A Divine Promise For the Stuck

Pastors get stuck in the mud. Churches and denominations get stuck. Every Christian gets stuck in the affairs and demands of life. Or so it seems. As John Piper’s church began to feel mud creep around their ankles, he preached on the topic and concluded the sermon with this word of personal application:

Know this for your own personal life. Right now there’s not a person who is not stuck in something. You are stuck financially, or stuck in your health, or stuck in your marriage, or stuck in your vocation, or stuck in your spiritual growth. There’s not a person in this room who doesn’t feel in some sense: this is a moment when I’m not making any progress and everything seems futile that I try. That is never the case with the Christian! God is always doing more than you know — a thousand times more than you know. One of the great blessings of getting old is that you start to see the patterns and you can recognize them and not get so panicky as you were in your earlier years. [11/20/11 sermon video, 25:40­–26:40]

Where in life are you tempted to feel stuck?

Romans 15:13

Paul’s prayer wish for the believers in Rome:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

A collection of thoughts from my morning reflections:

  • God is the source and object of all hope.
  • Personal joy, peace, and hope are gifts from our gracious heavenly father–and he desires to give us more!
  • God fills us with joy, peace, and hope via our abiding trust in him. Personal faith and trust in God is the conduit God has chosen to communicate his joy, peace, and hope to us [causal: ἐν τῷ πιστεύειν].
  • Hope does not operate apart from our trust, the forward-looking aspect of our faith.
  • If I do not trust God for the future, I cannot experience his joy today.
  • In faith, the Holy Spirit fills us with hope.
  • Joy, peace, and hope are all external to us, they are gifts.
  • Piper: “Confidence in the promises of God overcomes anxiety.”
  • Faith’s object is the gospel (Rom. 1:16–17). To have faith in the gospel is to receive peace, joy, and hope.
  • Schreiner: “Faith and hope are functioning here as virtual synonyms, for the God who gives hope does so by increasing faith, which results in joy and peace.”
  • As we grow in our faith and in the content of the gospel promises we experience greater peace, joy, and hope. These are gifts from God.
  • Paul’s pastoral concern in this prayer for the Roman believers is simple: he wants to see them grow in faith in order to experience more of God’s abounding and abundant joy, peace, and hope.
  • Mounce: “Our role is to maintain a relationship of continuing trust in God.”

Justification and the Supreme Victory of Faith

“Among all the realities of the invisible world, mediated to us by the disclosures and promises of God, and to which our faith responds, there is none that more strongly calls into action this faculty for grasping the unseen than the divine pronouncement through the Gospel, that, though sinners, we are righteous in the judgment of God. That is not only the invisible, it seems the impossible; it is the paradox of all paradoxes; it requires a unique energy of believing; it is the supreme victory of faith over the apparent reality of things; it credits God with calling the things that are not as though they were; it penetrates more deeply into the deity of God than any other act of faith.”

Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary (Solid Ground, 2007), p. 135.