He Staggered Not: How to Grow Strong in Your Faith

man of faith looking at stars

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.

 Romans 4:20

I didn’t plan to write this post today. But then came a 1:30 AM wake up with another parenting struggle that nearly made my faith stagger and did keep me from falling back to sleep.

Then came new mercies: a text from a kind niece who mentioned my “strong faith” and these words from Romans 4—which just happened to be on the reading plan this day I woke up plumb-tuckered out.

And here we are.

How To Grow Strong

Now here is that text I read this morning. The last verse talks about how Abraham grew strong in his faith, giving glory to God. He trusted God would do what he promised. Another word for that is faithfulness.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver (stagger) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised

Romans 4:18-21, ESV

It’s like the chicken and the egg. We grow strong in our faith as we give glory to God. We give glory to God by trusting him, by having faith.

So how do we grow strong in faith? In four words: Have faith in God. The missionary Hudson Taylor explained those four words in these seven: Hold on to the faithfulness of God.

And why?

Because it is in the midst of these trials that faith has stood out most gloriously. It is just when everything is going against them that would make them despair at the natural level that they most glorify God, because they still go on believing. They’re unshaken. They don’t stagger because of unbelief.

Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, “Faith Glorifying God

In fact, the more severe the test, the more they give glory to God.

Then I heard how the strong men and women of faith are the very same people who endure so many trials and troubles and that no one more glorifies God than a person of faith (see Hebrews 11:6).

In all these things, you will grow strong. In them, I’ve shared before, not despite them. Because of our trials our strength grows.

Even if our trials are too tender and near for our friends to know, God knows. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Hold On to the Faithfulness of God

Faith does not look at itself. It looks at God. People who grow strong in faith, to borrow Paul’s words, are “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Acts 4:21b) People with strong faith learn to glance at their troubles and the gaze at their God.

That’s exactly what Abraham did. God had promised that he and Sarah would have a son. Twenty-five years passed and in Romans 4:19 we read, Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.

Oh, sure. Abraham knew all about his age and Sarah’s senior body. He knew babies aren’t made in people at that age. But He did not stagger because of unbelief. Abraham was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

He knew that God had spoken. God had made a promise and because of that, as Lloyd-Jones puts it, Abraham said to himself, “Nothing else needs to be considered at all.” And so he gave glory to God.

It’s as if they put all their seemingly irredeemable weakness and trouble on one side of the balance and God’s faithfulness on the other. No surprise: the divine faithfulness drops weighty, like lead.

So Abraham hoped against hope and glorified God and Isaac was born.

Trust Issues: How Faith Gives Glory To God

Faith in God’s promises, John Piper explains, glorifies him as supremely wise and strong and good and trustworthy. Conversely, Lloyd-Jones notes, There is nothing more insulting to God than not believing him.

Martin Luther would have agreed, for faith he wrote, honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard, since it considers him truthful and trustworthy.

All that to say, most of us say we’re here on earth and the “chief end of man” is to give glory to God. When we believe God’s promises we do exactly that.

I’ve told you before that I have trust issues. Maybe it’s a firstborn thing, but I really like people to trust me. If it hurts my puny fail-and-drop-the-ball-self how much more it must grieve the faithful God’s heart when His people don’t trust Him.

In “The Theology of Rest” Oswald Chambers imagines how that must feel, felt. 

“O ye of little faith!” What a pang must have shot through the disciples — “Missed it again!” And what a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced downright joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead. 

At rock bottom, our anxiety and fear are staggering in faith. They reveal that a small faith. They show we distrust God.

Which means we don’t know him as well as he wants us to know him. 

2 Ways To Strengthen Your Faith

It’s not surprising then, that Lloyd-Jones identifies these as the main factors that determine the strength of our faith:

  1. Our knowledge of God.
  2. Our application of that knowledge.

So we’ve got to know God and his unflinchingly faithful character. Then we’ve got to apply that knowledge.

3 Go-To Promises

I am learning both: to know God better and to apply my knowlege of him. And from 1:30-2:30 AM last night, I felt like a failure at both. But I desperately want to help you press on, and grow strong, in your faith.

So after some anxious thoughts and tossing and turning and feeble prayer, here’s what finally came at about 2:30 last night:

  1. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:7) These parenting troubles are not futile or wasted. They are productive. They are producing glory.
  2. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is steadfast toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) Even at 1:30 AM, God is looking to help me.
  3. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:11) I make God happy when I hope in his love. (I wrote about this before.)

I took God to the bank on these. They weren’t complete in my head with chapter and verse at 2 AM. But the essence was there: I trusted that the trial was productive, that God was looking to help me and that as I hoped in his love— for me and my son—God would be glad.

He brought them to mind and I spoke them and I fell back to sleep.

I staggered not, and slept.

What are your go-to, hope-against-hope promises?

A go-to promise is not, for the record, a talisman or lucky charm. It’s a way of getting hold on the faithfulness of God, of taking him at his word.

I just told you a few of mine. What are yours? What promise of God do you trust when you hope against hope?

Would you leave that promise in the comments? It might be a great distrust antidote for another JoyPrO reader.

Then maybe you’d like to insert your name in the blank below and say this one aloud:

__________________ staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.

That’s you, friend. As you give glory to God, you grow strong in faith and stagger not.

All God’s giants have been weak men and women who have gotten hold of God’s faithfulness.
Hudson Taylor

Guest Post: Learning to Root My Joy in Christ

Woman seated beside potted plant

One of life’s highlights of late has been the budding kinship with “my Hope*Writer friends.” I’ve told you about comparing, scarcity and working our own little territory and described how so often joy comes when we choose what we didn’t (at first) choose.

Enter Allison, one of those new friends. She is young, fresh and from the Pacific Northwest. But what really drew me to Allison is her passion and zest for helping women become rooted in God’s Word. I trust you’ll be blessed by her post.

I can still feel the silence that rang in my ears as he shut the door behind him.

It was January 2020. My husband had left for a six-month deployment after a tearful and much-dreaded goodbye.

Home Alone

I couldn’t have imagined the quiet that would follow. Little did we know the world would soon shut down for the pandemic, leaving me home alone with only my feisty kitty Daisy for company. 

As many of my habits and patterns were interrupted, I found myself with more time on my hands than I had experienced in my adult life. The many distractions, some meaningful and some not, seemed to fall away. 

It was through small acts of imperfect obedience that I drew near to God. I chose to open up His Word rather than hit “next episode” on Netflix., chose worship music when I could have chosen pop music, chose to give thanks even as I cried tears of loneliness. 

My obedience was flawed and inconsistent, yet I could feel Him draw near to me when I drew near to Him, just as He promises in His word (James 4:8). More than ever, I craved His presence.

Joy Takes Root

As I drew nearer to Christ, I encountered a joy that wasn’t rooted in circumstance or temporary pleasure. Instead, it was a joy with a much firmer foundation. I experienced joy rooted in the everlasting faithfulness of a Savior who is always by my side.

This is a joy we can’t maintain on our own by willing ourselves a “can-do” attitude. Rather, we must humbly come before Christ each day asking Him to renew our joy in Him. When we do, we will find our joy doesn’t rely on something as shaky as our occupations, bank accounts, or physical appearance. 

We will find our joy is rooted in Christ. This is the only joy that will never fail and will bring about the only outcome worth living and dying for—experiencing the presence of our Lord.

Are you ready to draw near to Christ through studying His word?

Download Allison’s free Rooted Rhythm guide. Allison Mattson is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to be rooted in Christ. Connect with her by subscribing to her Rooted Writings blog and following along on Instagram @mrsallisonmattson.

To See Grace in All the Things & To Give Thanks

Bird singing in winter like saint who gives thanks in adversity

If you’d enjoy listening to the Spotify podcast of this JoyPrO post, check out Keep On With Abigail Wallace.

The 1621 Project

Fully one half their number was dead. Of the 102 who crossed on the Mayflower, only 50 remained. Of eighteen married couples who embarked together, just three remained intact. In fifteen marriages, one or both partners had died.

This was the group who paused to thank God. This was the thanks giving group.

But as Tracy McKenzie points out in this insightful The Real First Thanksgiving podcast, those 50 wouldn’t have dubbed that autumn week a first anything. The feasting was simply God’s children being the grateful people he had made them to be.

God gave them eyes to see his grace. Then they gave thanks.

Which reminds me of a story.

A Giving Thanks Story

After the Second World War, two seriously ill woman were placed in the same London hospital room.

Marie was blind, and Ginny was assigned the bed next to the room’s only window. The days flew by. Despite her sickness, Ginny’s words were full of good cheer. She inquired about Marie’s friends and family and prayed for those they knew. And always Ginny thanked God for the day.

But there was this other thing she’d do. It started their third afternoon together, when a discouraged Marie needed hope.

“What’s outside the window?” she’d ask.

Ginny by the window described the squirrels and trees, and the park with the little lake just beyond. She’d tell about the kids and their kites, the rowers and long-necked swans. And Ginny could paint a sunset. The sunsets were Marie’s favorite. Her face would glow as Ginny spoke.

Ginny Could See

In fact, Marie began to live for those “paintings” of the world outside the window. They inspired hope and healing even though her eyes could not see. But while Marie’s health improved, Ginny’s rapidly declined.

Shortly after Ginny died, Marie’s new roommate settled in.

“Would you tell me what’s outside the window today? Who’s at the park? Are the swans on the lake? If the sunset is pretty tonight, would you describe it to me, too?”

Silence filled the room.

“The park? A lake? Our window faces a brick wall. And there’ll be no sunsets tonight or any other, for even if the wall weren’t there, this window faces east.”

Now Marie knew. How Ginny could see.

Seeing Grace in All the Things

Ever since I first heard a version of that story decades ago, I wanted to be Ginny. I still want to be Ginny.

But my honest friends and family will tell you I’m a far cry from her. I dwell on my hurt and others’ wrongs and don’t always see through to the sunsets and swans. This bird gets quiet in winter.

But giving thanks is a miracle drug for our souls. It is a silver bullet for spiritual disease. It trumps every ugly that messes with our souls. You can’t sing as you sneeze and you can’t whistle while you yell. You can’t grumble as you give thanks. My friend Shari says: you can’t ride two horses with one heinie.

Thankfulness is a divinely given spiritual ability to see grace.

Sam Crabtree

But you also can’t conjure up a thankful heart. Seeing grace is a gift. Author Sam Crabtree defines thankfulness as a divinely given spiritual ability to see grace. Giving thanks, then, is the corresponding desire to affirm that grace and the Giver of that grace as good. 

This ability to see grace is a God-given gift. And affirming the grace and the Giver is called giving thanks. Crabtree explains, “I can ask God to help me look at my circumstances through a different lens or from a different angle. And He wants to do it, He wants me to be thankful.”

Give us what you command, Augustine prayed. We can echo him and say, You command us to give thanks, so give us eyes to see your grace.

Giving thanks does not depend on our circumstances. A difficult husband, problem child, poor health, unjust boss or a nasty neighbor might make it hard. But we can ask God to give us thankful hearts.

I’m here to tell you, that whenever I pray that prayer, he answers yes.

Singing Birds In Winter

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father… Always and for everything is what Paul wrote (Ephesians 5:20). Not just in everything, which is God’s will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but for everything. Everything. All. The. Things.

I want people to see Christ as all that. Giving thanks for everything does that. My Uncle Steve did that.

Uncle Steve has had a year. He was hospitalized, near death and discharged, then came bedsores, hospitalized, and G-tube. His breathing is still not right. A specialist next week may tell him there’s something big wrong. But more than once today Uncle Steve said, “God is good.” He sees grace and he gives thanks.

I want to be like that. Like Ginny and Uncle Steve. Because that kind of thanks giving is supernatural. In fact, the call to give thanks in Ephesians 5 verse 20 is an expression Paul’s main command to be “filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18:

Be filled with the Spirit….giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Spirit is supernatural—he’s God. And I’m supernatural and you’re supernatural if we’re in Christ and his Spirit lives in us.

Giving thanks when you’re healthy and all speak well of you, when your kid is a starter and your business thrives is natural. Most every bird can sing can sing in the spring.

But when we give thanks for illness and hurtful words, for kids who don’t make the team and fails at work—this is supernatural. These are birds singing in the dead of winter.

Which is what happened in 1621.

The 1621 And 2021 Project: Give Thanks

There are only two primary sources detailing the Pilgrim’s 1621 harvest feast. William Bradford’s is less detailed than this one by Edward Winslow.

[O]ur harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors…we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation…And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation

That’s it. Yet by the goodness of God…The harvest feast of 1621 was a decimated, threadbare group who gathered to rejoice together and to celebrate the goodness of God.

That’s my 2021 project. Heading into a cold winter, I want to celebrate the goodness of God as he gives me eyes to see.

I want to be like the Pilgrims in 1621 and like Ginny and Uncle Steve. I want grace to sing in the dead of winter.

We should give thanks for all things; not only for spiritual blessings enjoyed, and eternal ones expected, but for temporal mercies too; not only for our comforts, but also for our sanctified afflictions

It is our duty in every thing to give thanks unto God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in him…

Matthew Henry

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Ephesians 5:20

How Long Do I Wait? The Only Safe Rule

How long to wait person with clock

How long do you wait? Not, how long do you wait in the drive-thru or the phone queue before you opt out?

I mean, how long until you remind or text the “❓“ or ask again? Do you anguish over that?

Sometimes I do.

How Long Do I Wait?

Lots of times I jump the gun. Ask my husband. Too many times to count I remind him of what he knows and, in a little way, betray the trust. And ask my sister-in-laws about the cherry Butter-braids I bought and the Horny Toad dress I lent—times my reminders hurt, not helped, the cause.

Because patience is a thing for me. Because the initiator, performer me likes to move. But the Jesus follower me needs to wait.

Yesterday I struggled. I drafted a friendly reminder to a friend who promised to send some key details about a project. But I deleted the text. But since Saturday was prime time to get this ball rolling, a few hours later, I drafted a text again. And deleted it again.

I have not so great a struggle with my vices, great and numerous as they are, as I have with my impatience. My efforts are not absolutely useless; yet I have never been able to conquer this ferocious wild beast.

French reformer John Calvin said that. I’m with him. My family and honest friends would agree.

How many times have I reminded my husband only to find he remembered? How many times have I sent a “❓“ when my text to a friend goes unanswered only to find she was on it?

Wait Beyond Your Waiting Point

Too many. For every one time I wait beyond my natural “waiting point,” there are two times I don’t. Times my impatience betrayed my weakness. Because strong people can wait.

But how do we grow and gain strength? Physically and spiritually, it’s the same. We must push ourselves, stretch ourselves past the pain point. To maintain we can do what we do—I can run the same 4 miles every day and do the same 150 saddle-backed pushups every other day and I’ll maintain fitness and muscle.

But I won’t grow. In order to grow stronger or faster, I’ve got to run the mile faster, or go two miles longer, or straighten my arms and my back for those push-ups.

To grow in spiritual strength, we must leave our comfort zones too. In his divine power (see 2 Peter 1), we must push my “patience-muscles” to new limits. When I wait it’s because I remember the truth that in our struggle we grow strong.

That means for me to grow more patient, I’ve got to make myself wait—to send or say—to the point where I feel like I can’t wait a second longer. And then wait.

And the times I’m able to do that, it’s because I’m playing by this rule.

The Only Safe Rule

C.S. Lewis was dealing with giving not waiting when he offered this rule. But when I anguish over how long I should wait, I find in his answer my only safe rule. [Mine.]

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give [wait]. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give [wait] more than we can spare. […] If our giving [waiting] does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small.

Mere Christianity, 82.

That’s the rule. Spend more time waiting than I can comfortably spare. My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

Love Waits

Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too and think of all the times when others have to wait for you.

I won’t lie. I sing Herbert the Snail’s song more now than I did in third grade. I’m not sure if I’m less patient or only more aware of my impatience. But when I remember how often others wait for me, it helps me wait for others.

Because my impatience is not love. It’s preferring my pace to theirs, and my time as more precious than theirs. It’s not thinking of others as better than myself. It’s not love. Because, love is patient. Love waits.

My loving friend waits for me when I’m late for our coffee date. My loving husband waits for me with the car pointed out Sunday morning. And my longsuffering Lord waits for me to wait every single day.

I’m not what I will be and I’m not what I should be. But, thank God, I am more patient than I was. I am learning— to wait longer before I hit send, to wait longer before I ask again, to wait longer before I text the “❓“.

Remember that text I drafted and deleted, then drafted and deleted again? How I waited longer than “I could spare”?

Well, round about 6 o’clock last night, this came.

“Sorry, Abigail, that I didn’t get back to you earlier.”

God smiled.

And I was so glad I waited.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy…

Colossians 1:11