Not To Worry

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 31
Focus: Psalm 31: 5, 15

“Into your hands I commit my spirit…My times are in your hands.”

In God’s hands—that’s a great place to be. David’s belief that God would take care of him through the thick and thin of life gave him the necessary fortitude to make the journey with the kind of sweet spirit and deep faith that earned him the appellation, “a man after God’s own heart.”

Of course, Jesus knew what David knew: That even in the midst of the most horrible, torturous suffering possible, the cross, he was squarely in the competent and caring hand of his Heavenly Father. And at the end of his suffering, when he had completed the task of redemption and satisfied God’s righteous wrath by bearing the full punishment for the sins of mankind, he, too, committed his spirit into God’s hands. (Luke 23:46)

When you truly understand that you are always within the sovereign and loving Father’s competent care, like Jesus and David, you can lay your worries down and rest in peace. Just knowing that nothing will touch you that doesn’t first pass through his hands provides a sense of peace and security that most people never dream possible. Knowing that all the days of your life, from beginning to end, have already been laid out in God’s mind births a rare and priceless confidence that overcomes all of life’s fears—even the fear of death that is at the bottom of most of the neurosis that plagues the godless.

In another psalm, Psalm 139:16, David wrote,

All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Knowing that God has completely planned out your life from beginning to end, that he is watching over each detail and every circumstance of your existence with great love and care, that you will not die a day sooner nor live a day longer than what he has foreordained, and that he will fulfill every good purpose in you, ought to give you the kind of confidence and courage to live your one and only life to the fullest and to the glory of God.

__________________

“Oh, that I may learn my utter helplessness without Thee, and so by deep humiliation be qualified for greater usefulness.” (Henry Martyn)

 

Making Life Work: What is the safest place in this crazy, unpredictable world? In God’s hands! Why not commit, or recommit, your spirit into his hands. Once you’ve placed your life squarely in those Better Hands, you can truly enjoy the passing of time!

Can God Do That?

Reflect:
Exodus 7:3-4

“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.” ~Exodus 7:3-4

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last instance in the Bible that doesn’t fit neatly within our theological box. That God would harden Pharaoh’s heart messes with our sophisticated sensibilities about God, namely that he is a safe, kind, benevolent and loving Deity who would never raise someone up just to throw them down.

What are we to do with this difficult part of the Bible? It would be so much easier to deal with if it just appeared once, a vague Scriptural anomaly, but it doesn’t. Not just once and then swept under the rug, this statement about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart appears ten times here in Exodus and yet again in Romans 9:16-18? Obviously, the Bible doesn’t try to hide this just because it is difficult to explain or because it makes us uncomfortable. No, it is unavoidably here for us to grapple with.

On the one hand, there are some that would have it that God was simply responding to what was already in Pharaoh’s heart, thus relieving God of any responsibility in the matter of hardening the king’s heart in order to justify destroying him. On the other hand, there are those who would quite bluntly declare that God created Pharaoh exactly for the express purpose of destroying him in order to bring glory to himself.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between.  The fact is, God does involve himself in the details of man’s affairs in order to bring about his sovereign plan, and he is well within his unimpeachable righteousness to align those who are his enemies for utter judgment so that his great power might be displayed in all the earth. Pharaoh is Example A of this. Yet at the same time, we must note that Pharaoh was duly warned that his stubborn refusal to obey God would result in judgment. (Exodus 4:23) We also find that the hardening God brought about in Pharaoh’s heart was, interestingly, matched by Pharaoh hardening his own heart: Ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20, 27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17) and ten times Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15).

Ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and ten times Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.

What does that tell us?  Simply that God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.

Does that make this uncomfortable piece of Scripture any easier to swallow?  No—and yes. No, it will always shake that comforting image of a loving, safe God.  Yes, we can lean into the track record of God’s loving omniscience and righteous omnipotence, and along with the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:33-36, declare with utter certainty in the face of mysterious passages like this,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Yes indeed, glory to God forever.  Soli Deo Gloria!

“Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent.” ~J.I. Packer

Reflect and Apply: Jonathan Edwards, considered to be America’s greatest theologian, wrote, “In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.” Reflect on that statement; then ask yourself, “How am I doing in my part?”

Useful Idiots

Reflect:
Genesis 45:5, NLT

“Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.”

Useful idiots!  With all due respect, that’s what I would call Joseph’s brothers.

Twenty-two years after they had sold him into slavery, the brothers are now standing before Joseph, and they don’t even recognize him. They have been blinded by two decades of thinking he had long since died, their perspective jaded by the haunting fear, guilt and shame of what they had done. (Genesis 44:16) Finally, as Joseph’s identity is revealed, the brothers expect him to exact revenge, make them pay dearly, and do to them what they had done to him.

But Joseph was cut from a different cloth than these lousy brothers. His submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain they had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. Joseph recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

In all of life’s circumstances, big and small, good and bad, God is inexorably bringing the currents of your personal history to a providential conclusion.

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God is revealed three times as he discloses himself to his brothers with words to this effect: “Don’t beat yourself up; it was God, not you, who sent me here. You had a plan and God had a plan, and God’s plan trumped yours.  You were simply unwitting but useful instruments in his hands.” (Genesis 45:5,7,8). Joseph’s brothers might have been idiots for selling him into slavery twenty-two years before, but they were useful idiots in the hands of the Providential Ruler of all mankind.

The bottom line to Joseph’s story is that God is in control. He turns what is meant for evil to our good, extracts glory for himself even in the most impossible circumstances, and no matter what, always, always, always fulfills his sovereign purposes. His is in control!  He is the Sovereign God of the universe, the Providential Ruler over the affairs, big and small, of all mankind, the Incomparable One who works all things for his glory.

God turns what is meant for evil to your good, extracts glory for himself even in the most impossible circumstances, and no matter what, always, always, always fulfills his sovereign purposes. His is in control!

And here’s the kicker: He works all things not only for his own glory—but for your good! That’s right—for your good. Now why would the Sovereign, Providential, Incomparable One bother with little old you? Simply because you’ve surrendered your life to him; and when you did that, you, perhaps even unwittingly, signed up to be on his sovereign plan.

So here’s the deal: If you have a few idiots making your life difficult, just remember, in God’s hands they are useful idiots.

Prayer… Sovereign Lord, today I express my trust that you will use what was hurtful to me for your glory and my good. I will refuse to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to take root in my spirit. Rather, by faith I will choose to see you actively at work in me.

Can God Do That?

Essential 100—Read:

Exodus 6:28-30, 7:1-11:10

“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.” ~Exodus 7:3-4

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last instance in the Bible that doesn’t fit neatly within our theological box. That God would harden Pharaoh’s heart messes with our sophisticated sensibilities about God, namely that he is a safe, kind, benevolent and loving Deity who would never raise someone up just to throw them down.

What are we to do with this difficult part of the Bible? It would be so much easier to deal with if it just appeared once, a vague Scriptural anomaly, but it doesn’t. Not just once and then swept under the rug, this statement about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart appears ten times here in Exodus and yet again in Romans 9:16-18? Obviously, the Bible doesn’t try to hide this just because it is difficult to explain or because it makes us uncomfortable. No, it is unavoidably here for us to grapple with.

On the one hand, there are some that would have it that God was simply responding to what was already in Pharaoh’s heart, thus relieving God of any responsibility in the matter of hardening the king’s heart in order to justify destroying him. On the other hand, there are those who would quite bluntly declare that God created Pharaoh exactly for the express purpose of destroying him in order to bring glory to himself.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between.  The fact is, God does involve himself in the details of man’s affairs in order to bring about his sovereign plan, and he is well within his unimpeachable righteousness to align those who are his enemies for utter judgment so that his great power might be displayed in all the earth. Pharaoh is Example A of this. Yet at the same time, we must note that Pharaoh was duly warned that his stubborn refusal to obey God would result in judgment. (Exodus 4:23) We also find that the hardening God brought about in Pharaoh’s heart was, interestingly, matched by Pharaoh hardening his own heart: Ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20, 27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17) and ten times Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15).

What does that tell us?  Simply that God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.

Does that make this uncomfortable piece of Scripture any easier to swallow?  No—and yes. No, it will always shake that comforting image of a loving, safe God.  Yes, we can lean into the track record of God’s loving omniscience and righteous omnipotence, and along with the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:33-36, declare with utter certainty in the face of mysterious passages like this,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Yes indeed, glory to God forever.  Soli Deo Gloria!

“Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent.” ~J.I. Packer

Reflect and Apply: Jonathan Edwards, considered to be America’s greatest theologian, wrote, “In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.” Reflect on that statement; then ask yourself, “How am I doing in my part?”

Useful Idiots

Essential 100—Read:
Genesis 45:1-46:7

“Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.” ~Genesis 45:5 (NLT)

Useful idiots! With all due respect, that’s what I would call Joseph’s brothers.

Twenty-two years after they had sold him into slavery, the brothers are now standing before Joseph, and they don’t even recognize him. They have been blinded by two decades of thinking he had long since died, their perspective jaded by the haunting fear, guilt and shame of what they had done. (Genesis 44:16) Finally, it is time for the big reveal, and the expected reaction would be that he would now exact revenge, make them pay dearly, and do to them what they had done to him.

But Joseph was cut from a different cloth than these lousy brothers. His submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain they had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. Joseph recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God is revealed three times as he discloses himself to his brothers with words to this effect: “Don’t beat yourself up; it was God, not you, who sent me here. You had a plan and God had a plan, and God’s plan trumped yours. You were simply unwitting but useful instruments in his hands.” (Genesis 45:5,7,8). Joseph’s brothers might have been idiots for selling him into slavery twenty-two years before, but they were useful idiots in the hands of the Providential Ruler of all mankind.

The bottom line to Joseph’s story is that God is in control. He turns what is meant for evil to our good, extracts glory for himself even in the most impossible circumstances, and no matter what, always, always, always fulfills his sovereign purposes. His is in control! He is the Sovereign God of the universe, the Providential Ruler over the affairs, big and small, of all mankind, the Incomparable One who works all things for his glory.

And here’s the kicker: He works all things not only for his own glory—but for your good! That’s right—for your good. Now why would the Sovereign, Providential, Incomparable One bother with little old you? Simply because you’ve surrendered your life to him; and when you did that, you, perhaps even unwittingly, signed up to be on his sovereign plan.

So here’s the deal: If you have a few idiots making your life difficult, just remember, in God’s hands they are useful idiots.

Reflect and Apply: Perhaps, like Joseph, people close to you have deeply hurt you. To trust that God will use what was hurtful for his glory and your good may be the hardest thing in the world for you to do right now—but do it anyway. To grow bitter and withhold forgiveness is not only to discount the Sovereignty of God, it is to actively work against it—and that is always bad for you. As Anne Lamont says, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” So don’t be a rat.

The Shadow of Death

Read: John 19

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11, NLT)

There is nothing in this world that happens apart from God’s sovereign knowledge and by his sovereign permission.

Jesus understood that as he stood before Pilate, who nervously tried to impress upon our Lord that he held the power to either crucify him or free him: “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” (John 19:10, NLT) That is when Jesus, who, up to this point, had held his peace, looked Pilate directly in the eye and informed him in no uncertain terms that even though he might be a high officer of the Roman court, he held no such power—only God did.

In the awful light of what Jesus had been through, and what he knew he was about to go through, what an amazing statement of not only understanding the sovereign will of God, but of complete trust and submission to it.  That was the reason Jesus could so calmly and resolutely traverse the terrible way of the cross.  And that is the reason you can walk through the difficulties of your life as well—even if your path takes you through the valley of the shadow of death. As King David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, KJV)

You can know what King David knew that our Lord knew: Because of God’s sovereign control over all the affairs of this universe, and because of his immeasurable love for you, this world is a perfectly safe place for you—even if you are standing before your cross.

Before you begin this day, take a moment to read the Shepherd’s Psalm printed below.  In fact, you may want to read it every day this week before you head off into the busyness and challenges of your world:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

“Much that worries us beforehand can afterwards, quite unexpectedly, have a happy and simple solution…Things really are in a better hand than ours.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What If God Took Over?

Memorize Psalm 23 from your favorite version of the Bible, and pray it each day this week.

 

 

Psalm 31: Not To Worry

Read Psalm 31

Not To Worry

“Into your hands I commit my spirit…My times are in your hands.”
Psalm 31:5,15 NIV

In God’s hands—that’s a great place to be. David’s belief that God would take care of him through the thick and thin of life gave him the necessary fortitude to make the journey with the kind of sweet spirit and deep faith that earned him the appellation, “a man after God’s own heart.”

Of course, Jesus knew what David knew: That even in the midst of the most horrible, torturous suffering possible, the cross, he was squarely in the competent and caring hand of his Heavenly Father. And at the end of his suffering, when he had completed the task of redemption and satisfied God’s righteous wrath by bearing the full punishment for the sins of mankind, he, too, committed his spirit into God’s hands. (Luke 23:46)

When you truly understand that you are always within the sovereign and loving Father’s competent care, like Jesus and David, you can lay your worries down and rest in peace. Just knowing that nothing will touch you that doesn’t first pass through his hands provides a sense of peace and security that most people never dream possible. Knowing that all the days of your life, from beginning to end, have already been laid out in God’s mind births a rare and priceless confidence that overcomes all of life’s fears—even the fear of death that is at the bottom of most of the neurosis that plagues the godless.

In another psalm, Psalm 139:16, David wrote,

All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Knowing that God has completely planned out your life from beginning to end, that he is watching over each detail and every circumstance of your existence with great love and care, that you will not die a day sooner nor live a day longer than what he has foreordained, and that he will fulfill every good purpose in you, ought to give you the kind of confidence and courage to live your one and only life to the fullest and to the glory of God.

Yes, you can commit your spirit into his hands. That is the best place to be!

“Oh, that I may learn my utter helplessness without Thee,
and so by deep humiliation be qualified for greater usefulness.”

—Henry Martyn