“God is our
refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will
not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the
heart of the sea,
Though its waters
roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river
whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the most High.
God is in the
midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage,
the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts
is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought
desolations on the earth.
He makes wars
cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he
burns the chariots with fire.
‘Be still, and
know that I am God. I will be exalted
among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’
The Lord of hosts
is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
I was thinking there was probably nothing better we could do for ourselves and for one another than thinking about Who our God is and growing in our knowledge of God. I think the two primary theological disciplines when it comes to our Bibles are Theology proper--the study of God, and Christology—the study of Christ. Dr. Packer’s book “Knowing God,” is a book you could reread every year, much like Pilgrim’s Progress. C.H. Spurgeon, I think, read Pilgrim’s Progress a hundred times. You could read Dr. Packer’s book, “Knowing God,” a hundred times and still profit from them!
One of the first chapters Dr. Packer wrote dealing with the topic of “Knowing God,” asks the simple question, “Do you and I know the living God?” He delves into how it practically impacts us if we really know this God. He gives four wonderful evidences, or distinguishing traits or marks of the person who knows God. He gives four that I will go through one by one and expand on them a little bit, not the way he does.
The first distinguishing mark or evidence of a person who knows God, Packer says, is that they have great energy for God. I think it is safe to say that those who are content to sit on the sidelines & be spectators don’t know God that well. They seem content to do very little for God or have no energy for God. When you think of the heroes of the faith, think of Proverbs 31, those chapters are full of high energy and labor. When you think of those in church history who have been what you could call our heroes of the faith—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Spurgeon—they were men who gave themselves to the Lord’s service in great ways. They worked hard. They were toiling night and day. That’s even the language Paul uses when he talks to the Thessalonians, I Thessalonians 2:9 & 2 Thessalonians 3:8: “we toiled night and day.” So you couldn’t accuse Paul and his two missionary companions Saul and Timothy of sitting back and taking it easy.
I have been rereading a biography of C. H. Spurgeon by John Piper (all his books are available for free download at https://www.desiringgod.org/books/all). He has a recent volume available that includes is a biographical trilogy that features Spurgeon alongside two other men. Piper says that Spurgeon was a man of great energy for God. He died at the age of 58, relatively young. But you could say he gave himself in that abbreviated lifespan to more than what four or five men could do. He produced more than 140 books of his own; he founded and conducted 66 organizations; he preached 600 sermons before he was 20 years old. He often worked 18 hours a day. Men who know God have great energy for God, that is the point Dr. Packer makes.
Now the second evidence of knowing God: those who know God have great thoughts of God. Again, read the prayers in your Bible. Review the Psalms of David, the prayers of Paul, the prayer of a Daniel or a Moses, the sermons of a Spurgeon or one of the Puritans, the Institutes of John Calvin, or some of the sermons or tabletalk of Martin Luther. You will find they believed in a great God, a sovereign and almighty God. God is majestically holy, invincible. They never lost sight of his great, infinite, unfathomable love. The Apostle Paul could say of God, “He can do far above what we could ever ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) That’s because he was convinced of how great God is.
Thirdly, Packer mentions that those who know God have great boldness for God. Again go to your Scriptures. Read Hebrews 11, the gallery of faith. That is one thing that comes through very strongly, doesn’t it? Those people had courage. Faith is embedded with courage. Read beginning at verse 33: they “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated.” (Hebrews 11:33-37)
When the Apostles began to preach the gospel in the book of Acts, they knew they would probably by martyred for their faith. I think all but one or two of those Apostles were martyred for their faith. How do you explain that? They knew God.
The fourth thing that Dr. Packer mentions in that classic work, “Knowing God:” those who know God have great contentment in God. Maybe this is the hardest of them all. It is so easy, isn’t it, to have our hearts fraught with anxiety, worry, fear? We often lack peace, assurance and contentment. Remember what Paul said at the back end of Philippians, locked in a jail cell, “I have learned to be content in whatever state that I am in.” (Philippians 4:11) He is in jail but he is not despairing, he is not fretting, he is not worrying, he is not anxious, he is not complaining. “I have learned to be content in whatever state that I am in.” One of the easiest things to do, even as Christians, is to murmur and complain. Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Do you remember Job? Halfway through his trial—he did great on the front end—maybe three-quarters of the way, Job begins to become embittered against God. Job begins to complain, become critical of God, even criticizing God Almighty. What does God do for Job? He reveals Himself to him. He makes Job aware of who He is in a greater way. At the back end, Job is silent. He puts his hand over his mouth (Job 40:4) and he stops complaining. “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted….therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (Job 42:2,3)
Job was humbled and stopped complaining against God. He learned to be quiet, be still before God. That’s something we should pray for regularly, to learn more about God, be still before this true and living God. We should pray that we would grow in our knowledge of the thrice holy one.