In the School of Patience: Know Your God (2)

Rev. John Blankespoor is pastor of the Pine Creek Christian Reformed Church of Holland Michigan. In this article, the second in a series on In the School of Patience, he writes: “Remember, God doesn’t ask you to understand Him, but to follow Him and trust in His promise day by day.”

Spiritual patience is a tremendous power. Only Christians have it, by the Holy Spirit. We see it often in the lives of tried children of God. We read about it when we are told how persecuted and tortured Christians sing, have peace and calmness of soul, even to the amazement of their captors. As pastors and lay people we see it often when we visit fellow believers, who have been tried for a long period of time.

Patience has to do with time. People who have been in difficulty for a long period of time can give amazing testimonies of spiritual endurance, wonderful peace, and they are willing to live as God leads them. Be sure to recognize patience when you see it. Many people don’t. Be sure to observe fellow tried Christians.

I think of the amazing patience of the apostle Paul. He had a thorn in the flesh. Three times he prayed that the Lord would remove it. The answer to his prayer was a No. But when God says No He always says more and gives much. Paul was assured that His strength would be made perfect in weakness.

Then what does Paul do and say? Keep on praying for relief? Listen,“I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Cor. 12:9, 10). If one remembers that Paul still had this thorn in the flesh (whatever that may have been) and is willing most gladly to continue living with it, we see the power of spiritual patience.

Such spiritual strength is possible only through faith, and a lot of it. Faith, of course, is given by the Holy Spirit through the Word. What is faith, really? According to the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the Reformed Confessions, it means to know and to trust. In this article we want to talk about the first one, to know. We must know God, not only intellectually know about Him, but know Him spiritually. And how important it is for every tried Christian to learn anew and learn in an increasing measure who our God really is!

We begin with God. After all, it is in Him that we must place all our trust. We must know Him in His virtues, such as power, love, wisdom, and faithfulness. And the more we as small, finite human creatures learn to know God and who He really is, the more our faith will be enriched unto the exercise of patience.

Our God is infinite. This means in simple language that with God there are no limits. He is infinite in every part of His being. Applied, for example, to time, this means that He is eternal. He is infinite in His power, it cannot be measured. He is endless in love, mercy, and faithfulness. In some sense He is indeed. the “Wholly Other One.” We get some impression of God when we remember that this massive universe was created by mere speech of His mouth.

It is most important for us in our lives, with our needs, to remember that our God is incomprehensible. This means that we cannot understand Him, grasp Him, or follow Him in His thoughts and ways. We can know Him, but never understand Him. He is so different from what we as mortal human beings are. He is the God of miracles, who does supernatural things. There is no searching of His understanding. Of this we must never lose sight when the way is difficult, and we are inclined to ask, why, or we try to understand His ways with us. He wants us to know this first and then trust in Him.

This greatness of our God we see in the Scriptures, but also in the world which He has made. The scientists call this the macrocosm, the large world. I quote a few words, in this connection, from Dr. John De Vries, written in an article, “One Among Billions”:

On the basis of the number of stars found in certain portions of the heavens, astronomers have estimated that there are about 200,000,000,000 stars in what is known as our galaxy, that is, our Milky Way. . . Beyond this galaxy there are other Milky Ways, each in turn composed of billions of stars. All of these stars are in constant motion. Some move only at the speed of 7,000 miles an hour while others travel at speeds approaching 2,000,000 miles an hour . . . . One hardly dares to dwell on the complexity of the motions of each of the billions of stars. Can you imagine what a tremendous force was needed to set this all in motion and what is meant by a providence which upholds this entire creation? And when one realizes that a body can be set in motion only by some outside force acting on it, man finally must get to the point where he recognizes that some mind must have started it all . . . . If these numbers seem large to the reader, let him consider the great distances between these stars. The nearest star to our earth is called Alpha Centauri and it is about 25,000,000,000,000 miles away from us. This is approximately 270,000 times the 92,000,000 miles that our earth is away from the sun. . . . And as the universe continues to grow larger to human thought, the earth grows relatively smaller. Little wonder that it has become but a mere speck in the infinite vastness of this created universe.

The universe, according to astronomers is almost literally infinite. But it isnt. God only is infinite. All this staggers the human imagination. And when you think of this, remember Ephesians 3:30, “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

Then there is also the microcosm world, the small world, the world that can be seen only under the microscope. Here is the world of atoms, of almost endless numbers. What, in the universe, galaxies are to the astronomer, the atoms are to the physicist. And so one can go on and on in learning and describing the incredible greatness of the world which our God has made.

Then there is the human body, a marvelous creation. The nature and function of each organ is simply incredible. The same is true of everything God has made. When one studies and even begins to analyze creation or any part of it, he, as a Christian, must come to the conclusion in his mind and soul, My God, how great Thou art! And also . . . how small is man.

But, let us never forget that God’s work of salvation in Christ, and that His revelation in the work of salvation is much greater. Here we see the God of grace at work, in Jesus Christ, the gift of His son. And how the Scriptures emphasize His infinity in connection with all His virtues. There is His everlasting love, abiding grace, eternal mercy, and unchangeable faithfulness.

Christian men have called Him the God of mysteries. No wonder. This is really the language of the Bible. Theologians have said that it is the element of the mystery that is really the heart of all theology and all religion. Also, that we really have only one choice in life, to choose and accept God‘s Word and embrace its mysteries or to choose chaos, insoluble problems and despair. And if man doesn’t learn that in this life he surely will at death.

It is Job who tells us that if man contends with God, he cannot answer Him, not one of a thousand. One of the lessons of the Book of Job is that of Job’s marvelous tribute to the unlimited knowledge of our great God. Coming back to nature once again, who can explain a simple watermelon pit? It can grow a fruit 200,000 times its own weight, producing a melon that can weigh 30 pounds. And what colorful fruit it brings forth, green on the outside, a light green rind and red on the inside, all coming from that one little seed, called a pit. Where does the color come from, how does all this take place? No one has the answers to this kind of question.

And so the world is literally filled with “wonders,” “mysteries.” Daily we are surrounded by them. The earth is full of His riches (Ps. 104:24). No human being can begin to give a satisfactory explanation of the origin and existence of all these marvels in the world.

Speaking about the beginning of the human being, the psalmist, as he tries to say something about it, exclaims, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (Ps. 139: 6). These greatest mystery and miracle is, of course, the incarnation, the Son of God coming into the flesh. This incredibly great God, who made the world with all its mysteries, being joined to man, being fully God and man at the same time who can explain it!

Of course, the unbeliever calls this foolishness. He tries to grasp with his mind these truths and claims of the Bible. The Christian accepts them in faith. To the Christian it is very reasonable to believe in a God, to trust in a God, whom he cannot comprehend. And this he does. Mystery is the indispensable condition of Christian meaning. And to the Christian it is much easier to believe in God, and, for example, the “mystery” of the Trinity than in the origin of this marvelous universe without a god.

And what is our response to all this? Andrew Murray, in his book, God’s Best Secrets, expresses it very fittingly:

With what deep humility and holy reverence it becomes us to look up to God and then with childlike simplicity to yield ourselves to the teaching of His Holy Spirit. . . Let our hearts respond, “O Lord, O God of gods, how wonderful Thou art in all Thy thoughts and Thy purposes how deep.” The study of what God is, ought ever to fill us with holy awe and the sacred longing to know and honor Him aright. . . . As we worship, let us cry out: What an inconceivable glory is in this great Being, who is my God and Father! Confess with shame how little you have sought to know Him aright, or to wait upon Him to reveal Himself. Begin in faith to trust that in away passing all understanding, this Incomprehensible and All-Glorious God will work in your heart and life, and give you in ever-growing measure to know Him aright.

And as Christians we know that this incomprehensible, infinite, “mysterious” God is our heavenly Father. His love for us is also infinite. No one can really describe it, or define it. It is He who chastens us, and tries us in life, sometimes with ways that are extremely difficult for us. So important it is then for us to know our God, and pray for simple faith that trusts in Him without understanding, but that prays that He will hold us by our little hands, firmly and securely, all the way. And what promises He gives! “I have chosen thee and not cast thee away; fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God; I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:9, 10).

When we accept these promises of this infinite God, our Father, we can better exercise patience. Surely God wants to teach Job something of this and the need of simple childlike faith when He asks Job, “Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?” (Job 38:16). Man with his problems and burdens can almost torture his brain and soul with questions and more questions. But the Lord says to him, Remember, no more than you can comprehend the depths of the sea or understand something of the almost infinite creation, can you understand the ways of your heavenly Father. And remember, God doesnt ask you to understand Him, but to follow Him and trust in His promises day by day.

The more we learn to know God, this God as our Father in our Savior Jesus Christ, and that He and all His works are characterized by His infinite and incomprehensible power, wisdom, and love, the more we can begin to sing just a little more from the heart:

Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Then we are learning in life’s school of patience.