Fate or Faith
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God’s Present Will
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
The study today is about God and the present — God’s will and the present, the things that are happening to us today not just the past. But it was Matthew 16 and it was when Peter started to talk about the things that were going to happen in the future to Jesus and Jesus said in Matthew 16:21-23, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of Gob, but of men.’”
And Peter obviously was saying to Jesus, “Now, the circumstances that you’re describing are hard. Now have pity on yourself, pity yourself. Those things are too hard to happen to you.” And it’s maybe good just in passing to remind ourselves that every time you find that kind of “poor me” coming up inside you that’s the carnal mind. You need to be just plain about it. Every time you’re kind of saying, “Oh, the things that are happening they’re necessary but they’re hard.” Every time you find yourself saying that, that’s the carnal mind rising up. So it’s Satan really just disguised trying to get you to pity yourself. That’s why Oswald Chambers said, “Self pity is the greatest sin.” Because, it’s looking upon yourself and it’s being sorry for what’s happening to you.
But you remember the other side of Peter’s comment was, “This would be a second best, Lord. If this were to happen to you this would be a second best.” You know there’s something inside us that rises up to and thinks well, “I mean, obviously it wasn’t quite a second best. It was necessary for Jesus to die, he said that himself, it certainly was necessary for him to go to the cross, but if the Romans had not been so antagonistic, if Judas had not betrayed him, if Pilate had not taken the attitude that he had, if the people had supported him, if, if, if, if.” And deep deep down there’s something inside us that says, “Really, if God had had his way this would not have happened. But given man’s actions this was the best that God could do under the circumstances. Obviously, God would do nothing to bring anybody pain, least of all his son.”
And that’s where it’s vital for us to take seriously a verse that scholars have done their best to get rid of out of the Bible. It’s Isaiah 53:10 and it’s one we looked at but I think it’s just good to remind ourselves of some of the things that God showed us last Sunday. Isaiah 53:10, and it’s not, of course, popular today when everyone wants to talk about prosperity and happiness but it’s a real part of what God is doing. Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief.”
It’s vital to see that God was the one that allowed Jesus to go to Calvary and it’s vital to see that there are millions of seeds scattered all over the world but only a few bloom. It’s important to see that there is pain in God’s world and that he has allowed pain and that there are many things that happen in our life that are God’s best for us but we see them as painful so we think they’re second best.
But God has often had to allow pain to come and that’s why Psalm 139:16 is so important. Psalm 139:16, “Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me.” You know it’s important to see what that means. “In thy book were
written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” So what the Psalmist is saying is before I was even born the days that were formed for me were written in your book, every one of them. In other words, God says everything that has happened in your life and he said, “Behold it is very good.”
And so we said last Sunday there’s no room for regrets, no room for thinking, “Well, my life is alright but if it had gone the way I know God intended it to do and if I had married the person God had meant me to marry, if I had done at university what I should have done, if I had done this, or this person had not done that, or the other person had not said this to me, or this person had not made that decision then it would have been different. But, I am left with this life which is the one God has worked out, it is the second best.” Not so. There are no might have beens.
What we said last Sunday was God saw it all. God worked it all together and he planned everything and the way you have come was the way you had to come and the way we have come as a body is the way we had to come. It was absolutely necessary that everything that has happened in our life happened. Of course the wonderful thing is that God manages that in accordance with our free wills. I mean, even the Cray computer cannot calculate that but God himself is able to.
So, the life that we have lived has been God’s will and we can rejoice in it. And only then when you’re ready for that, when that great relief comes to you, a great sigh of peace and relief, “Ah, so where I am today is where God intended me to be from the very beginning of my life. I’m not here by chance. I haven’t happened here by my own mistakes. This is God. Oh, that’s great.”
A great peace comes to your heart deep, deep down inside. You sink down and rest and you’re at last ready to go forward in faith. So, forward you go, you step out with peace and faith. But somebody cuts in front of you in the traffic, somebody promised to take your clothes out of the dryer and they forgot. Somebody promised that they would go out with you this weekend and they haven’t done it. Somebody has messed up yet again in something that you were depending upon them to do and before you know it, the peace is gone, you’ve lost your position of faith, and you’re back really where you started even with the past because then your faith goes for everything.
When you give up your faith I don’t know if you ever realize that but if you give up your faith for one thing you actually give it up for everything. It affects everything because your faith is in the person of God and when you stop trusting him for one thing it affects everything else. So, suddenly, you’re back in the same position. It seems you’ve just put your hand in Jesus’ hand for the past and you’ve said, “Lord, I know you were with me all through the past and you’re just about to walk forward and suddenly life with all its horrible second bests slaps you right in the face.” The miserable circumstances that are suddenly surrounding you, pressing upon you, and again, you suddenly find that imperfect man, all these other human beings, all these other circumstances, are beginning to affect your life.
So, you think to yourself, “If only men would act right. If they would only do what God plans for them to do then things would be right in my life. But here I am alright, my past is God’s will, but here I am back in this miserable present with this guy making this mistake, with this girl doing this thing against me, with this person promising to do that, with this person saying this thing to me. I mean, here it is again, I’m faced with a whole lot of second best.”
Of course it’s not long before all your peace is gone and you’re back there trying to make sense of it yourself. Not so, not so. Not a mistake. Not one thing, not one word will come to you today but
God has sent it on its way. Not man, not that dumb-dumb that made that error, not that unkind thoughtless person that did that thing, not this other person that promised to do this for you and hasn’t done it. Not this person that cuts across or is unfeeling towards you or insensitive. None of those come except through God’s kindly permission and governing.
Here’s the truth, it’s in Galatians 6:14, because you might think, “What a cruel God that he does that kind of thing to me.” But Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Greek word for world is “kosmos.” It means not the physical earth alone. It means the whole world system of attitudes and actions that Satan generates through other people to try and spoil God’s will for your life. It’s that whole network of satanic power, and circumstances, and events that move to try to destroy your life and try to prevent God’s will being done in it.
All of those, those attitudes of other people towards you, those things that people are doing that make your life inconvenient or difficult, all those things have been crucified with Christ. They have been neutralized; they have been destroyed as far as their power to affect your life is concerned. There’s another way that the Father has put it in 2 Corinthians 5:19, kind of a financial way for those of us who are involved in accounting in our businesses. 2 Corinthians 5:19, “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” We usually interpret it as bringing it back into peace with himself but of course it’s the same as reconciling your bank account where you go through the statement from the bank and you go through your check stubs and you reconcile either or both of them with reality. That’s what God did in Jesus.
He foresaw all that would happen to you and to me and he put it into his son Jesus and he destroyed it there and he reconciled it completely with his own plan for your life. The whole thing is reconciled. No, you don’t need to do it; you don’t need to wish that that person hadn’t done this to you. You don’t need to wish that this circumstance had not occurred. You don’t need to wish that this thing had not happened do you. You don’t, all that was taken into consideration on Calvary. There is no attitude that people have towards you that God has not already taken into account and passed through his destructive wrath in Jesus on Calvary.
So there is nothing in this present life that can adversely affect God’s plan for you. That’s why he says that in Romans 8:28 and it’s good to look at it even though we know it by heart. Romans 8:28, because it’s so all inclusive you’ll see. Romans 8:28, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Or the King James translation is, “That all things work together for good to them that love God.” That means everything.
Where Satan gets in on us and discourages us is — somebody does something stupid, or somebody does something that is absolutely ridiculous, or some event occurs that convinces you it’s utterly chance and you think, “Well everything, except that it can’t be that.” But that’s why God made a point of saying, “Everything, everything that comes into our life today is already known by God and has already been passed through his wrath on Calvary and is already right for his plan for our lives. There is no reason to resent that.” You know that’s where we get into the business of being God. We have an idea of how our life should go today and we are absolutely clear what things cannot come into our life today and be in God’s will and then one of those things comes in.
The reason for our problem is we’re not trusting God for each event that he wants to take place. We’re trusting our own judgment of what should take place if today is to be a day under God’s will.
And the truth is the Father’s will and mind are far beyond ours. His thoughts are far beyond our thoughts and he can work in anything. It appears to us to be anything; it’s not really anything it’s all carefully under his control. He foresaw it all and he organized it all but our little miniature minds are bewildered at this event that comes in and we forget for a moment that our great Father is an infinite mind and everything has been filtered through his fingers.
So what attitude do we take? Some people would say, “Yeah, that’s right, ‘que sera, sera.’ Whatever will be, will be.” Really, we Christians are in the same position as the Buddhist and the Hindus. We just resign ourselves to fate because whatever happens is the will of Allah. Is that the attitude we take? No, no. First of all, a glorious, joyful thanksgiving about everything that happens, no resignation, no kind of bowing down to fate. A glorious thanksgiving for everything that happens — the flat on the freeway — a glorious thanksgiving, “Father, thank you. Thank you. I give thanksgiving in all circumstances because this is the will of God for me in Christ Jesus. Thank you Lord. Thank you that you have allowed this to occur not stupidly. You know we’re not stupid people, but thank you Father that this is from you. Thank you that it’s not from Satan. Thank you that it’s not chance. Thank you Father that you saw this, you know this, you knew it would come. Thank you, Father, that this is a gift from your hand. There’s something in this for Jesus in me. Father, thank you.”
First of all a joyful thanksgiving that this is God’s perfect will for you. Secondly, a thanksgiving that the sting of death has been removed from that event. That the power of that event, or that circumstance, or that person to prevent God’s will being done in your life has been removed on Calvary. So, that you can catch a disease, that disease means something entirely different to you to what it means to Satan. Satan intends evil for you but God has already passed that through Calvary and intends it for your good.
I know that’s hard but every one of us has had difficulties of all kinds. That has been God’s kindly gracious will for us. God has allowed that to come to us right from his own hand. So secondly, give God thanks that this thing has had the sting of death removed from it, that it cannot affect you adversely. That’s where we get caught up because the person forgets to set out the apples, or the other person drops a box, or somebody else forgets to pay the bill and you – Satan gets in and says, “This will happen, this will happen, this will happen. Here’s the normal run, you get this disease, this will happen, this will happen, this will happen.” God broke that chain on Calvary. That chain can come up right to death and God can break it there. It’s up to God to choose where he breaks it.
But the normal consequences that follow the events that take place in this world do not follow when you recognize what God has done in Christ on Calvary. So we do not look at a spear coming towards us and say, “It’s going to kill me.” We look at a spear coming towards us and say, “It’s going to accomplish what God wants it to accomplish and he will stop it whenever it has accomplished that.” So give thanks that God has taken the sting out of that circumstance.
Thirdly, take appropriate action because that’s where we get a little deceived. We think, “Oh well, I’ve got to give thanks for anything that comes and I’ve got to thank God that the sting has been taken out of it. That’s all I can do. Okay.”
For a leader it’s a hopeless situation. Somebody does something wrong, rams a car into a wall and you just give thanks and thank God that he has somehow taken the sting out of it. No, speak appropriately to the person; take the appropriate action — appropriate in the situation that you’re
now facing. The situation is that God has already protected you. You’re not going to be destroyed; it’s not going to affect your life adversely so you don’t speak out of a concern for your own self. You don’t speak because they’re making life hard for you. You don’t speak because, “Oh, God could have had his way in my life if this hadn’t happened.” You don’t speak from a selfish kind of motive, you speak from peace. You speak only for one reason, because God wants to say something to that person.
That’s how a man like Paul was able to deliver that person. He said to Satan, “We assume that it meant excluding him from the fellowship of the church so that his flesh might be purified.” That’s how it’s possible to speak in peaceful discipline without the anxiety, without the irritation that comes because you think somebody’s hurting you. But no, take action. Take action not on behalf of self but on behalf of God for their good not for your own safety and happiness, but for their good.
God has seen everything that is going to happen to you this week, everything. He’s seen it all. There are no bulls can rush in and destroy your China shop. God has taken care of them all. If he allows a cup or a saucer to be knocked over he already knows about that, he has it planned. All of them are under God’s control and they’ll do no damage. Everything in your life has been carefully planned in miraculous consistency with your own free will. That’s what he says, “God works all things according to the council of his will.” It’s Ephesians 2:10, “Created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
That means not only in regard to your past but in regard to your present, in regard to today and that’s Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” He works everything according to that will. God has prepared the works beforehand that we should walk in them and we are his workmanship and he is working on us every day. So it matters not what happens, you see it doesn’t matter what happens. There is no place for losing your peace and your faith over the things that happen in the present. All of them are under God’s control.
It’s what dear Hudson Taylor said, “With God there are no second causes. There are no irritating busybodies.” It’s not them. God knew that they would be there; he could have kept them from you. He allowed them to come to you because he has something of Jesus to work in you through them.
So everything comes back to the only thing that can spoil God’s plan for you and that is your fear that God is not in control. Your fear that perhaps this is Satan, perhaps this is man. This is man doing something to me. That’s the only thing that can do you harm because then that throws you out of faith in God and into faith yourself and you’re back there struggling manfully against this world. But the place of safety is give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
So I’d ask you, especially I’m sure we’re all the same, I’m sure you felt that response within you at times and you think of it today, or you think of it this week and you start off valiantly into the week, “Yes, I believe my past has all been under God’s will – and I thank you, Lord, that I’m here by your appointment.” Then somebody does something that spoils it. Don’t throw away faith at that moment. Immediately give thanks to God that, “This has come not because of this person, you can see why this person causes it but it does not come because of this person, this is from you, Lord. Thank you. And then thank you, Father, that even though this in human terms would adversely affect my life, I know you have removed the sting of it in Calvary. So, thank you, Father, thank
you for that.” And then of course take the appropriate action, lift the box of apples up and put them back on the shelf.
Let us pray.
Dear Father, we do thank you that you have not sent us here to find our own way. You have not sent us here to do the best we can. You have not sent us here to meet difficulties and unforeseen circumstances, and unplanned events with a little help from you. Lord, you have sent us here to a planned journey, to a tour in this world that you have carefully worked out. You have already made the crooked things straight. You’ve already made the rough places plain, any roughness that is left, any crookedness that is left you have purposely left. You know when we come to that corner, and you know that there’s no danger, no danger at all.
Oh Father, we would lift our eyes from the things we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears. We would lift our eyes up to you and begin to look past the immediate events, past all the contingent circumstances, and we would see you smiling down at us with peace in your eyes. Father, we would trust you, we would give you thanks and we would refuse to become anxious, or irritated by things. We would refuse to panic. We would refuse our Father, to allow anything to affect the peace that you have given us.
Father, thank you. We give you thanks in all circumstances that we know this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.
And now the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and evermore. Amen.