Why, Isaiah asked the people, do you think God has grown tired of you? Why do you think God has changed God’s mind about you?
Why do you say, O Jacob,Isaiah 40:27 (NRSV)
and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
God is both vastly more powerful than we can imagine, and vastly more capable of attending to every detail of the universe. What God is, does, and says is permanent.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?Isaiah 40:28 (NRSV, emphasis mine)
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
God is unchanging.
It brings us to the doctrine of eternal security, the teaching that once a person has been born anew from above, that transformation can never be undone.
Questioning Eternal Security
- What do we do with the defection of Judas?
Jesus’s prayer must have filled the disciples with a cold dread, for at that moment they still did not know what Judas was about to do.
I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.John 17:12 (NRSV)
Many years later, John made sense of what had happened by writing,
They went out from us, but they did not belong to us, for if they had belonged to us they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.1 John 2:19 (NRSV)
It was not that Judas lost his faith, but rather, Judas never had faith to begin with. Whatever he did have – a certain love for Jesus, perhaps, or ambition, or a mistaken notion of what kind of Messiah Jesus was – it was not faith.
- What did Peter mean when he wrote, “confirm your call and election“?
Faith is the beginning point, it means you or I believe something more than we do not believe—but it may only be 51 percent’s worth of believing and 49 percent’s worth of still weighing the evidence. To confirm our calling and election is to review what we believe, deep down, about God, about ourselves, and about the great spiritual matters of eternity, good and evil, our need for salvation.
Faith, in the scriptures, is about far more than believing something. It is about being all in, fully invested, born anew from above by a divine act of the Holy Spirit, made possible by Jesus Who has opened the way for all to be restored.
Peter, in fact, teaches that we must even add to our faith all the qualities that come from the Spirit’s sanctifying work in our character.
It is the continuing work of God, within us in concert with our own response to God.
The more our belief in Jesus our love for Him becomes central to our lives, the more we will rely on it as the basis of what we think and do, the more central it becomes of who we are, so that everything we believe is founded on the central belief in the risen Messiah Jesus and security in knowing we are His.
- What did Jesus mean when He said “the one who endures to the end will be saved“?
This phrase is to be understood as illustrative rather than prescriptive. At the end of time, after all the horrific tribulations Jesus described would happen as the final chapter of humanity comes to its close, it will be believers who have endured to the end, sustained by God’s mighty, gracious power.
- What if I feel as though I do not believe any more?
Personal experience, by its very nature of subjectivity, is harder to address. Instead of looking for evidence of God’s sure and inseparable love, and of God working everything together for the purposes of glory, evidence to the contrary is given the heavier weight.
The tragedies and traumas of life, deep disappointment in the death of a dream, or a relationship, or a beloved one, seems to point either to God’s lack of goodness, power, and love, or simply the nonexistence of God. Feelings of vulnerability and discouragement lead to a sense of distance from God.
Whereas healthy doubt and deconstruction cause us to reexamine the basics of faith, discouragement and cynicism often lead us away from a sense of faith altogether. Does it mean, then, that we once were saved but now are lost? Or we were once deluded (by having faith) and now, finally, we see that there is no such thing?
Rather than answer those questions head on, I turn to Isaiah’s concluding words in this chapter.
He gives power to the faintIsaiah 40:29-31 (NRSV)
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted,
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Those who turn to the Lord will receive strength from God as often as needed.
“Renew,” here, means “exchange.” When you and I are ready, we can exchange our weariness for God’s inward strengthening. We can exchange our cynicism (which is so often a coping mechanism to protect our hearts from crushed dreams, the sense our innocence and trust was betrayed) for renewed spirits which will soar in the heavenlies with God.
It may take years, even a lifetime, to come full circle. But if transformation occurred, then it will hold, in the end.
This is the heart and soul of God’s enabling grace
God is always able to strengthen those who trust in the Lord
This is interpreting life experiences with a different lens than the one our culture gives us, or our life experiences, or even what others tell us. This is deciding to listen to what God says about God in the scriptures, and take it to heart.
The Choices of Faith
If God says God’s Own character is one of love and grace, then we choose to believe that despite the unimaginable suffering current circumstances have pressed upon us. If God says God is always present, always with us, living within us by God’s Own Spirit, then we choose to believe that, even though emotionally we may feel abandoned, isolated, and utterly alone.
If I am in a room with no light at all, I do not cease to believe that I exist, though I cannot see any part of me. I may not feel a part of my body, but I know it is there. It is, actually, the desired goal of a sensory deprivation tank, to exist (for a time) in a state without sensory input. It becomes, then an act of faith to remember that I am still here, though no outside data appears to be proving it.
Isaiah’s prophecy has been the source of comfort and courage to the heavy-hearted for thousands of years. This is God’s reassurance that the Lord still loves God’s own, that God is still our God, and we who have put our hope and trust in the Lord are God’s people.
God was going to give the people of that day a chance to start over. And though during their years of exile there may have been no physical evidence to support Isaiah’s claims on God’s behalf, the people chose to believe God. They chose to believe they had God’s pardon, God’s promises, and God’s presence, all by grace, to enable them.
That promise still stands true for you and me today, and it is ours by faith, by God’s grace.