Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself. (NIV)
C.S. Lewis once described God as the Hound of Heaven. By that phrase he meant that God doggedly pursued him and would not let go. Lewis came into Christian faith, in his own words, “kicking and screaming” as God’s faithful pursuit won out in his life.
The Apostle Paul reminded his young protégé Timothy of some basic theology to keep him on track and encouraged in a tough ministry. Paul gave Timothy a trustworthy saying that he could easily remember and say to himself day after day, especially when the going got tough:
If we died with Christ,
we will live with him.
If we don’t give up,
we will rule with him.
If we deny
that we know him,
he will deny
that he knows us.
If we are not faithful,
he will still be faithful.
Christ cannot deny
who he is. (CEV)
The beauty, wonder, and distinction of God is his amazing grace. There is no ambiguity with God. The Lord is not fickle but loves and holds tight even when we are unlovely and practice avoidance. When God pursues, God finds; when God holds on, there is no letting go.
This trustworthy saying of Scripture is a good, short, solid expression of theological truth to memorize, meditate upon, and say to ourselves repeatedly. We belong to Jesus Christ. God is with us. The Hound of Heaven will always sniff us out and bring us to himself.
Lewis likely got his phrase “Hound of Heaven” from an English poem of the same name by Francis Thompson (1859-1907). Thompson was a tortured soul who flirted in and out of depression, opium addiction, and suicidal thoughts for much of his adult life. Yet, he understood, perhaps better than most, that a loving God never stops pursuing a wayward heart. The poem’s beginning and end says this:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter….
How hast thou merited—
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alas, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come.
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.
Theology is not an impersonal affair. Personal religion still exists. The individual’s wax and wane between faith and faithlessness shall never negate divine grace. The Lord of the universe loves you. There is a deep Divine desire to shower grace upon you, to shelter and protect you. There is no need to run. Yet, if you do, God remains steadfast in his dogged pursuit. The hunt will continue….
Thank you, O God, for your great faithfulness, even to me. I believe. Help me in my unbelief! I give unceasing praise and undying devotion to you for your grace of being the One who never lets up, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.