We live in a very insecure world-- some are predicting that the stock market is about to crash as it did in 1929; some are saying the millennium bug, the Y2K problem, could cause widespread chaos; the news is filled with murder and destruction. Just this past week two teenage boys in my daughter's school were killed in a car accident on the way to school -- we truly live in an insecure world. What peace and joy it brings to trust in God in the midst of our insecurity. Trusting God is a very practical thing!
We have been studying the subject of trusting God for the past five weeks because it is so practical to us. The writer of Hebrews shows us the importance of faith in God when he says:
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
When we think of faith, I think most of us think of faith as trusting God for salvation. We must understand that that is just the beginning. We must learn to LIVE by faith. Each and every day of our lives we are to trust God in each and every circumstance of our lives. We need to trust God with our health, with our jobs, with our families, with our future. God is pleased when we trust Him. Faith is understanding and assent to a proposition that we cannot verify with our five senses. For example, let's say that you took your car to a mechanic because it wasn't running right. When you went to pick it up, he tells you that a vacuum line had come off causing you car to run rough. While working on your car, he found that your oil pump was weak and needed to be replaced so he replaced it to the tune of two hundred dollars. Do you believe Him? He said, "Your oil pump was going bad and needed to be replaced." Do you believe him? That will depend on what you know of his character. There is no way you can verify that he changed the oil pump short of dropping the oil pan. So, if you do believe him, that is faith. He told you your oil pump was bad and you believed him. If you don't believe him, you would feel like you are being ripped off, which will make you frustrated and angry. You would feel like he is out to hurt you, not help you. But if you do believe him, that is faith. You are believing his word without verification by your five senses. If you do believe him, you will feel that he acted in your best interest and you will be thankful for what he did.
Well, God has told us things and made us many promises that we cannot verify with our five senses. This is why we must learn to walk by faith-- trusting God.
2 Corinthians 5:6-7 (NKJV) So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
Until our physical death, we are to walk by faith. The whole of our Christian lives is a faith walk. I hope you can see how important it is to learn to trust God. If you don't trust God, you will get frustrated and angry at Him as you would with the mechanic. But if you do trust Him, you know that He is acting in your best interest.
In order to trust God, we must know Him in an intimate, personal way. David said, "Those who know your name will trust in you... (Psalm 9:10). So the pursuit of our Christian lives should be to grow in our knowledge of God, and we can only do this by learning about Him through the Scriptures. The Bible is the self-revelation of God. In it God reveals Himself to us that we may trust Him. So, how much time do you spend reading the Bible? Maybe that's why you have trouble trusting Him. You can't trust Him if you don't know Him. And you won't know Him if you don't spend time with Him through the Scriptures.
Scripture teaches us the essential truths about God-- truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in the midst of the tragedies of life. They are:
God, in his goodness and love, always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom, He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty, He has the power to bring it about.
We have looked at what the Scriptures say about God's sovereignty in the past several weeks. We have seen that God is sovereign over; man's thoughts and actions, the animal kingdom., the forces of nature, the rulers and governments, and every thing else. I hope that you have grown in your understanding of God through these studies.
So, now we understand that God controls all things that happen in time. Now the question is, are the things that God does always the wisest? Wisdom in Scripture means choosing the best and noblest end at which to aim, along with the most appropriate and effective means to it. This morning we want to look at what the Bible says about the wisdom of God.
At 9:15 a.m., just after the children had settled into their first lesson on the morning of October 21, 1966, a waste tip from a South Wales [coal mine] slid into the quiet mining community of Aberfan. Of all the heartrending tragedies of that day, none was worse than the fate of the village Junior School. The black slime slithered down the man-made hillside and oozed its way into the classrooms. Unable to escape, five teachers and 109 children died.
A clergyman being interviewed by a B.B.C. reporter at the time of the tragedy, in response to the inevitable question about God said, "Well.... I suppose we have to admit that this is one of those occasions when the Almighty made a mistake."
Now, you may never have verbalized that view, but have you ever felt that way? Have you ever heard about or witnessed a tragedy and wondered how God could allow something like it to happen? Does God make mistakes?
Maybe you remember what happened on April 19, 1995, around 9:03 a.m., just after parents dropped their children off at day care at the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. A massive bomb inside a rental truck exploded, blowing half of the nine-story building into oblivion.
A stunned nation watched as the bodies of men, women, and children were pulled from the rubble for nearly two weeks. When the smoke cleared, and the exhausted rescue workers packed up and left, 168 people were dead in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Did the sovereign God who controls all things make a mistake in allowing this tragic event to take place? Unequivocally -- NO!!!!! God never makes mistakes, NEVER!
Psalms 147:5 (NKJV) Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.
God's wisdom is His perfect awareness of what is happening in all of His creation in any given moment. This includes His knowledge of the final outcome of His creation, and of how He will work from beginning to ending of human history.
Job 11:7-10 (NKJV) "Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? 8 They are higher than heaven; what can you do? Deeper than Sheol; what can you know? 9 Their measure is longer than the earth And broader than the sea. 10 "If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment, Then who can hinder Him?
Zophar pointed out that the Lord's mysterious, plummetless, unknowable wisdom exceeds the height of the heavens the depths of the grave, the length of the earth, and the breadth of the sea. How, then, could Job possibly question God's wisdom?
GOD'S WISDOM INCLUDES HIS ABILITY TO KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF HIS CREATURES. Sometimes this is called His omniscience. We often act as if we know what is best for us and think that God should take counsel from us. That is nothing but arrogance and sinful pride.
Romans 11:33-36 (NKJV) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" 35 "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?" 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
God's wisdom and knowledge are deep, they are inexhaustible. God knows everything and applies it perfectly. God doesn't grow in wisdom as we do. God is wisdom. He never learned anything.
Acts 15:18 (NKJV) "Known to God from eternity are all His works.
Romans 16:27 (NKJV) to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV) Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Jude 1:25 (NKJV) To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.
Wisdom is the property of God alone. Wisdom among men is gained by age and experience, furthered by instructions and exercise; but the wisdom of God is his nature. He is so wise, that he is wisdom itself.
Daniel 2:20 (NKJV) Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His.
God's wisdom is seen in creation:
Psalms 104:24 (NKJV) O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions;
Proverbs 3:19 (NKJV) The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens;
The wisdom of God in creation appears in the beauty, and order of his creatures. We marvel at His wisdom as we look at just one of his creatures, the Octopus:
Contained in three distinct layers in the skin are remarkable elastic sacs of red, yellow, and blue coloring. The octopus can enlarge each sac to sixty times its original size. An adult octopus may have as many as 2,000,000 of these tiny spots of color spread over its entire body. By shrinking some sacs and stretching others, an octopus can change color almost instantly.
When frightened, all the sacs shrink and the octopus pales to white. When enraged or excited, the octopus opens only the red sacs and turns its whole body red. When hiding among seaweed, it can turn green by mixing blue and yellow. When crawling on a gravel-bottom ocean floor, it turns to a salt and pepper color.
Octopods have even created stripes and polka dots when tested on experimental backgrounds. This ability to camouflage itself aids the octopus in hunting for food and hiding from enemies.
To defend itself against the eel and other enemies, the octopus uses an inky black fluid which it stores in its body. When attacked, the octopus uses its color sacs to turn black to match the color of the ink. He then ejects the right amount of ink to match the size and shape of his own body. With the eel's attention diverted by the black fluid, the octopus turns to white and jets away to safety.
The ink also temporarily paralyzes the eel's sense of smell. A sprayed eel may grope around for hours and may even harmlessly bump into the same octopus that sprayed it.
God's wisdom is seen in His creation, none of us question that. What we do question are those times of pain, tragedy, and great loss. We ask "Why God?" "Why did you let this happen? How can good come out of this?" We look at situations and we make value judgements based on our limited understanding. When something happens that we don't like, we view it as bad. But God said, "All things work together for good to those who love Him..." (Romans 8:28).
The story is told of a man in China who raised horses for a living. When one of his prized stallions ran away, his friends gathered at his home to mourn his great loss. After they had expressed their concern, the man raised this question: "How do I know whether what happened is bad or good?" A couple days later the runaway horse returned with several strays following close behind. The same acquaintances again came to his house -- this time to celebrate his good fortune. "But how do I know whether it's good or bad?" the old gentleman asked them. That very afternoon the horse kicked the owner's son and broke the young man's leg. Once more the crowd assembled -- now to express their sorrow over the incident. "But how do I know if this is bad or good?" the father asked again. Well, only a few days later, war broke out. The man's son, however, was exempted from the military service because of his broken leg. Yes, you guessed it, the friends again gathered -- but we'll stop the story there. You can easily see how it could go on and on. This tale points out that from our limited human perspective, it's impossible to know with certainty how to interpret the experiences of life. What often seems "bad" to us may in fact be very good. What we do know is that we can trust God in all of life's circumstances. In His wisdom, He knows and does what is best for us.
The "good" that God works in our lives through the adversities that we face is often different from what we envision as good. The "good" that God works in our lives is the building of Christ-like character into us. To conform us in our practice to what we are in position--practical holiness.
Hebrews 12:10 (NKJV) For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
The word chastening is from the Greek word "piadeia," which denotes the training of a child. The word is a broad term, signifying whatever parents and teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help them develop and mature as they ought.
I think that when most of us think of chastening we think of discipline as the result of sin, but this is not always the case. Many times the Lord brings trials and difficulties into our lives, not because we have sinned, but to mature us. Just as we would with our children.
Notice the contrast the author of Hebrews draws between the finite, fallible wisdom of human parents and the infinite, infallible wisdom of God. He says, "They indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them." We often agonize in the rearing of our children as to what is the proper discipline. Sometimes the discipline we give to our children is not profitable. But, God's discipline of us is always profitable. There is no agonizing by God, no hoping He has made the right decision, no wondering what is really best for us. God makes no mistakes. He knows infallibly with infinite wisdom what combination of good and bad circumstances will bring us more and more into sharing His holiness in a practical manner.
When tragedy strikes, we should not try to figure out what God is doing. Too often we feel that we need to understand "why" God did something in order to trust Him. You may never know why. God's infinite wisdom cannot be comprehended by our finite minds.
Romans 11:33 (NKJV) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
God's ways are past finding out. The words, "past finding" are from the Greek word anexichniastos, it means, that which cannot be traced out. It is a hunting metaphor of hunters who would track animals and loose the path. If you try to figure out what God is doing, you are going to loose your path.
Isaiah 55:8 (NKJV) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
When Julie was three years old she was running in a store and tripped and split her head open. I took her to the emergency room where they put her on a papoose board (it's a straight jacket attached to a board) to give her stitches. She looked up at me from the papoose with a look of confusion and hurt as if to say, "Daddy, why are you letting them do this to me?" There was no way that she could understand why I was allowing them to do that to her. But I was doing the wisest thing I could do under the circumstances, and I was doing it because I loved her.
We can't understand God's ways, but He is doing what is best for us because He loves us. Our circumstances may not always seem to be good, but they come from the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
We don't like this because we want an explanation for everything. If we can't understand something, we think it must not be right. Because God's ways are unsearchable, we are left to faith. We don't know God's plan, His wisdom is beyond us, we can't figure it out. So, we live by faith, trusting God to do what is the wisest thing for us.
C.H. Spurgeon, in his sermon on divine providence, said, "Providence is wonderfully intricate. Ah! You want always to see through providence, do you not? You never will, I assure you. You have not eyes good enough. You want to see what good that affliction was to you; you must believe it. You want to see how it can bring good to the soul; you may be enabled in a little time; but you can not see it now; you must believe it. Honor God by trusting Him."
God doesn't explain to us what He is doing, or why. As far as the biblical record is concerned, God never explained to Job the reasons for his terrible sufferings. Job acknowledges that through his trials, he has come to a new and deeper relationship with God.
Job 42:5 (NKJV) "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.
Sometimes, afterward we can see some of the beneficial results of adversity in our lives, but we seldom can see it during the time of the adversity. Joseph could surely see, after he had become prime minister of Egypt, some of the results of the affliction God had brought upon him, but for fourteen years he had no idea why he was suffering.
But whether we see the beneficial results in this life or not, we are still called upon to trust God that in His wisdom, He wills what is best for us.
We must also be cautious of others who offer themselves as interpreters about the why and wherefore of all that is happening. Be cautious of those who say, "God let this happen to you so that you might learn such and such a lesson." The fact is that most often we don't know what God is doing through a particular set of circumstances or events.
But some times we do know! In 1980, I was stricken with a rare nerve disease and was paralyzed from the neck down. Some folks from our church told us that my disease might be because of Cathy's owl collection (owls were evil, they said). They were way off. I knew why I was sick. God was chastening me for sin. When I repented, the disease went away.
God does not spare his children from the ravages of disease, heartache, and disappointment of this sin-cursed world. But we must realize that we are being handled by a wisdom which is perfect, a wisdom which can achieve what it intends by taking hold of things and people which are for evil and making them work together for good.
J.L. Dagg wrote:
"It should fill us with joy, that infinite wisdom guides the affairs of the world. Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes seems to reign. Often wickedness prevails, and God seems to have forgotten the creatures that he has made. Our own path through life is dark and devious, and beset with difficulties and dangers. How full of consolation is the doctrine, that infinite wisdom directs every event, brings order out of confusion, and light out of darkness, and, to those who love God, causes all things, whatever be their present aspect and apparent tendency, to work together for good."
If you trust God, you don't need to know "why"things happen to you.
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