Jesus used that small word “must” many times. In the Greek the word for “must” is «δει» pronounced as “thee”. “For all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet,” (Matthew 24:6b). He said that word when he was asked of His disciples about the signs of His coming, and of the end of the world. At some point in His ministry, He began to tell his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things…… (Mathew 16:21). On another occasion He said, “Offences must come” (Mathew 18:7). On the way to Emmaus, he said to the bewildered disciples, “Ought not (‘must’ in the past sentence) Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? (Luke 22:25-26). In the book of Revelation we read about, “the beast that was and is not, though he is,” (Revelation 17:8). “And when he cometh, he must continue a short space,” (Revelation 17:10). This small word, ‘must,’ indicates clearly that there is no other way in achieving a purpose or reaching an end. If a person is flying to Burundi in Africa from Cyprus, they ‘must’ travel through Cairo. There is no other way. Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12b). To be saved, you ‘must’ believe on Christ, there is no other name. Certain things must come both in the history of the world but also in our individual history, before the end comes. The angel said to Paul, “Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee,” (Acts 27:24). Paul could not die before he had walked the God ordained path of his life. He had further years to live, they ‘must’ be fulfilled.
Certain events we may consider as accidental or contingent are not so, but are part of the wise and loving will of God in order for His purposes for us or others to be fulfilled. The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed such an important truth when he said, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walks to direct his steps. O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing,” (Jeremiah 10:23,24). These words should be a source of great comfort to us as we take them as the ‘musts’ of God for our lives.
ENTERING THROUGH TRIBULATION
Paul and Barnabas proclaimed a surprising word to the new believers in every church, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God,“ Acts 14:22. Our tribulations as believers can be caused by persecutions, but also at times through contingent events. We can suffer because of mistakes we made, failures in obedience to God’s leading and even the weakness of faith that led to wrong decisions. These things will certainly cause unnecessary complications in our Christian walk. Does Paul include these self-caused complications in the tribulations through which we enter the kingdom? Without doubt they must be included. God is greater than our foolishnesses. However, this kind of suffering is harder to endure, for together with all the consequences they carry, there is the weight of regret. Now the Lord with whom all things are possible could have provided a time machine by which we could go back and correct our mistakes and our wrongs, but in His wisdom He did not do that. His wisdom is greater, for He is able to incorporate those failures into His purpose and through them we can learn both His great loving mercy and be taught many lessons through which we do not make those same foolish decisions again. Not that these things do not bring us sorrow, but a sorrow that leads to repentance. We were not always attentive to the Spirit, self-will interfered and so mistakes were made that haunt us in life. If we could go back, we would do things differently, do things better, we could have avoided foolish steps, taking decisions without waiting upon the Lord. There is anguish of soul as we look back but with that, a joy in the graciousness of our God Who has enabled us to enter yet more into His realm, even through these things.
GROWING IN THE GRACE OF GOD
True growth in the Christian life is grounded in knowing the grace and knowledge of God. These two are inseparable. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 3:18). We are to understand increasingly more of His love, wisdom and power. We must understand that as His children we are governed by Him and that all that happens to us is guided by His eternal purposes. We are precious to Him and there is nothing that He does not know about us, even our mistakes before we committed them, our failures and falls. His purpose from the beginning is to bring us to glory and our God is utterly committed to that. Our responsibility is cooperation and not to hinder Him as He works all things according to His purpose. His love towards His own is unchanging and there is nothing that has the power to separate us from it. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father? But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows,” (Matthew 10:29-31). The fact that we love His son is the undeniable proof, that He loved us first. Our lives are totally governed by God. He is over all, our actions, our external environment, and He is greater than all habits, desires and motives. What is called our “free will“ is at all times operating within the parameters of His great will and so His purposes shall be accomplished in us. The ways of God are inscrutable, there is great mystery involved here but that does not make it all any less real. Indeed, such loving purposes should move us to worshipful obedience. The fact that, in our present state of knowledge, we are not able to fully explain how this overarching influence of God is exerted upon all things without violating the free agency of man only serves to humble us and cause us to know our finiteness to His infinity.
GOD IS GREATER
Nothing is accidental, even our mistakes and failures. God knows beforehand our actions and for some reason of His own He lets them be. For those who trust in His Son and love Him in sincerity all that befalls us, is to be considered as the loving “musts” of God. When the beast is unleashed against us, when the storms come, when the night comes, they ‘must’ come, but only for a little while. Take the example of a man who had suffered for many years with Rheumatic Arthritis. He had not been able to walk freely. Advocates of the total healing doctrine insisted that he was of little faith. No healing, no faith was their logic. Blame laid at his door. Instead, consider that when told that this debilitating and painful condition had been, in a strange way a gift from God, a ‘must’ in his life. He agreed when told, “If it wasn’t for your arthritis you would have rocketed away like a shooting star without direction, but now through it, you have been kept in God’s orbit!” When the children of Israel were redeemed out of Egypt it was the beginning and not the end. The fulfilment of God’s purpose for those He foreknew and called and destined involves many twists in the road, mistakes and failures that humble us are part of that road. The fulfilment of God’s purpose and will is the end for us. Redemption is the means to an end. It is common to only look upon our failures and mistakes in a negative way, yet for the Lord these have a vital part to play in the full work He is doing in us, they ‘must’ be. We must take courage, certain strange painful events must come to pass in our life, but this is not the end of the road, but the means for God’s purposes to be achieved in us. There is no other way, we must go through, even if, at first, our mind cries out against it. Thankfully, for most of us, these things are used by God to bring us into a state of deepening humility of heart and greater dependence upon Him. The way is through those failures, foolishnesses and falls. God does not put us in a time machine through which we suddenly arrive at maturity!
How many times we wish to go to the West and found ourselves in the East, we wish to avoid trouble and there it is, right before us! So, we begin to learn a vital lesson, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps,” (Jeremiah 10:23). Good things for us can come about even through blunders and mistakes unwillingly made by ourselves. The psalmist wrote, “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand; make Your face to shine upon Your servant, save me for Your mercies’ sake,” (Psalm 31.14-16). None of this justifies us in doing evil, we must grasp that fact. Joseph, such an important person in the Old Testament became a great saviour to his brothers and preserved the nation from which the Lord Jesus came. This all took place although the brothers, driven by their jealousy had committed a wicked and callous act, yet God incorporated what they had done into the disciplining of His servant Joseph and their own eventual repentance as well as the salvation of the family. What they did was evil, but God had the power and the wisdom to turn it for their good. Paul would not have been in prison in Rome, the place from which he wrote some wonderful letters, without his apparent mistake to enter the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 26:26). We do not know all that motivated him to enter the temple on that occasion but it put him in harms way for sure. Thank God that even though we, in ignorance, can do things wrong at times, God can put them right in Christ.
YOU SHALL BE MY PEOPLE
Many of our problems have their root in a failure to totally enter into the wonder of the New Covenant. Almost the central word of the promises in that covenant are these. “I will be your God and you shall be My people,” (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10). Our shortcomings come about because we don’t live in the new covenant, but in the old one. God could not accomplish His perfect will in the Old Testament people because for their part, they could not keep the conditions. It was all a preliminary arrangement that would show, beyond a doubt, the failed state of man and the necessity for the New Covenant. In this divine arrangement His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, undertakes our part in keeping the covenant. Yes, He did it all! Look carefully at how many times God says, “I will,” in the verses of Hebrews 8:8-12. I will, I will, I will, I will, I will, I will!! The heart of our God is most certainly set, He ‘must’ have a people. We may say, “I do not understand this,” indeed, who among us can plumb the depths of what God has done in Christ, yet it is so, God has done it all. It could not be otherwise, for if another other way could be found by which man could save himself then we would fail again. This is why we are called to put our trust in Christ for salvation. Take careful note of those two clauses, note which one comes first, it is not, “you shall be My people.” First, is God, “I will be your God.” God, always and ever, first!
When writing of these wonderful ways God can incorporate failure into His will we are not advocating fate. Fate is different, the powers of darkness hide behind the notion of fate. We, God’s people are not subject to ‘fate.’ We are called into and wrapped up in the sovereign purposes of God which no man nor devil can annul. Neither are we suggesting in any way that we should be careless or that we are excused from being diligent and must attend to the warnings of God. Nor do we suggest that we are to be slow and casual in correcting our steps after mistakes. We must do that immediately. Yet there are occasions when things that have come to pass in our lives both before and even after regeneration that cannot be corrected in this life. Once the bullet is gone out of the gun, it cannot be recalled. There are things and events that are irreversible, we cannot go back and put them right. With fear and trembling we are commanded to work out our own salvation, yet at the same time Paul continues to say that it is God which works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure, (Philippians 2:12).
NOT IN OURSELVES BUT IN CHRIST
We thank God that His mercy in Christ does not change, it is new every morning. There is an answer for everything that befalls us, a bereavement, the loss of a relationship, hurts by others to us, and by us to others, betrayals, mistakes, regrets, and all kind of sorrows that trouble us deeply. Christ is the answer. Whilst we do not wish to be irreverent, perhaps we should think of Him as that great bottomless pit He became for us. In Him all our folly and sin and uncleanness can be swallowed up. Indeed, if we but believed it fully, all has been removed, we do not have to remember them anymore.
One lesson that we must learn, our completeness and perfection is not in ourselves, but in Christ. This matters more to God than all our service or our boasting in our correctness and even in what we think are our spiritual successes. These things have no value in His sight. He cares that we are in His Son. What if, in God’s providential wisdom, He allowed us to fall, and did not prevent us making that mistake or choosing a wrong decision? Would we not still boast in self-righteousness if we had not been humbled under His mighty hand? Without tasting our frailty and foolishness we would march on in subtle pride, our correctness, principles and Christian dogmatic beliefs working to make us hard, unforgiving and judgmental and unloving. An outward, rigid belief system believed in instead of the Christ life within. God cannot work on the clay when it is hardened. Under His hand we can soften as we go through bereavements and suffering. God puts us upon His wheel again and so forms us into the vessel of His own desire. Yes, let us take it to heart, all things do work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose, (Romans 8:28). There must be a Judas that betrays, a cross to be suffered. Offences must come, failures too, pain must be, and occasions when darkness seems to get the upper hand. The beast must be allowed for a little while, wars must be and shakings too. There are evil days, days of testing in the flow of global history and our tiny personal histories too if Gods purposes are to be fulfilled. Some of this is hidden from us, some is plainly seen, but through it all God will get the glory, beginning in this life and coming to fullness in the age to come. The testimony of the Triumphant Christ shall be further corroborated in the lives of a multitude without number. The enemies will all be silenced as the triumph cry of Christ and His fellows rings through all eternity.
THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL
By means of the Blood shed of the Lord Jesus and the new birth, we become God’s disciples in the school of divine life. Birth is but the beginning, it is not the end. The beginning is not an end in itself but the first step unto a great salvation. The apostle Peter describes this end as “the salvation of the soul,” (1 Peter 1:9). This is something that is beyond us to understand at this stage. A full and great salvation which includes at last the resurrection of the mortal body awaits us. To accomplish this God entrusted us to His Son. The Son took upon Him the full responsibility to save to the uttermost those His Father gave Him. He shall lose none of them, but He shall resurrect them in the last day. All that we pass through, everything, indeed, everything; whether we understand it or not, is unto this end for the glory of God.
Peter’s letter is written to those the Father had given to His Son. He calls them elect according to the foreknowledge of God, (1 Peter 1:2). As Peter continues to write concerning the process and progress of salvation in the soul he mentions the place of suffering and testings. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are grieved through various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, receiving the (greek) perfection of your faith, the salvation of your souls,”(1 Peter 1:6-9). Peter knew what failure was, some of the blunders he made, especially that night when he denied the Lord! He could not go back and erase that night! Nevertheless he was not excluded. He continued to be a disciple and an apostle. He had begun to walk with the Lord in some kind of faith three years earlier when Jesus called him, yet that early faith failed him. Yet, here is the comfort, it was not that he had chosen the Lord but that the Lord had chosen him and would not let him go. On the day of Pentecost his faith rose to a heavenly level. When the Spirit came upon him the faith of Christ became his also. This faith was beyond natural faith, it was the faith that he describes as “more precious than of gold that perishes.” Even so, that was not enough. For as gold must be tried by fire for perfection, so this faith must be tried by different kinds of fiery trials. This is a must, only in this way can it be seen to be thoroughly authentic and triumphant in the day of the Lord. It shall be found unto praise and honour and glory. This kind of faith cannot be destroyed in the fires of trials, it can only be perfected. Peter had already written, “we are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation,” (1 Peter 1:5). Real salvation is not learning theology. Though someone is raised Greek Orthodox or any other kind of Christian orthodoxy, including the evangelical charismatic kind, the wrath of God still remains upon that religious person. Salvation is not granted by following a code of rules or by obeying a dogmatic belief, no matter how orthodox it may be. The only condition for salvation is a living faith toward God through Jesus Christ. This faith when received in the heart and refined by trials becomes gradually the source of an endless life within us. It is the life of God in the soul of man. Adam lost what he knew of it and Eve lost it with him and so did we all. As our trust toward God is perfected in us the more we enter into His rest. “For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His,” (Hebrews 4:10). The rest of God is Christ, in Him the Father has rested for He, (Christ the Son) finished all His, (God the Fathers) works, and rested! We are commanded to do the same. This is where we come into complete agreement with God the Father Who first believed in His Son! This is the essence of faith. Rest in Christ. The salvation of the soul is total rest in Him. How much have we suffered because of unbelief? Thank God that now by grace alone the faith of Christ dwells within us. This is the life of all true believers.
We go through much in this brief span of our lives but all has this purpose – that in us this faith is to be perfected and be found unto praise and honour and glory at the presence of the Lord. Amen!