God at Work
Many people, whether they are unbelievers, seekers, or skeptics, wonder if God is actively involved in the affairs of the world. While they would like to believe He is eminently involved with life, they are unsure. But one fact comes through loud and clear for any serious student of the Bible. That is, God prevails upon creation! If God, in His omnipotence and wisdom, created the universe He certainly guides and controls it.
How does manage His creation? He works and interacts with man through the Holy Spirit and His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "My father works, and I work." Whatever Jesus did 2000 years ago perfectly reflected His Father's intentions for us today.
Read Text: John 5:16-18
In high school literature I studied eighteenth century pantheism. Pantheism is the twisted thought that God and nature are homogenous. God is a tree, a fish, the ocean, the sun, and so on. It teaches that everything is divine and God can't be separated from the cosmos. Actually, pantheism denies three facts about God:
First, it denies His personality. He has no love, mercy, emotion, goodness, charm, or charisma.
Second, it denies His transcendence—that He is infinitely superior to creation. And Scripture reveals Him as the inscrutable God that is beyond our character or comprehension. Although we're "made in His image," He's wholly other from us!
And thirdly, when pantheism makes God a composite of creation it denies His ability to contravene or impose His will over nature's course.
But as I stated in our opening remarks, if God, in His omnipotence and wisdom, could create the universe He can guide and control the universe. Here is what many Bible skeptics want to know: Is there a God, and if so, is He loving and dynamically operative with men? Does He care about us and want to lift our burdens? Yes! Jesus said, "My father works, and I work." And whatever Jesus did perfectly reflected His Father's intentions for us. And when you read the Gospels you discover what Jesus did:
Matthew records Him circumventing the laws of nature by calming storms, feeding the multitudes, and x-raying the ocean to help His disciples haul in loads of fish.
In Mark's Gospel he records Christ's unrelenting work of "signs and wonders" to heal the sick and deliver the demonized.
Luke pictures Him defending the weak and stemming the tide of oppression. He was there for sinners (15:1), lepers (17:12), beggars (16:20), those indebted to the IRS, and in his final hour the thief on the cross (23:43).
And John says Jesus came to manifest His Father's glory to the world. And we see Him revealing His Father to John the Baptist, Nicodemus, the woman at the Well, Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and a host of others.
(Transition) God through Christ shows He's involved with creation. He's involved at every level and in every dimension and doesn't leave anything untouched. Since that's so, the first point of today's message notes that God's work is sovereign.
I. God's Work is Sovereign
Let's restate it this way: God's work is autonomous, dominating, and universal. He rules creation without consulting tribunals, parliaments, or committees and acts without restriction. That's the claim of Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets. And it's the only reasonable conclusion from logic: God wouldn't be God if He were subject to any outside force.
(Example) There's an infinite difference between a king's sovereignty and God's sovereignty. For example, a king's power is never truly sovereign although it's said to be. An earthly king is bound by many limitations: The scope of his kingdom is limited by borders; his resources are limited; his intelligence is limited; His ability to recruit others and rally the forces is limited.
But these restrictions never apply to God. The scope of His rule is boundless. He has infinite resources. He's complete in wisdom. He never grows weary. And there's none in the ranks of men or angels He can't conscript for service! He proceeds unabated at every turn:
Psalm 135:6 says: "The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths."
Isaiah 46:10 says: "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (11) . . . What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do."
Daniel said: "His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation."
But the question arises, If God rules the world why all the rebellion and suffering? That is a legitimate question because sometimes evil and mayhem do appear unchecked:
We have miracle drugs yet the scourge of disease plagues nations.
The government legislates crime bills and fills the streets with cops but America is filled with lawbreakers.
And in recent years natural disasters have been nearly apocalyptic. Killer storms, floods, and earthquakes have crisscrossed our land.
But let me reiterate: God is in control! And nothing affects this planet without first gaining divine permission. Everything that happens, good or evil, works for God's glory and "the good of those that love Him."
This is the incredible disclosure found in the book of Revelation. The four horsemen are loosed, the vials poured out, the seals pealed away, and the world reels with vengeance. When you read Revelation you see worldwide anarchy, unbridled disease and disaster, global darkness, and nuclear devastation erasing two-thirds of humanity.
But it's all part of God's final chapter in exposing Satan, expunging sin, and renewing the earth. Satan appears to hold sway but in the end you realize God was always in control. And that's the way it's always been:
Genesis 6 reveals God's sovereignty when the Flood submerged the entire civilization except one divinely chosen family.
Exodus 14 expresses God's sovereignty when Pharaoh assumes he has Israel permanently trapped. But in one night the death angel met with Egypt's firstborn and the entire country was made a mortuary. And within hours he watched God open the Red Sea for Israel's deliverance.
Daniel 4 announces God's sovereignty when Nebuchadnezzar disavowed God. And according to Daniel's prophecy he was struck with a dementia known as lycanthrope and prowled around like a wild animal. Sovereignty manifested again seven years later when God restored Nebuchadnezzar to his kingship.
You can be assured of three facts when you recognize God's sovereignty:
One, you don't have to retaliate against your enemies, God will order their due.
Two, as Philippians 4:19 promises you can be assured God will supply "all your needs according to His riches in glory."
And three, you can be assured of attaining your destiny because ‘promotion comes neither from the east or west, promotion comes from the Lord.' God is always in control!
(Transition) God is at work, and it's a sovereign, uncontestable work. But His work is not only sovereign, secondly, God's work is providential.
II. God's Work is Providential
The fact that God rules without restraint is wonderful. But tantamount to that is His providence. Providence is when God's gathers His attributes, the complete essence of His being, and manages creation. In other words, His goodness, power, love, foreknowledge, wisdom, and mercy all coordinate to execute His purposes.
That's why Proverbs 16:9 says: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." And it's why Solomon noted: "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that prevails."
In some mysterious fashion, God orders and maintains our life even in the most chaotic and perplexing circumstances. There's an encapsulating bubble of God's grace that always surrounding Christians.
(Bible Example) Let's illustrate this through Joseph. I've often identified with this guy—used, abused, accused, and confused. Can anyone relate to that? As a teenager God revealed that Joseph would be a means of deliverance for his family. But his brothers ridiculed him and sold him into Egyptian slavery. In Egypt he suffered false accusation, was imprisoned, and forgotten. As Joseph's life unfolded it looked like everything happened in the precise manner Joseph would have designed it himself, doesn't it? Of course not! But the good news about God's work of providence is, nothing can undermine it—not his betraying brothers, not forgetful friends, not foes, not lies, not expatriation—nothing! It's impossible!
Philippians 1:6 says: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
The longer you serve God the more you understand His providence. Years later, after God promoted Joseph to Pharaoh's chief assistant, his father Jacob died. And his brothers immediately imagined the worst. They thought Joseph would retaliate for their treacherous actions of selling him into Egyptian slavery years earlier so they threw themselves before him and begged for mercy. But listen to Joseph's reaction in Genesis 50:19-21:
"Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? (20) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (21) So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them."
Joseph finally understood that God had been in control all along; that providence had governed Joseph even through his hardships. And do you see what this realization brought Joseph? Joseph didn't seek retribution and throw them in jail. Joseph was filled with God's peace! When people are able to recognize the course of their life has been piloted by God it brings peace. Isaiah 32:17 says: "The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever."
Let me do some liberation preaching. Some of you need to be freed from thinking you are primarily responsible for changing the climate around you. And when it's possible to change the climate around us for the glory of God we should. But I want you to realize something. You can't always change the climate. At times all you can do is poke your finger into the wind and gauge the temperature. Climate control is up to God. But the fact is, regardless of how wonderfully you're managing life or how out of control it is, God is working for you—now!
Think about it. You wouldn't get in the fiery furnace unless God arrests you, shackles you, and shoves you in! And once you're in the fire there's nothing you can do about the temperature! You wouldn't choose to jump into the lion's den. But once you're there all you can do is trust God to control the lions.
(Example) For years I didn't know what it meant to rest in God's providence concerning His plan for my life. I thought God was handcuffed to work through me if I wasn't praying with fiery intensity, and fasting until my stomach twisted with knots. Whatever successes occurred were accompanied by a sense of, "Whoa, I had to work for that one!" And on most occasions I felt cheated by the results. I thought "Well, I could have done better. I should have worked harder, prayed more, or fasted longer." And I was going beyond the call of duty! I didn't comprehend Psalm 47:4 that says: "He has chosen our inheritance for us."
Please hear me, you are not fully responsible for making anything happen or seizing victory from the jaws of defeat. The almighty God who created you and loves you with infinite love takes responsibility for you! God never requires anybody with carrying the full load. He works in partnership with men! He has requirements of us—He wants faith, prayer, and obedience—but God is ultimately responsible for working the miracle, not us.
Joseph couldn't single-handedly achieve his dreams and we can't either! It takes God. You are asking for serious emotional and spiritual trouble if you shoulder the bulk of the burden to accomplish God's purposes. You're inviting one of two dreadful evils: pride or condemnation.
Pride infects us when we assume we are the reason for our successes. It's the attitude that says: ‘I made it work. I worked the miracle. I landed the job.' That's pride and God sets Himself against the prideful. The fact is, God gave us our health, He instilled us with soundness of mind, and He created us with our talents and the personality to find favor with men.
On the other hand condemnation overwhelms us when we assume plans floundered because of our incompetence—even though we know we fully followed God.
I'm not suggesting that you become complacent and abdicate your spiritual responsibility. I've already said that God wants us exercising faith, prayer, and obedience. I'm saying our victories in life are primarily due to God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that works in our behalf. Once you realize this you are spiritually and emotionally free to accept whatever providence produces.
Relying on providence is this: It's doing your best while understanding that God is responsible for the outcome. We work but our works never bring the victory. Turn to 1 Corinthians 3:5 and let's read:
1 Corinthians 3:5 says: "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. (6) I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. (7) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (8) The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor."
Moses could shake his staff over Egypt but only God could activate its power.
Joshua can march around Jericho but only God could flatten the walls.
The Apostles could preach and lay hands on the sick but only God could regenerate hearts and cure the afflicted. Man works, but God empowers the work.
(Transition) Third, God's work is not only sovereign and providential, but, God's work is personal.
III. God's Work is Personal
Have you ever noticed how the Gospel of Mark describes Jesus? He was: moved with compassion (MAR 1:41), stunned with wonder (MAR 6:6), filled with affection (MAR 10:21), wearied (MAR 4:38), angered (MAT 21:12-13), and pained (JOH 11:35, 38). He experienced loneliness (MAT 27:46) and even bitter disappointment (MAR 3:5). Jesus experienced a wide range of human emotions. And our almighty Creator became "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh" so He could relate to us on personal level.
(Illustration) In 1993 about 600 would-be lawyers convened for the California Bar Exam. During the testing a fifty-one year-old man suffered a seizure. Of the 600 people taking the exam only two stopped working to offer help. For thirty minutes those two people administered CPR until paramedics arrived. The others continued working with hardly a glance in their direction. Ironically, ethics was one focus of the exam! (Adapted from a sermon by Richard J. Fairchild, copyright, 1997.)
Christ isn't like that. His work is sovereign and providential but it's also personal.
He was thronged at Jerusalem but He was caring enough to look past the swarm and call down one man perched in a tree.
The crowds crushed Him at Galilee but He was sensitive enough to notice a woman's gentle tug on His robe for healing.
He was swarmed at Jericho but He deviated from His trip to restore a blind man's sight.
And at Nain He cared enough to stop a funeral procession and resurrect a grieving mother's son.
Nobody is obscured from Christ's view. His work is massive but it's also personal. He always takes time to invest in individuals. And He's actively at work in everybody. Turn to Jeremiah 18.
It's comforting to know we aren't aimlessly wandering through life without purpose or destination. The divine architect leaves nothing to chance. He's detailed a blueprint for everyone.
As I mentioned, life occasionally spin out of control. The fog rolls in and our compass loses its magnetism for direction. It's times like these when people wonder if life has meaning or order. Let me assure you that God, who configured the constellations, has intricately ordered a plan for those He created "in His image." The Scriptures affirm a personalized blueprint for man:
Psalm 47:4 says: "He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved."
And Ephesians 1:11 says: "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."
Just as there can be no astronomy without stars or botany without flowers or geology without rocks there can be no theology without God's personal attention upon us. He intervenes at every level and I hope you see that our great God is indeed at work for your welfare!