♣ Understanding Afterwards
“Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand”’ – John 13:7.
THIS SCRIPTURE IN context of washing the disciples feet can also be applied to many other instances, particularly that of Providence. Anyone who says they can fathom the ways God has not even begun to know Him. This is so different to knowing the ways of God and His acts (Psalm 103:7); of course, we go on knowing Him, but there are most certainly times when His ways baffle our understanding. Indeed, His ways are past finding out (Romans 11:33) “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (verse 34).
God does not call us to unravel the mystery of His ways, but we are most certainly called to trust Him and such trust in God can only be taken to new heights through times of perplexing and dark Providences. This is the only way in which we will come to really know Him. Our theology will be hammered out in the school of life, not in a school classroom.
William Cowper, if he were still alive today, would be a master in expounding the dark providences of God, not because of writing a convincing dissertation on the subject, but for the great bouts of severe depression he encountered. It was through such times he learned to grow in trusting God.
God seldom, if ever, gives an explanation of what and why He is doing what He does, but we are most assured that we will come to an understanding afterwards. The Hebrew Christians were known for reading the Providence of God backwards; they would look back over the months and years that have passed and see how wonderfully God orchestrated events for the best. As Octavius Winslow said, “…we shall read all the lessons of His love, interpret all the symbols of His providence, understand all the mysteries of His dealings…that every dispensation was right, every stroke needed, every step an advance in our heavenly ascent and that every cloud that veiled God’s love, was one of its truest and holiest expressions.”
There will be times when God seems cruel and careless and this is where trust is truly worked out, to know how genuine our faith really is, whether it’s built on sand or on an immovable foundation. It is going beyond trusting the promises of God to the character of God.
The repeated process of switching from extreme heat to cold, hammering and tempering in making a Samurai sword is intense. Similarly, with the two opposite temperatures, it can be likened to the crucial point of temptation. Temptation is not only avoiding obvious acts of sin; some of the biggest temptations are to question the character of God in the crucible. It is when coming back to that question, “Did God say…?” (Genesis 3:3) that we answer affirmatively and with all of our hearts state God is most certainly all that He says He is. With Job, it wasn’t about his honour as much as the honour of God and we will find that as we advance in our pilgrimage, it is our loyalty to God, despite the seemingly screaming contradictions of life, where God is truly glorified in our lives; it is not for what we will get out of it, but that our faith truly pleases God – that is the very DNA of our reward. The devil will throw His slanderous accusations that the very reason as to why we pursue God is because of the blessings He bestows upon us. Christian maturity is living unto God just for Who He is and that is one of the characteristics the Holy Spirit is deeply engraining in our hearts that will refute such accusations.
Not material possessions, careers or titles count in this life or the next, but character – who and what we are. It is not man who determines what and who we are, but God. God’s way of evaluating man’s success is on the opposite side of the spectrum. The world judges by how much material wealth someone has; God looks at how a man or woman has lived. Much of today’s wealth is accumulated through dishonest gain. You can take away man’s gold, but if he has faith in God, he has everything. Above all, it is faith in God’s eyes that proves to be of far more worth than gold – and when we estimate the value of such metal, it is proven to be man’s greatest commodity, the ceiling of affluence and regality.
Faith, being more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7), is of utmost importance to God in conforming us to the likeness of His Son. When Christ revealed to Peter that Satan desired to sift him (not to exclude the other disciples, for why destroy one and not the others?) as wheat, He prayed that His faith – not anything else – would not fail (Luke 22:31-32) and indeed it prevailed by the grace of God. All the disciples were thrown into bewilderment and were scattered through fear when Christ was delivered into the hands of his enemies. No one understood why such an iconic figure – the Messiah Himself, the hope of Israel – should be arrested, tried and put to death; the whole thing was just absurd and an absolute waste of three years to have people’s hopes raised and then only to be dashed against the rocks. No one understood why Christ had to be treated shamefully and put to death. It happened before with other leaders that arose who attracted hundreds and even thousands of followers, but Jesus of Nazareth was quite different from them all; no one, before or after, arose like Him; no one touched hearts as He did; no one gave life as He could; no one instilled hope as only He could because no one else spoke Truth as only He could – so why this tragic waste?
None of the disciples understood why Christ really came among us; none of them perceived the significances of the suffering Messiah as Isaiah foretold. Not only until after the resurrection did they understand as Jesus expounded to them, from the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, why Christ had to suffer in such ways. After Pentecost, the apostles preached with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Thousands of minds and hearts were opened to see the crucified and risen Saviour. It was no longer a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks who were elected unto salvation.
Then they saw, when the fullness of time had come, when God purposed that they should see with their hearts. Not until afterwards did they understand and not until we look back and muse on the years that have passed shall we understand that He makes all things beautiful in His time. What honours God is that we continue believing Him to perform what He has promised to do, that all things work perfectly together toward a sublime end where we shall yet again exclaim, “Indeed, He does all things well.”
A Sov’reign Protector I have,
Unseen, yet forever at hand,
Unchangeably faithful to save,
Almighty to rule and command.
He smiles, and my comforts abound;
His grace as the dew shall descend;
And walls of salvation surround
The soul He delights to defend.
Inspirer and Hearer of prayer,
Thou Shepherd and Guardian of Thine,
My all to Thy covenant care
I sleeping and waking resign.
If Thou art my Shield and my Sun,
The night is no darkness to me;
And fast as my moments roll on,
They bring me but nearer to Thee.
Kind Author, and ground of my hope,
Thee, Thee, for my God I avow;
My glad Ebenezer set up,
And own Thou hast helped me till now.
I muse on the years that are past,
Wherein my defence Thou hast proved;
Nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
A sinner so signally loved!
(Hymn: Augustus Montague Toplady)
Posted on January 30, 2015, in ♣ Devotional and tagged 1 Peter 1:7, A Sov’reign Protector I have, Behind a frowning providence, believing God, character, character of God, Christian maturity, conforming to Christ, dark providences, depression, devil's accusations, devotional, genuineness of faith, God's ways, John 13:7, knowing God, Luke 22:31-32, Mark Anthony Williams, mystery of God's ways, Octavius Winslow, perplexing, promises of God, Providence, Romans 11:33, Romans 11:34, Samurai sword, Satan's siftings, seeing with the heart, temptations, Trusting God, Understanding Afterwards, William Cowper. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.