On Christmas Day 1939 when Britain was at war with Nazi Germany, King George VI ended his speech to the nation by quoting from a poem that had been given to him by his daughter Elizabeth, who is now the Queen:
“I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’”
I often think of that as a new year begins. For some, the new year holds the prospect of “business as usual,” but for others it is a time of change and the transition may become the occasion of uncertainty and fearfulness. Learning to trust God in times of change is an essential lesson in the school of life.
At one point in the life of Abraham, as he entered a new place with new opportunities, he managed the change badly. Instead of trusting God for himself and his family, he took matters into his own hands. His wife’s beauty was such that he anticipated that the Egyptians would kill him but let her live. So he instructed Sarai: “Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake” (Gen 12:13). This happened on more than one occasion and is a salutary reminder of the vulnerability of even God’s chosen instruments. Abraham put his wife in a position of real moral danger and brought affliction to the house of Pharaoh. Instead of replicating this bad example, we must learn to rest completely in the providential care of God, especially in times of trial and uncertainty.
What comfort is contained in these words from Psalm 139:
“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.”
Abraham knew all of this to be true but failed to act according to it and as a result incurred the displeasure of King Abimelech. Although the king did not share Abraham’s faith, his high view of marriage was such that he judged Abraham rightly when he said, “You have done to me things that ought not to be done” (Gen. 20:9). It’s a reminder that our unbelieving friends and colleagues know when our behavior is out of line with our professed belief.
We ought not to consider this as trivial or even marginal or think of it as a “little” sin. There is a great danger in learning to tolerate what Jerry Bridges refers to as “Respectable Sins.” The book by that title is our resource this month. It provides a convicting look at the sins of jealousy, impatience, anger, and doubt that all too easily seep into our lives and rob us of joy and spoil our testimony. Jerry helps the reader by offering remedies for recognizing and dealing with these damaging patterns.
Thank you again for your consistent encouragement that reaches me via the web and by letters. The assurance of your prayers and the generosity of your financial partnership combine to strengthen our hands for the work.
Grace and Peace,
Topics: Letters From Alistair Begg