Luck vs. Blessings
The Story of Dobry
My God shall provide all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
Many years ago there was a German peasant called Dobry who lived in a village near Warsaw. Because of unforseen financial problems, he had not been able to pay his rent and the landlord was threatening to evict him. Dobry pleaded for more time, but the landlord told him that the next day he and his family would be turned out into the snow.
Hearing the church bells chime for evening prayer, Dobry and his loved ones knelt to ask the Lord to supply their needs. After prayer they rose to their feet and sang the words of an old hymn: "Commit thou all thy griefs and ways into His hands."
As they finished singing, they heard a strange tapping at the window. Dobry opened it and found a raven that his grandfather had tamed many years before. In its beak was a valuable ring. It had been lost that day by the King who was visiting the town. Dobry returned it, and the king rewarded him with enough money to build a house of his own.
God Knows Our Needs
Now the Lord doesn't always provide in such a dramatic way but such experiences ought to encourage us. But one thing is absolutely certain: He is alive, He knows our needs, and He will provide.
Is it really possible that the Lord hears everything we say and think? Is He intimately aware of our feelings? There are some people who find such an idea incredible simply because we cannot imagine such a thing in human terms. But we must remember that God is infinite, all-powerful, and all knowing -- He is in touch with every part of His creation to the extent that He even notices, as Jesus pointed out, when a sparrow falls out of the sky.
There was once a Scottish theologian called John Baillie who taught at Edinburgh University in Scotland. Whenever he discussed the doctrine of the Godhead he always opened with these words: "We must remember, in discussing God, that we cannot talk about Him without His hearing every word we say. We may be able to talk about others behind their backs, but God is everywhere, yes, even in this classsroom. Therefore, in all our discussions we must be aware of His infinite presence, and talk about Him, as it were, before His face."
God is Everywhere
The knowledge that the Lord God of Heaven is spiritually everywhere through the Light of Christ which is in all things ought to have a tremendous impact on what we say, do, feel, and even believe. Unfortunately, we tend to think of God in human terms, naively supposing that there are times when He isn't there and not watching and listening; and>"Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether...such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it" (Psalm 139:4,6, RSV).
God is always many steps ahead of us -- He has planned our future long before we have even started contemplating it. He knows all the difficulties and trials that are going to face us and has made provision for us. He sees the past, the present, and the future -- all things are known by Him.
So what must we do? Quite simply: trust.
Trust in Me
Years ago a naval officer and his wife were at sea during a raging storm. Seeing the terrified look in her eyes, this experienced seaman tried unsuccessfully to subdue her fears. When she grabbed his arm and cried: "How can you be so calm in such a storm?" he drew his sword and said: "Are you afraid of me?" Without hesitation she answered: "Of course not!" "Why not?" he inquired. "Because I know that the sword is in the hand of my husband, and he loves me too much to hurt me." To which her husband replied: "Remember, I too know whom I have believed, and He is the One who holds the winds in His fist and the waters in the hollow of His hand!"
The trials and tribulations we face in life most often cannot be avoided and are intended for us to build up our faith and trust in the Lord. King David, as you know, was constantly faced by troubles, especially by disloyalty from those he supposed were his friends. But despite these, he could still praise the Lord for His enduring mercy. He had placed His total confidence in Almighty God, who controls both wind and wave. We ought to know by now that, as the story of the seaman and his wife illustrated, that God loves us too much to hurt us.
And because He loves us He tests us. Paul wrote to the Romans:
James the apostle also writes:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5, RSV).
The Blessing of Trials
Count it all a joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4, RSV).
As Christians we should know and expect trials, tests and troubles to come. But we should also know that these are for our blessing and that we should therefore be thanking the Lord for them. And I don't mean thanking Him half-heartedly but with all our souls. Even if death is staring at us, we should be praising the Lord with all the energy of our souls.
Now we all know the story of Job and his response to trial and tribulation. In one day he lost absolutely everything -- his sons and his daughters, his flocks and houses, his servants and all he possessed. We loose a little something here or there and what is our response? Perhaps we grumble, get irritated or annoyed, angry or rebellious, and maybe secretly blame the Lord for our misfortune. But not Job. What was his response? He said, recognising the sovereignty of God in his life:
And of Job, the Bible says: "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong" (Ibid, v.22).
Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD (Job 1:21, RSV).
Do We Care?
Yes, God provides. He takes care, He listens, He cares. But do we? Is He truly Lord and Sovereign in our lives? Does He command first place in every thought, every affection, and every deed? Do we, when faced with a choice between Him and something else, unhesitatingly choose Him as Job did? Or do we really have a tug of war in our hearts? If we have a tug of war, then you can be sure that the Lord is not Sovereign in our lives. You can be sure that there are other sovereigns, other kings, other priorities. And if that is the case, how can He provide? If someone delivers food to your door and you slam the door in his face, how then can he give you the food?
Planning for Eternity
God's plans for us are not just for tomorrow, or the next week or month, or even the next few years, but for eternity. Everything that happens in our lives -- every choice we face, every testing of our faith, every tribulation -- are a part of God's provision for our eternal future in heaven. Whilst He wishes to enjoy His presence in the short-term He is principally concerned about the long-term, and that is a perspective we must never forget. To us a day may seem a long time, but to the Lord God of Heaven it is but a fraction of a second. One thousand years of our time are as one day to Him! Everything God thinks or does is 265,000 faster, bigger, longer, or anything "-er" than our human activities. Do you rejoice when you have a day in which your soul is overflowing with joy and praise for Him? In heaven, for every day like that, you will get 365,000 more! Think of the time in your life when you felt the greatest love in your heart -- in heaven, it will be 365,000 times greater and last 365,000 longer!
I use this number 365,000 only to represent a large degree. The point is, as your faith in the Lord grows, so He brings heaven that little bit closer to you. He doesn't give it to us all in one go simply because we couldn't handle it -- but He trains up our spirits through the exercise and trial of our faith to receive His light degree by degree until we attain the fullness. This was what Paul meant when he said that we undergo a gradual character change as we put our whole trust in the Lord. But how much we trust is up to us, and if our faith is weak we should not be surprised if our character changes little also. Faith moves mountains -- it certainly transforms the soul.
The Mystique of Happiness
But what of happiness? I think it is true to say that happiness is probably the most commonly used measuring stick we employ to determine whether life is good or bad, fulfilling or unfulfilling. "Happiness" is a strange creature and I want to dwell on it for just a moment for the way we react to happiness will affect the way we live our lives more than we may perhaps realise.
What would it take to make you happy beyond your dreams? Doubtless you could all write your own lists and whilst some things would be similar, others might be entirely different. Some will be entirely right, some entirely wrong, and others hopelessly confused.
A Psychologist's Amazing Discovery
A psychologist in the United States called Denier did a study on the effect that a major life change would have on a person's happiness. Half the people he tested were big lottery winners. The other half suffered sever injuries in bad car accidents.
To his amazement, Denier discovered that a few weeks after these drastic changes both groups were about equally happy and satisfied with their lives. Denier concluded that we "evaluate our lives on the basis of other people in similar circumstances" and feel about the same degree of fulfilment.
Christians, however, have another explanation. If we accept ourselves the way God has made us, if we are grateful for whatever he has given us, and if we trust in His unending goodness, we can experience a joy that does not depend on changing circumstances.
How foolish it is to keep wishing for a stroke of financial good luck, or a sudden change in life's circumstances! Or to live in mortal fear that a calamity will take all our happiness away. Happiness does not come from happenings -- from events. Happiness comes from accepting what God gives us and being content with it.
The poet Edersheim wrote:
True happiness comes from knowing that God is good. Nothing else really matters, because God is the source of all goodness and all happiness anyway -- at least that goodness and happines which is eternal. For myself, I have tasted the world's fleeting happiness and I know it doesn't last. No career, however successful -- no marriage, no matter how deep -- no religion, no matter how enlightened -- can bring eternal happiness, for all these things are of the earth. Eternal happiness, the happiness which we lie down with on our beds each night, and wake up with each morning, can only come through the living God through His Son Jesus Christ. He is the one who provides that which blesses eternally -- who am I to question what God says I need? I may think I know what is best for me today but do I have the eternal perspective? Not unless I have the mind of God, and I cannot have the mind of God unless I absolutely trust Him in all things and accept my lot in life.
I have often dreamed of what I would like to do in life and sometimes I have bregrudged that I have not fulfilled those desires, even justifying myself by saying how God could use me in such situations. But how am I, a finite human being, to know how God can best use me? I cannot! Therefore I have learned simply to trust in Him and await His command. By that standard I live my life now, and on that basis -- and on that basis alone -- I rejoice and praise my Maker.
Success and Tragedy
From a wordly perspective, my own life has been one of success and tragedy -- and doubtless many in the world would say that my life was a total disaster. I know many who think I could have had a successful career as a politician, as a university lecturer, or one of many other possibilities. Some think I should be rich -- one man even prophesied that I would become a millionnaire! But none of these things have happened. Instead I have, by my educational standards, quite a modest job with a low salary, and I am living in a country where I cannot speak my language as I would like to. Indeed, my language is, I think, one of my greatest handicaps.
What Will You Do?
Life has so many possibilities but God has one life mapped out for me. He has one course mapped out for you too. Are you sensitive to what it might be? And are you willing to walk the way He wants you to walk even if it is completely at variance with your own personal plans? Do you have the mind of God?
In our kitchen at home we have a red placard which I used to have in my Oxford home too. It reads:
And perhaps I would add, if my art work was good enough:
The Lord God of Heaven is right here right now, searching your hearts and minds with His inscrutible eye. The Bible says that God has seven eyes, which is a figure of speech which means that He can see into everything and everybody all the time. There are no secrets in heaven even if we may have many down here on earth.
In conclusion, may I recommend a good recipe for happiness and heavenly success in life? It is taken from Paul's letter to the Philippians, and it's this:
Beloved friends in Christ: let us take these words deeply to heart and in humility count others better than ourselves, and remember also that "God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Ibid. v.13).
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. DO NOTHING FROM SELFISHNESS OR CONCEIT, BUT IN HUMILITY COUNT OTHERS BETTER THAN YOURSELVES. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:1-11, RSV).
Let us praise the name of the Lord with overflowing hearts for who we are and for our present circumstances now and I promise you, in His Name, that all things will work our for our eternal happiness both now and in heaven. Amen.
From a sermon given to the Bjørkelangen Mission on 15 December 1991
This page was created on 4 July 1998
Last updated on 4 July 1998
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved