Think Again: Year After Year

Faith is an undying trust in God and his son, Jesus, who claims to be who he is. Just as God calls us to faith, he models that faith to us by his own faithfulness to us.

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I had the great privilege to be in Shanghai in the home of the famed Chinese evangelist Wang Ming Dao some years ago. He recounted that he had been imprisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ, but he soon renounced his faith and was released. Thereafter, he says, he lived with such torment of his soul that he walked the streets of Beijing saying, “My name is Peter; my name is Peter. I’ve denied my Lord.”

Soon, Mao Zedong put him back into prison—this time for eighteen years. Wang Ming Dao said every day in prison he woke up and sang the hymn by Fanny Crosby “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”:

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
H
ere by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

Initially, the guards tried to silence him. When they weren’t able to succeed, they resignedly put up with his singing. Gradually, as the years went by, they would gather near the opening to his cell to listen as he sang of God’s faithfulness to him. Eventually, they began to ask him to sing to them and to teach them the words of the song. Such is the impact of one who walks faithfully with God day by day and year after year.

What does scripture tell us about such faith? It is fascinating to see how a single verse from the Hebrew Scriptures makes its way into the New Testament. The prophet Habakkuk witnessed many national calamities and longed for answers. God assured Habakkuk of his vision for his people: “If [the vision] seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3). He concludes with this exhortation: “The just shall live by faith” (verse 4).

This faith is not credulity. It is an undying trust in God and his son, Jesus, who claims to be who he is. Just as God calls us to faith, he models that faith to us by his own faithfulness to us. In the book of Hebrews, the phrase “The just shall live by faith” is rightly translated “The just shall live by his faithfulness.” The Greeks focused on faith. For the Hebrew, faithfulness is an intrinsic part of faith. You cannot separate the two.

Faithfulness is an intrinsic part of faith. You cannot separate the two.

That verse from Habakkuk 2:4 is repeated in the book of Romans to the European Church, in the book of Galatians to the Asian Church, and as noted, in the book to the Hebrews to the Middle Eastern Church. Augustine carried it to the Church in Africa, and ultimately to the west. What lies at the heart of faith and the content of that faith became the major teaching of the Early Church. Faith and faithfulness go hand in hand.

Faith and faithfulness go hand in hand.

When I think of faithfulness over the long haul—and of faith rooted in God’s word—I think today of my beloved professor Norman Geisler, who recently went home to be with the Lord. At his request, I had the honor to speak at his funeral. As I shared then, he was an incredible warrior. He modeled what 1 Chronicles 12:32 says: he had an understanding of the times, and he knew what to do. He had a purpose and a mission: to teach and to win others to Christ. Professor Geisler was a warrior for the good, for the true, for the noble, for the eternal, and he was willing to take the headwinds of all the opposition so that the true, the good, and the beautiful would be there long after he was gone. What a life well lived!

How fitting that the closing hymn sung at his funeral was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” a tribute to his deep and abiding trust in God’s faithfulness in his early days until his final hours. Might our lives echo the same, morning by morning and year after year:

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

This article appears in Just Thinking Magazine issue 27.4.

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