Psalm 37:25 is an incredible promise to those of us who have been appointed to live in an anti-Christian time in history! “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” The righteous have never been forsaken, and I assure you that you will not be the exception!
Of course, it is important to note that the key to this promise hangs on the word “righteous.” When you and I came to Christ, we were given what the Bible calls imputed righteousness. The best way I can explain this is through the parable of the prodigal son (see Luke 15). The Bible tells us that this boy took his inheritance and went far away from his father, in the same way many of us strayed from God in our early years. He ended up in a place of famine and heartache, doing things he never believed he would be capable of. And although he knew he had no merit, one day he just got up and started to return home. To his surprise, when he got close to home, his father ran to meet him—embracing him and covering him with the finest robe in the house.
In the same way, when you decided to return to God, God met you. He embraced you and covered you with the finest robe—the blood that Jesus shed on a cross two thousand years ago. God cleansed you and gave you a righteousness that you did not earn.
In the parable, the covering came with a ring, representing the power that the son would need in order to be the ambassador his father was calling him to be. He also was given a pair of shoes—implying that his righteousness would involve a journey. He was not called to merely stand on the road and look good and clean. No, he was called to go on a journey with his father!
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
On his way home after a great military victory, King Asa of Judah was intercepted by a prophet. This man did not come to congratulate Asa but to give him a warning: “As long as you rely on the Lord, fully trusting Him, you will be blessed. He will walk with you and give you victory after victory. But if you turn away from Him, trusting in your flesh, you will have disorder and chaos in every area of your life” (see 2 Chronicles 15:1-6).
A GLORIOUS TIME
Asa took this message to heart and walked faithfully with the Lord for thirty-six years. During that time, God greatly blessed Judah. It was a wonderful, glorious time to live in that land but after all those years, another crisis came. The backslidden king who ruled Israel (which had divided itself from Judah) launched an attack on Asa. He captured Ramah, a town just five miles from Judah’s capital, Jerusalem, cutting off that vital trade route to the city. If something didn’t happen quickly, Judah’s entire economy would collapse.
FEAR AND PANIC
This time, King Asa moved in fear. Instead of trusting the Lord, he turned for help to a notorious enemy, the king of Syria. Unbelievably, Asa stripped Judah’s treasury of all its wealth and offered it to the Syrians to deliver Judah. It was an act of absolute unbelief.
It is often said that the hardest part of faith is the last half hour. The fact is, God already had put into motion his plan to deliver Judah, but Asa aborted that plan by acting in fear and panic.
ANOTHER PROPHETIC WORD
Asa received another word, “Because you didn’t trust the Lord, from now on you will have wars” (see 2 Chronicles 16:9). And so it was in Judah.
Acting in unbelief always brings total disorder and chaos.
Scripture makes clear that God does not take unbelief lightly. The New Testament gives an example of this in the story of Zacharias. In Luke 1, God promised the aging priest a miracle child, a son who would be a forerunner to the Messiah.
The angel Gabriel appeared to him, saying, “Your prayer has been heard, Zacharias. You will have a son, and you will call him John.” Zacharias, a godly, faithful servant who had prayed his whole life for the coming of the Messiah, was burning incense in the temple when he received this news.
A PROMISE TOO WONDERFUL TO BELIEVE
Zacharias knew that since he and his wife were well past the age of conceiving a child, this was a heavy promise. He had to wonder, “How can this be? Elisabeth and I are both advanced in years.” He was stricken with unbelief.
Yet God did not excuse Zacharias’ lack of faith. He had no pity for his age or his service of devotion in the past. The fact is, God was not about to overlook unbelief even in such a dedicated servant. Instead, the angel told Zacharias:
“Behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season” (Luke 1:20).
This was a grievous punishment for Zacharias. His own son was going to herald the coming of the Messiah, but the priest himself would not be able to celebrate the news for the duration of his wife’s pregnancy.
From the very beginning, God sought a people who would live before Him without fear. He wanted His children to be at rest in body, soul and spirit by fully trusting in His promises. God called this “entering My rest.” So He led His people into a barren wilderness, without water, food or any source of sustenance. Giving Israel only His promise to keep them, His message to them was simply, “Have faith in Me.” He called them to place all their trust in Him to do the impossible for them.
According to the author of Hebrews, God’s people at that time never entered into His rest, because they didn’t trust in His promises (Hebrews 3:11).
In the passage about the fig tree, Jesus refers to an unnamed mountain:
“Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” (Mark 11:23).
Jesus was saying to His disciples, as well as to us today: “Unbelief in your heart is like a hindering mountain that cannot be moved. If it is not cast out, I cannot work with you.”
The fact is, Jesus was unable to perform miracles in a certain town because of the people’s unbelief:
“He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).
The same holds true for Christ’s church today: wherever there is unbelief, He is unable to work. Unbelief is always the mountain that hinders the fullness of God’s revelation and blessing in His children.
Jesus was in His last days of ministry. He had just cleansed the temple, driving out the moneychangers, and now He was spending time with His disciples to prepare them as the pillars of His future church. Yet at this point they were still faithless, “slow to believe.” Jesus had chided them for their unbelief at various times, asking, “Can you not see?” He saw in their hearts a hindrance that had to be removed or they would never come into the revelation necessary to lead the church.
One day as Jesus and the disciples passed by a barren fig tree, Jesus cursed it:
“[He] said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’ And His disciples heard it” (Mark 11:14).
Later, as the group came by the fig tree again, Peter pointed out, “Lord, the fig tree You cursed has dried up.”
Without giving Peter an actual answer, Jesus said simply, “Have faith in God.” We know from Jesus’ amazing response that the message to follow was all about faith.
The withered fig tree was another of Christ’s illustrated sermons. This dried-up plant represented God’s rejection of the old religious system of works in Israel. That system was all about trying to earn salvation and God’s favor by human effort and self-will.
Something new was about to be birthed in Israel: a church in which God’s people would live totally by faith. Salvation and eternal life would come only by faith.
To this point, God’s people knew nothing of living by faith. Their religion had been all about performance: appearing for worship services, reading the Torah, keeping extensive sets of rules. Now Jesus was saying, “That old system is over, headed for judgment.” A new day was dawning: the church of faith was being birthed.