We live in a world that is highly secular. It wants nothing to do with things that are religious. When Christianity speaks out in this godless society, there are many who are quick to speak out against our message. They spew hateful lies and blasphemies seeking to intimidate us, hoping we will cease telling individuals about the good news of salvation in Christ.
In this society, it is very easy for Christians to doubt the things they believe. Is the church to which we belong really the church of the Bible? Is baptism really essential for salvation? Is the manner in which we worship on the Lord’s day really the worship God desires? Is Jesus really God incarnate who died on the cross of Calvary to save us from our sins?
Doubt is never a good thing. Doubt creates fear. Doubt leads to lack of faithful service. Doubt causes one’s prayer life to cease. Doubt can eventually lead to the destruction of one’s soul. So how do we reassure ourselves that we believe correctly? The answer lies in the title of this article: “We must read and trust.”
The Bible is the only book that comes from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is the revelation of His mind to all mankind (I Cor. 2:9-13). It is truth through and through (John 17:17). God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2); therefore, when we read what is found therein, we can trust it with all of our being. Man can say what he will against it. God is still right.
When it comes to the church, we can read what the Bible says about it and trust it. Jesus said to Peter: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus promised to build His church. Jesus promised to build only one church. Jesus promised that the most powerful attacks against the church could prevail against it. We read these words of our Lord and we trust them. Jesus spoke the truth. He is right regardless of what any man has to say.
In Ephesians 4:4-6, Paul lists the seven ones. He opens his list with this statement: “There is one body…” In the first chapter of Ephesians, he tells us what the body is. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Paul clearly reveals that the church is the body of Christ. If the church is the body, and there is only one body, then there is only one church. That is not something to be scoffed at. These are the words of an inspired apostle. His words are truth. We read them and trust them. We hold on to them regardless of the ridicule that we might receive from others.
In matters of salvation Jesus has spoken to us. He has told us that belief in Him as the Son of God is essential (John 8:24). He has revealed that repentance is essential to salvation (Luke 13:3, 5). Too, He stressed the need of confessing Him before men (Matt. 10:32-33). This same Jesus taught that baptism is part of the salvation process. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). We read these words and trust them. Man may reject the necessity of baptism. However, the believer knows that those who reject immersion for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16) do so to their own peril. What Jesus tells us to do to be saved involves absolute truth. We read His words and trust them.
With regard to our worship of God, we take the same “read and trust” approach. The first century church engaged in preaching the Word during their gatherings on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7). They partook of the Lord Supper on the first day of the week as well (Acts 20:7). They took up a collection on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1-2). In addition, they prayed (Acts 2:42). Too, they sang songs of praise unto God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Some will ridicule our determination to partake of the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day. Some will laugh at us for not using instruments of music in our worship services. Let them ridicule us and let them laugh at us. We have read the Scriptures and trust them. The first century church partook of the Lord’ Supper on the first day of the week. Every week has a first day. Therefore, we will continue to trust the Word. Too, there is no authorization for instrumental music in the New Testament. We read that we are to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. What we have read, we will trust. Remember, the Bible is always right.
We could continue to this study for many more pages. Man has always rejected God’s Word. But, man’s rejection does not mean that God’s Word is not right. God’s Word is right and will always be right. Those who have read it and trusted it in the past have never been ashamed or disappointed. Paul commended the Thessalonians for their reception of the truth. He wrote to them, saying: “”For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe” (I Thess. 2:13). Dear readers, if we will receive the word of God, and, if we will truly believe in it, it will effectually, powerfully work in our lives as well. In the end, we will not be disappointed that we read it and trusted in it rather than allowing the foolishness of man to cause us to doubt it.
With a global pandemic, lockdowns, economic woes, a contested Presidential election, and more, this has been quite an unusual year. While the wise man noted that “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), from our perspective it can seem like we are living in unprecedented times.
As the events of this year have unfolded, there are some important truths that have been highlighted. These have always been true, but they are more apparent in light of recent events. Let us briefly consider a few points.
The Future Is Unpredictable
Many plans that were made for this year had to be postponed, altered, or cancelled altogether. While there never have been guarantees as far as our future plans are concerned, this year has made this reality even clearer. The wise man wrote, “For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be” (Ecclesiastes 8:7). James reminded us, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). This year should serve as a reminder for us that we cannot predict what will transpire in the days, months, and years to come.
Man Does Not Have All the Answers
As people around the world were faced with a previously unknown virus, it was clear that, despite the best efforts of doctors and government officials, no one was sure of the best way to deal with the situation. The Proverb writer said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). In other words, man will never find all of the answers he is looking for – even those who are seemingly in the best position to have the resources necessary to pursue these answers. This is one reason why the psalmist wrote, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9). As many admonish us to trust the scientists or government officials, we need to be sure our trust is in the Lord first.
Life Is Fragile
Throughout the pandemic this year, many people have died from the virus and from complications related to it. Of course, death has always been a certainty. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Yet the constant news coverage of virus-related deaths and the accounts of sickness and death among those with whom we are personally acquainted has brought this into the forefront of our minds. As we already noticed, our life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Though one may live seventy or eighty years, once the end comes, whenever that is, our life is “soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
Brethren Need One Another
Across the country, churches have shifted from regular assemblies to virtual “assemblies.” Even if churches have continued to meet in person, many members have not assembled due to health concerns or other reasons. The isolation that many have experienced during the pandemic has taken a toll on our society. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that American’s mental health ratings have dropped to a new low among every demographic except one -- those who attend religious services weekly. The Hebrew writer explained the importance of the assembly: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The assembly is not just about worshipping God and fulfilling our obligation to Him. It is also about encouraging one another. During difficult times, brethren need this encouragement from one another even more.
Our Hope Must Be in the Lord
No one knows if or when the situation with the pandemic will improve. No one knows if or when our economy or life as we knew it will ever return to “normal.” For all we know, from our limited human perspective, conditions could get even worse in the future compared to how they are now. However, as Christians we have hope beyond this life. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that sleep...so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22). Jesus told His apostles, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Through Jesus’ resurrection, we can have the same courage. Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome by saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). Despite all of the negative things that have happened this year – and what could happen next year and beyond – we have hope through Christ.
As we approach a new calendar year, let us remember what the Bible teaches on these points we have considered. Moving from one year to another does not change the truth of what God’s word has said. No matter what happened this year or what is in store for the next, let us keep our hope and trust in the Lord.
It probably happens most often in college. Your friend walks into the room and you immediately know something is different. There is a radiance that wasn’t there before. The eyes are brighter. The face is joyful. There’s a bounce in their step. The friend has fallen in love … and, like Andy Rooney once said, “When you’re in love, it shows.”
You really can’t hide love. It’s easy to see when a husband loves his wife. It’s easy to see when a grandma loves her grandchildren. It’s easy to see when a person loves their job. It’s easy to see when a fan truly loves the Cardinals. It’s easy to see when a family had a great vacation.
And it’s just as easy to see when someone truly loves the Lord. It shows. You just can’t hide true love. When you love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (Mark 12:30), it transforms you.
You will never hide your light behind dark shades, keeping it to yourself, but will expose it for the whole world to see (Matthew 5:15-16). Love shows.
You will never have to be shamed or begged to meet with God’s people for worship, study and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25), but will long to be with the church whenever it gathers (Acts 2:42) – even when it is difficult or inconvenient. Love shows.
You will use your words to encourage and build, rather than to criticize and destroy – no matter what others are saying about you (Ephesians 4:29). Love shows.
You will treat your fellow Christians with greater care and concern than you treat yourself (Phil. 2:3-4). This will be evident to the whole world (John 13:35). Love shows.
You will not get stingy, resentful or angry when an opportunity comes from the Lord to share your financial blessings with others (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Love shows.
You will not pass up opportunities to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter strangers, clothe the needy, or visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:34-46). Love shows (and saves!).
You will stay in constant communication with the Lord by prayer and study (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:17). Love shows.
You will not keep the saving message from the lost, but will share the gospel with all you can for as long as you can (Matthew 28:19-20). Love shows.
Other people can see how much you love the Lord. The Lord can see how much you love Him. The challenge is to be honest enough with yourself to look deeply in your own heart to see if love for the Lord is truly there. Remember, love shows.