The following is a guest post by Blake Roseberry, adapted from a devotional he delivered at a recent staff meeting at Children’s Hunger Fund. Blake is a graduate from The Master’s University with a degree in Biblical Counseling and served for the past three years as a bookkeeper on the CHF finance team.
Travel back in time to 1880 in New York City. Nine years earlier you immigrated from England to the United States, and shortly after your arrival, you set your heart on becoming a Christian missionary to China. However, your poor health prevented this. Instead, you married and had a little girl, Lily. A few years later with your young family, while enjoying a day on the Long Island Shore, you heard cries of distress coming from the sea – and then your husband runs off to save the drowning boy. They never made it back alive. Now, it’s you and Lily – and a barren pantry. So, you pray entrusting yourself to your faithful Creator and you pen these lyrics: ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Just to Take Him at His Word; Just to Rest Upon His Promise, Just to Know: “Thus Saith the Lord.”
The reality is that you’re not the hymn writer, Louisa Stead. But it could be that you lost your husband of 20 years. It could be that your spouse recently lost their job, and the bills are piling up. It could be that you lost a father, a friend, a fellow church member. – And these aren’t just 2020-or-2021-things, COVID-things. These are regular life things. – It could be that you and your spouse are barren. It could be the uncertainty of these days and of this nation. It could be that your hand is still ringless. It could be that your child has wandered from the Lord. It could be that your littles just don’t sleep through the night. It could be a heavy load at work. It could be that you still find yourself in old patterns of sin. It could be that walking with people in your church is just downright overwhelming. It could be a struggle with persistent guilt. It could be so, so many things of life – and that’s just your life. Now multiply in these things for your spouse, your kids, your parents, your extended family, your friends, your coworkers, your church family. Overwhelmed yet? Have we forgotten?
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Just to Take Him at His Word. The Apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (ESV). Do you believe this? That God through His Word has granted us all things pertaining to life and godliness? Sure, the Scriptures don’t tell you how to raise your loved one from the dead – or where your spouse can find a job – or how or when your barrenness may be replaced. The Scriptures however do show us Him who in love drew sinners unto Himself. The Scriptures do present the precious and very great promises He has given us.
While it is not necessarily wrong or sinful to look for earthly solutions to some of our various burdens, the picture we see in Scripture is not that wishful and jovial. Rather, Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 5:4-9:
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
As long as we have breath in these lungs, we will groan, we will be burdened – for this life is not the way things are supposed to be. But there is a promise – for those who have been united with Christ – that we will be further clothed. That our mortality will be swallowed up by life. That we will one day be at home with the Lord. But we are not there yet. So how ought we to live? We are to be of good courage. We are to walk by faith. We are to please Him. In short, we live by faith.
For some, this may seem like a silly question, but what is faith? We all probably have a definition in mind – perhaps even a spot-on definition – but I think it bears repeating. In Chapter 11, the author of Hebrews defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That means it is definitely more than a mere mental assent. It is a deep-seated trust. It is putting all the apples of your life in one basket. Hebrews continues, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” that by faith we obey, that by faith we endure mistreatment, that by faith we deny the fleeting pleasures of sin, that by faith we die.
Who do we have faith in? Sunday School answer here of course. God. And by extension, what do we have faith in? God’s Word. David writes in Psalm 138:2, “You have exalted above all things your name and your word” – and likewise the Psalmist declares in Psalm 119:42, “I trust in your word.”
It is God who has prepared us for this, and it is God who gave us His Spirit as a guarantee (2 Cor. 5:5). Faith in the Triune God is not a blind leap for He is most trustworthy. Balaam declares this word from the Lord in Number 23:19, “God is not a man that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” God is trustworthy and true, sure and steadfast. How can we have faith? The New Testament makes it clear that faith is a gift of God, but the New Testament is also full of commands: to stand firm in the faith, to walk by faith, to live by faith, to pray with faith, to put on the breastplate of faith, to take up the shield of faith, and so on. Yes, faith is a gift from God, but we engage our faith as we live.
The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, provides a helpful illustration in his introduction to the Cheque Book on the Bank of Faith where he compares a promise from God as a check payable to the believer. It is not given that one “should read it over comfortably” and move on, but “he is to treat the promise as a reality, as a man treats a check. He is to take the promise, and endorse it with his own name by personally receiving it as true. He is by faith to accept it as his own. He sets to his seal that God is true, and true to this particular word of promise.” Then, the believer by faith must “present the promise to the LORD, as a man presents a check at the counter of the Bank” pleading it by prayer.
Spurgeon notes that, “If he has come to Heaven’s bank at the right date, he will receive the promised amount at once. If the date should happen to be further on, he must patiently wait till its arrival; but meanwhile he may count the promise as money, for the Bank is sure to pay when the due time arrives.”
Spurgeon concludes his illustration with this caution and promise, “Some fail to place the endorsement of faith upon the check, and so they get nothing; and others are slack in presenting it, and these also receive nothing. This is not the fault of the promise, but of those who do not act with it in a common-sense, business-like manner. God has given no pledge which He will not redeem, and encouraged no hope which He will not fulfill.”
So, in closing, consider these checks from God and by faith endorse these precious and very great promises:
- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
- “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
- “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
- “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
- “In love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:17).
- “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
- “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
- “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).
- “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24).
- “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
- “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
- “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trials, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
- “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
- “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11).
- “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).
- “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
- “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).
- “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24).
Final note from Lisa: Louisa did not serve in China. However, faith in the sweet promises of Jesus continued to be the theme of her life as she and Lily left New York to work in South Africa and then in Rhodesia–Zimbabwe. The hymn “‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” became one of the first hymns sung in the Shona language. Praise God for His faithful servants!
 Ernest K. Emurian, Famous Stories of Inspiring Hymns (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), 158-161; 1880 United States Census, Queens, Queens, New York, digital image 66, s.v. “Louise Stead,” Ancestry.com.; “Louisa M. R. Stead,” The Cyber Hymnal, accessed January 2021, http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/s/t/e/a/stead_lmr.htm; C. Michael Hawn, “History of Hymns: ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” Discipleship Ministries – The United Methodist Church, last modified September 2014, https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-tis-so-sweet-to-trust-in-jesus.
 Please God – Heb. 11:6, Obey – Heb. 11:8; Endure Mistreatment – Heb. 11:25; Deny Fleeting Pleasures – Heb. Heb. 11:25-26; Die – Heb. 11:13, 37
 Gift of God – Rom. 12:3, Eph. 2:8, 6:23, Phil. 1:29; Stand Firm – 1 Cor. 16:13, 2 Cor. 1:24, 1 Pet. 5:9; Walk – 2 Cor. 5:7; Live – Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38; Pray – Mark 11:24, Jam. 1:6, 5:15; Breastplate – 1 Thess. 5:8; Shield – Eph. 6:16.
 Charles Spurgeon, Cheque Book on the Book Faith, published as Faith’s Checkbook: A Daily Devotional (eBook) by Monergism, accessed January 2020, https://www.monergism.com/faiths-checkbook-daily-devotional-ebook. Note: My thanks to Connie Dever in He Will Hold Me Fast: A Journey with Grace through Cancer (Kindle eBook) for introducing me to this profound little treasure.
 Garrett Kell, “Precious and Very Great Promises: Truth for the Journey,” All Things for Good, January 16, 2015, http://garrettkell.com/precious-and-very-great-promises-truth-for-the-journey/. Note: Inspired and some selections taken from Kell’s excellent post, which is most worthy of your time reading!