“Faith on Trial: Drawing Near to God”

Apostle Islands
Faith on Trial: Drawing Near to God

… a synopsis of the writing of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

In Psalm 73, the Psalmist laments at the prosperity of the wicked, and undertakes a journey of self-examination and reflection. Having completed a review of the past, and as he faces the  future, he arrives at a resolution:  “It is good for me to draw near to God.”

Living in this world sometimes makes us focus intently on our need for certain things, and we are led to believe that our happiness depends upon favorable events and circumstances. It was because of this line of thinking that the Psalmist fell into a state of misery. He witnessed the prosperity of the ungodly while he was suffering, and this brought him to the depths of self-pity and despair. Upon further thought, he eventually realized that he had not been keeping close to God.

The moment we move away from God, we lose our bearings like a ship at sea that loses sight of the North Star, or when its navigation aids fail.

At the sanctuary of God, the Psalmist became enlightened and he discovered that there is only one thing that matters: our relationship to God.  “If I am near to God, it does not matter what happens to me; if I am far from God, nothing can eventually be right.” ¹ This was his profound conclusion.

The Psalmist contemplates upon God’s character: His goodness, majesty and glory are among its many facets. If we can comprehend the character of God, there would be nothing in the world we would desire more than to be in His presence. Amidst all the instability and uncertainty in this world, it is wonderful to know that in Christ, we can enter into the presence of the “Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” ²

Being near to God is also the place of safety and deliverance. He holds every blessing that we need, He is the Giver of “every good and perfect gift”. He has put them all in Christ, and He has given Christ to us. When we draw close to God, we know our sins are forgiven. We are aware of His love, and He gives us a joy that the world cannot give nor take away.

Finally, the Psalmist wants to draw near to God in order that he may declare all of God’s wondrous works.  Experiencing God’s character, His salvation, peace and joy eventually leads us to praise and glorify God, and to testify about Him to others and to the world.

Scripture Reference:
“But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord Godthat I may declare all thy works. “ Psalm 73:28

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1965), Faith on Trial, Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 116-124

1 Martyn Lloyd Jones, Faith on Trial, p. 117
2 James 2:17, King James Version

Steps to Increasing Faith

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

My previous post was on the nature and causes of “little faith” as expounded upon by Dr. Martynn Lloyd-Jones.  I continue on this topic of faith to present Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ prescription on how to make one’s inadequate faith grow.

The three-step process for increasing faith can be found in the verses of Matthew 6:31-33.

Jesus exhorted the multitude to “take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? or, how shall we be clothed?”.  The Lord gave two distinct reasons:  First of all, food, drink and clothing are the very things that occupy the minds of Gentiles, and second, the Heavenly Father already knows we have need of these things.

The first key to increasing faith is understanding what type of people the “Gentiles” are,  as described by Jesus. The word “Gentile” is synonymous with the heathen.  Jesus was preaching to the Jews, God’s chosen people, who had the oracles of God, and had special knowledge of Who God is.  As Christians, we can lay hold of and apply this teaching to our lives because we have become privy to the revelation of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ. The heathen, on the other hand, have no knowledge of God, and live their lives limited in their own thoughts and “without God in the world”.  (p. 136)

Jesus asserts that the Christian view of life is to be different from the heathen’s mindset.  What are the world views of the heathen?  At one end of the spectrum, there is the belief that everything that happens is accidental: the theory of contingency.  Dr. Julian Huxley and others who hold this viewpoint allege that there is no purpose whatsoever in life, there is no design or order, and that everything happens by chance.  The other end of the spectrum is the fatalistic view that a person can do nothing about life because everything has already been predetermined by some higher power. Both contingency and fatalism lead to worry because one is never certain what is going to happen next. (p. 137)

The Christian view can be described as the “doctrine of certainty”.  Life is not controlled by “blind necessity”, but certain things are definite and well-grounded because we are in the hands of the living God.  So as Christians, we are to put this certainty over against the pagan doctrines of contingency and fatalism.  A person’s beliefs are evident by the way one behaves when the crises of life come.  According to Jesus, we are to be different in our thinking, not to adapt the heathen philosophy of worry over food, drink and clothing.  If we think that way, then we are but spiritual worldlings.  One way to increase our faith, therefore, is to see that children of God are to live the life of faith, not to face the difficulties of life as the heathen do, but live in the light of that faith that they profess. (pp. 137-138)

The next key lies in the second reason put forth by Jesus about not worrying about material necessities: “For your heavenly Father knows you have need of these things”. Hence the second principle by which one can increase and enlarge one’s faith is implicit faith in and reliance upon God as our heavenly Father. We are not alone, God is always with us.  Earthly fathers care about their children: multiply that by infinity and that is how God cares and thinks about us, whatever our circumstance. (pp. 141-142)

The third key is found in verse 33: to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  In other words, “we are to concentrate upon perfecting our relationship to God as our heavenly Father”.  Jesus implicitly says, “if you want to seek anything, if you want to be anxious about anything, be anxious about your spiritual condition, your nearness to God, and your relationship to Him.” The Gentiles are seeking the worldly things. Seek ye rather, seek ye first and foremost and above everything else, the Kingdom of God.  This should be top priority. Jesus added that we also need to seek God’s righteousness.  This essentially means we are to seek righteousness and holiness.  Hence this is the way to increase faith: “The more holy we are, the nearer we shall be to God. The more holy we are, the greater will be our faith and our assurance and therefore our claims and our reliance upon God.” And this comes with a promise that if we truly seek God first, then “all the other things will be thrown in the bargain”.  (p. 145)

In conclusion, these are the ways to increase faith:  Do not be like the heathen in their views about life, remember that God is your heavenly Father and knows everything about you, and seek to be more like your Father, and live your life to be closer to Him each day. (p. 145)

*** Reference: David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”, Martino Publishing, CT, 2011, pp. 135-145.

*** Photograph by Artemis 

Elements of Joy

“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” I John 1:4

What is joy? It is a difficult concept to define precisely, however I came across a discussion by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on certain elements that constitute joy:

The first element is that of a state of complete satisfaction. It is an all-encompassing feeling of fulfillment — mind, heart, emotions and desires.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones says that this is an essential part of joy.

The second element of joy is “a spirit of exultation”.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones portrays a child happily playing with his toy, and then someone comes along and gives the child a surprise: the child springs to his feet in glee; “there is a brightness, a flush which is exultant”.  Joy is more active: there is a “positive spirit of exultation and rejoicing”.

The third element, Dr. Lloyd-Jones suggests, is “a feeling of power and of strength.  There is nothing flabby or superficial about it. Joy is one of the strongest powers in the world. When you are truly joyful, you are wound up by some mighty dynamic power; you feel strong, you are lifted up above yourself, you are ready to meet every enemy from every direction and quarter.”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones admits that the above elements  constitute an inadequate description of joy, but it is difficult to describe it any further.  He concludes his outline of joy by these words:

“Joy is something very deep and profound, something that affects the whole and entire personality.  In other words, it comes to this; there is only one thing that can give true joy and that is a contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He satisfies my mind; He satisfies my emotions; He satisfies my every desire.  He and His great salvation include the whole personality and nothing less, and in Him I am complete”.

“Joy, in other words, is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge  of the Lord Jesus Christ” – Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones


*** photography by George Thomas

How Hungry? Tests of Spiritual Appetite

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

What does it mean to “hunger and thirst after righteousness”?  In his book “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount”,  Dr.David Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives a few tests to determine the presence of spiritual appetite.

“The first test is this:  Do we see through all our own false righteousness?”  This would be the first indication of such appetite.  That  is, unless one recognizes his righteousness as nothing but “filthy rags”, there would be no hunger for something better.

Another test is discipline.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, “This subject of discipline is of vital importance.  I am suggesting that unless we day by day voluntarily and deliberately remind ourselves of this righteousness which we need, we are not very likely to be hungering and thirsting after it. The man who truly hungers and thirsts makes himself look at it every day.”  Discipline is finding the time to satisfy the hunger pangs that one feels.

The next test according to Dr. Lloyd-Jones is this:  “The man who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness always puts himself in the way of getting it”.   The blind man, Bartimaeus, could not heal himself, so he put himself in the way where Jesus was passing through and made such a commotion that Jesus could not help but notice him.   In modern life, this implies going to Church and being involved in the Church, reading the Bible, and making time for prayer.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones mentions the need for reading the biographies of saints and all literature one can lay hold on the matter of righteousness and the Kingdom of God.  He continues, “The people who hunger and thirst after righteousness are frantic.  They do all these things; they are seeking righteousness everywhere; and yet they know their efforts are never going to lead to it.  … It does not matter whom you look at.  It seems to work out like this: it is only as you seek this righteousness with the whole of your being that you can truly discover it. You can never find it yourself.  Yet the people who sit back and do nothing never seem to get it.  That is God’s method.  … We have done everything, and having done all we are still miserable sinners: and then we see that, as little children, we are to receive it as the free gift of God.”

These then are the tests for spiritual appetite.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones concludes by asking: “Is it(hungering after righteousness) the greatest desire of our life?  Is it the deepest longing of our being? Can we say quite honestly and truly that we desire above everything else in this world truly to know God and to be like the Lord Jesus Christ, to be rid of self in every shape and form, and to live only, always and entirely to His glory and to His honor?”

If so, then as we keep on asking, seeking and knocking, indeed we shall be filled — ‘with all the fullness of God’.


*** Photo by Sifu Renka

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