and most encouraging texts in the Bible: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” The last word in this verse — purpose — is a key to the text. God has a purpose, a plan, for all whom He calls to Himself, who love Him. Since it is God’s purpose, it must be good: for our eternal good, as well as for His eternal glory. The verse assures us that, in all things — trials, problems, sicknesses, bereavements — God is working for our good. George Muller once wrote: “In 1,000 trials, it is not 500 that work for the believer’s good, but 999 — and one beside!” The very disappointments we experience are His appointments! “No chance has brought this ill to me: ‘Tis God’s sweet will, so let it be.” “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform” — but, by these ways that seem mysterious to us, He not only performs His wonders, but accomplishes His purposes for our good. What is God’s ultimate purpose for those whom He has called? The next two verses — 29 and 30 —explain that purpose, as indicated by the “for” at the beginning of v. 29, linking it with “purpose” at the end of v. 28. God’s purpose, for which we were marked out beforehand in eternity past, is that we should be “conformed to the image of His Son” (29), “glorified” (30). Can anything possibly thwart or frustrate His purpose? God forbid. God would not be God if He were unable, for any reason, to bring His purpose to fruition. “He Who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). “Tribulation, distress, persecution,” etc., can never “separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom. 8:35). Indeed, these are among the “all things” that God uses to work out His purpose for our good that we might be more conformed to the image of His Son. One day, His purpose will be completed, and “we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Even these lowly bodies of ours will be “fashioned” — conformed (same word as in Rom. 8:29) —like His body of glory (Phil. 3:21). Meanwhile, we should be encouraged that, in all the discouraging circumstances of life, God is working for our good and accomplishing His glorious purpose for eternity.
E. The Promises of God:
God is the source of all encouragement: His names, His nature, His works, His purposes and His promises. These promises — contained within His word, both Old and New Testaments — are very numerous. But “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20, NIV). God’s promises are centered in Christ Who affirms them all to us, so we can respond: “Amen,” recognizing their truth. We can reiterate the words of Solomon, spoken at the dedication of the temple: “There hath not failed one word of all His good promise.” Men’s promises are “like piecrusts —made to be broken.” God’s promises are faithful and sure: “He is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23). We should read them in His word, trust them day by day and be encouraged as we travel on to glory.