I confess to you, at times I doubt God's purpose and promise. I say that to my own embarrassment. When things haven't worked as I thought they would, when I received a no instead of a yes or a yes instead of a no, when I couldn't unravel a situation and fit it with the character of God...those have been times when I have said, "I know down inside this isn't right." To this, the writer of Hebrews comes to us on his knees, saying, "Please, rather than thinking logically, think theologically!" That's awfully good advice.
When the bottom drops out of your life, when hope starts to wear thin, when human logic fails to make much sense, think theologically! Read Hebrews 6:17-18:
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
The theological facts are: (1) there is an unchangeable purpose with God; and (2) that purpose is guaranteed with an oath.
It's at this juncture I should add: Don't try to explain it all to someone else. You can't. If you could, you would be God. The only thing you can explain theologically is that it is part of His unchangeable purpose, guaranteed with an oath, neither of which is a lie. That's theological thinking. As Solomon states so well: "[God] has made everything appropriate in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Let me give you a syllogism — a theological syllogism:
God is in control of the times and seasons.
Some times are hard and some seasons are dry. So the
God is in control of hard times and dry seasons.
We are quick to give God praise when the blessings flow — when the checking account is full and running over; when the job is secure, and a promotion is on the horizon; when the salary is good; when our health is fine. But we have a tough time believing when those things aren't true.
Three Benefits of Thinking Theologically
There are benefits that come from thinking theologically; you'll see three of them right here in these two verses in Hebrews 6. Look again at verse 18:
So that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
Logical thinking will discourage you; theological thinking will encourage you. That's the first benefit...personal encouragement. Believe it. You will have "strong encouragement."
The second benefit the Hebrews writer mentions is a refuge of hope. Encouragement is the opposite of discouragement. Hope is the opposite of despair. When you accept the fact that sometimes seasons are dry and times are hard and that God is in control of both, you will discover a sense of divine refuge, because the hope then is in God and not in yourself. That explains why Abraham gave glory to God during the waiting period. "I can't figure it out, I cannot explain it, but Lord, You promised me...and I give You glory for the period of waiting, even though I'm getting up in years."
A strong encouragement, a refuge of hope, and for the ultimate benefit, read on:
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul.
That's the third benefit...an anchor for the soul. The word anchor is used often in ancient literature, but it is only used once in the New Testament, right here in Hebrews 6. There are lots of hymns and gospel songs that make use of the anchor metaphor. Every one of them comes back to this verse that refers to the "anchor of the soul."
I distinctly remember when our troop ship arrived (after seventeen days at sea!) at the harbor city of Yokohama, Japan. As we approached the harbor, the skipper stopped our ship and it sat silent in the deep sea, like an enormous, bloated whale. We marines waited on the deck in the hot sunshine as a tiny tugboat left the harbor and came out toward our huge vessel. Soon, a small Japanese gentleman came up the side of our ship and ultimately took the controls of our ship as he personally guided it until we were safely docked in the harbor. Someone later explained the reason to me: There were still mines in the Japanese harbor. That's a fun thought after seventeen days at sea: "Welcome to Japan; the mines are ready for you!" He guided us through the treacherous waters of the harbor and right up to the pier.
The point of this, of course, is not anchors and skippers, ships and harbors. The point is this: This is exactly what Jesus Christ does when the bottom of life drops out.
Doubt, you see, will always try to convince you, "You are all alone. No one else knows. Or cares. No one else really can enter in and help you with this." In Hebrews, however, the writer says that Christ is our constant priest — not once a year, but forever. He lives in the God-room. He is there, sitting alongside the Father, representing your needs before Him. And, child of God, there is nothing so great for you to endure that He does not feel touched by it and stay by you through it.
Some Practical Perspective
When you find yourself dealing with doubt, let me give you three things to remember. First, God cannot lie. He can test, and He will. He can say no, and He sometimes will; He can say yes, and He will; He can say "wait" and occasionally He will — but God cannot lie. He must keep His word. Doubt says, "You fool, you're stupid to believe in a God who puts you through this." By faith, keep remembering that God cannot lie.
Here's the second piece of advice that helps me: We will not lose. Doubt says, "You lose if you trust God through this. You lose." If I read anything in this whole section of Hebrews 6, I read that in the mysterious manner of God's own timing, for some unexplainable and yet unchangeable purpose, those of us who trust Him ultimately win — because God ultimately wins.
God cannot lie. We will not lose. Your mate has walked away from you, an unfair departure — you will not lose, child of God. Your baby has been born and for some reason it has been chosen to be one of those special persons on this earth. You will not lose. You've waited and waited, and you were convinced that things would improve, yet things have only gotten worse — keep remembering, you will not lose. God swears on it with an oath that cannot change. You will not lose.
Third — and I guess it's the best of all — is that our Lord Jesus does not leave. To quote a verse from Scripture, He "sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).
Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever. (Hebrews 6:20)
That means He is there at any time...and always. Without trying to use any of the clichés on you, I would say that this hope Christ can bring, this "anchor of the soul," is the only way through. I have no answer other than Jesus Christ. I can't promise you healing, nor can I predict that your world will come back right side up. But I can promise you that He will receive you as you come in faith to Him. And He will bring back the hope you need so desperately. The good news is this: That hope will not only get you through this particular trial, it will ultimately take you "within the veil" when you die.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Hope: Expect Great Things from God (Plano, TX.: IFL Publishing House), 18-30. Copyright © 2006 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
I am on a long flight home. I’m tired. The days away were well-spent but exhausting. I am glad I made the trip, but I’m even happier to be coming home. There’s nothing like a few days away to remind me how much I love being home.