As a child, I would walk in the fields behind our house with my father. The ground under our feet was uneven, and sometimes the weeds were high. Inevitably, I would fall. When I was back on my feet, Dad would offer me his hand. The struggle for autonomy begins early in our lives, so I was already battling for independence. Thus, I would stubbornly move forward in my own strength. After several falls that resulted in multiple abrasions, Dad would reach down and forcibly take my hand. A marvelous thing happened: I would no longer fall to the ground. Oh, I still tripped or stumbled, but then my feet would dangle in the air as his strong arm and hand held me aloft.
In John 10:28–29, Jesus states plainly that we are held by His hands and the hands of the Father. He says:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
We have a proclivity as young Christians to develop doctrines of salvation that are man-centered. Just as I wanted to move through those fields in my strength, we would rather play self-reliant roles in our salvation and in our walk with God. In the various storms that shake our lives physically and spiritually and fill us with fear and despair, we picture ourselves as desperately clinging to God, to His Word, and to His cross. That is a flawed perception. Our grasp of God is not what secures us. Our grip is not omnipotent. Sin still inhabits our minds and hearts. On our best days, when our trust in God is full of strength, this faith is still stained by sin and betrayal. Dear reader, the hands of the Father are omnipotent. They hold a universe. There is nothing on earth or in heaven that can pry His fingers loose from His children.
The hands of the Father are omnipotent. They hold a universe. There is nothing on earth or in heaven that can pry His fingers loose from His children.
Jesus also said that we are held by His hands. Look at those hands. They bear the scars of the nails of the crucifixion. These scars prove His faithfulness and love. When the nails were driven into His hands, when the judgment and punishment for our sins fell on Him, even while the ridiculing spit of the unbelievers mingled with His blood, He did not abandon His mission. He did not come off that cross, which He surely had the power to do. He did not stomp off through the crowd, leaving us to perish. Paul must have had that in mind when he wrote:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35–38)
Is your faith waning today? Do you feel as if you are losing your grip on the incredible promises of His Word? Are you thinking that you must certainly be lost because your faith has once again fallen to sin? Then learn one more time to give up your prideful desire to be the one who saves and keeps.
In Matthew 14, Jesus tells His disciples to set off across the Sea of Galilee while He stays on the land by Himself to pray. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, Jesus comes walking across the water toward their boat. They are astonished. These disciples, some of whom are experienced fishermen, are struggling against the waves and wind. The ever-audacious Peter asks if he might come across the water to Jesus. Jesus calls Peter to join Him. There goes Peter in faith, walking to Jesus. However, Peter’s faith weakens as he walks on the waves and begins to sink. But then, it is the hand of Jesus that takes hold of him. Peter is not saved by his grip on Jesus; he is saved by Jesus’ grip on him.
During a time when they were being punished for their sin, Israel thought God had forsaken them. But God sent Isaiah with a wonderful message:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isa. 49:15–16)
Those hands about which Isaiah wrote would centuries later be engraved with the blood of the covenant. Those are the omnipotent nail-scarred hands that hold us.
Rev. John P. Sartelle Sr. is senior minister at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oakland, Tenn. He is author of What Christian Parents Should Know about Infant Baptism.