Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Walking in the Sovereignty of God

(Message First Preached November 19, 2006 in Apaxtla Bible Church - in Guerrero México.  Later preached January 7, 2007 at Grace Fellowship Church)
Listen Here: http://youtu.be/1lF6Ae75jOU

Good Morning!  It’s a real privilege for me to be able to be here with you.  Thank you for inviting me to share about Apaxtla, México.  Actually, the privilege to share with you from God’s Holy Word is more exciting than anything else.  His Word is amazing.  There is great comfort and direction to be found in His Word.  That Sunday morning I preached in México it was quite cold, 55-58 degrees!  Since the Church doesn’t have heat or walls it was a surprise to me.  I wanted to give you a feel, if possible, for the way La Iglesia Biblica de Apaxtla (the Apaxtla Bible Church) does church, so if you have a Bible, and are comfortable reading publicly, I will call on a few of you for Bible reading.
 
I remember getting a phone call once.  A good friend of both mine and Jose was calling and he needed advice.  He was teaching Sunday School and had a place in Scripture to teach from, but was unimpressed with the message.  He just couldn’t find anything substantive to share from that passage.  After a few minutes on the phone we both agreed that there was way too much to teach in only one class on this passage.  How did that happen?   I call that God’s Sovereignty at work.  I am no one special.  But by God’s grace he used me in that moment to encourage a brother in the Lord.  I have also seen others encourage myself in the same way.  Walking in God’s Sovereignty removes the burden of Daily living from your shoulders to His.  The story of Job tells us about how God worked in the background of Jobs’ life.  Job was a very wealthy man… Well, why don’t I just let the Scriptures tell the story. 
 
Job 1  There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.[1]
 
      Did you notice the character of Job?  The Scripture is careful to record for us this information.  You need to know that Job was not a sinner.  It is true that there is none righteous, yet Job’s life was not one of habitual sin. Listen to what comes next:
 
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. [2]
 
            Look at the authority which Satan has been given!  Does that frighten you?  It shouldn’t!  It was given by God, and it can be taken by God.  All that Job has is in the hand of our adversary, Satan.  What you should really be considering is this;  God boasted about Job!  Wouldn’t you like to think that the Lord might brag on you!  That you might even be thought of by the Lord!  Does that surprize you?  We like to quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.[3]  but we rarely think that God is up there in the heavens considering us?!  So God gave Satan the authority to do evil to all Job has.  Let’s see how he uses that authority:
 
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” [4]
 
      What tragedy!  Why would God allow this to occur?  This doesn’t seem fair by any standard.  On a feast day of some sort, four independent troubles befall Job.  First the Sabeans attack the Oxen and donkeys. Next the fire of God consumes the sheep.  Next comes the Chaldean raid on the Camels.  Lastly, at the feast itself the house falls and kills everyone!  Here we have a man who was living a righteous life, a life so righteous that even God boasted in him, and God allowed this?!  And what did Job do?
 
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “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.”
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.[5]
 
      The Scriptures record that Job was good in all his responses to all this tragedy.  He worshiped God!  WOW!  How could he do it?!  By trusting in the Lord.  You and I get the inside scoop.   We know what Job did not know.  We know why God allowed this to happen.  And consider this, Job did not let God down!  He could have simply been angry with God, “Why are you doing this to me!  Don’t you love me?”  In a way, someone might say he had every right to question God.  I can tell you that in my own life I have questioned God’s purposes for me many times.  It’s frustrating to have your life interrupted by tragedy, or other unforeseen events.  We want to have control don’t we?  And when our plans are interrupted we get mad. 
      Let me ask you a question.  Why do we want control?  Isn’t it because we think we know what is best?  Isn’t it because we think our plans are right?  Perhaps it is simply that when we try to take control of our lives, we are not yielding them up to God.  To yield our plans to the living God is to acknowledge that we don’t know best.  I am not the best architect of my own life. 
 

What we need to remember is that whatever events occur in our day by day living, God is really involved in all of it.  Right down to the smallest detail.  And our righteous living does not necessarily factor into the events.  We’d all like to believe that if we read the Scriptures, pray, and live by them an honorable life which God would respect, that we’d earn the right to a good life here.  In fact that’s what the world teaches us.  But the life of a Christian is not marked by ease and comfort.  In fact it’s most likely tougher than before.  Our Lord Jesus said, John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.[6]
I’d like to hope that perhaps the Lord Jesus is up there in heaven, boasting in the way his children are living, despite the persecution or troubles we face. 
 
      Let’s continue Job’s story:
 
Job 2  Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  In all this Job did not sin with his lips.[7]
 
      Again, what a tragic event!!!  Here we see again the dialog between God & Satan.  And God takes responsibility for what has happened to Job.  God says to Satan that he incited Him against Job without cause.  So we know for a fact that the tragedies which he faced were not a result of sin, but instead were a result of this heavenly dialog between God & Satan. 
 
            Let’s look at what Satan claims about people.  Is it true?  All that a man has he will give for his life.  What does it mean?  Simply put, that in a life or death situation, a man will do whatever he has to do to survive.  Is that true?  Brothers & Sisters, let me say to you that if you know the Lord, and are known of Him, then this is completely false for you.  Think about it, for a moment.  The Christian knows that the end of his life here, is simply the beginning of life with Him.  So why would anyone who walks with God, fear the death of his body, when it’s his soul that really matters.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[8]
Consider this now.  If you are not a Christian, if you are just a pretender, and you die, it really is the end for you.  There is no hope for you, and then what Satan said is true for you, that is, all that a man has he will give for his life, since this really is all that you have to cling to.  People, we need to get to the place where we are willing, without a struggle to give up our possessions, and our rights, over the a Sovereign God who has our best interests at heart.
 
            Let’s examine Job’s statement, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  I think that this says more about Job, than whatever we might think it says about God.  One way to restate what Job said might be to say, “What does God owe us?”  We have not earned any good he gives us have we?  Actually, except for the grace of God I would have no hope at all!  Let’s now look at the end of Job’s story as the Scriptures tell it:
 
10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.
12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. 15 And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. 16 And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. 17 And Job died, an old man, and full of days. [9]
 
            God gave him back double what he had lost!  Did you keep count?  Twice as many sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys.  What about his children?  He didn’t have twice as many of them did he?  Just 7 sons and 3 daughters?  How do you explain this?  The animals have no value after their death, but people do.  The 7 sons & 3 daughters Job lost were only lost in this life alone.  They, like all of us, have value after this life and will remain eternally in either heaven or hell.  So Job only lost his 1st 10 children in this life, and would be able to see them again afterward.
 
      I noticed something about Job’s story.  He never did know what was going on in heaven between Satan & God.  Brothers & Sisters, it is my belief that God is very much more involved in our lives than we ever think.  It is easy to acknowledge God in the blessing times of our lives.  But we need to begin to Praise God in the difficult times, during the evil events of our lives.
 
            Let us look at another passage.  It refers to what we call the captivity of the nation Israel.  There are many historical and Scriptural references to this event.  Basically God had given the nation a 70 year punishment in captivity to the nation of Babylon because of Israel’s many sins.  The prophet Jeremiah’s ministry was during the 40 or so years prior to this captivity.  Through Jeremiah, the Lord was giving them instructions and encouragement.  The Lord prophesied in Jeremiah 29, 10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.[10]
 
            What does God say of His plans for the nation?  They are for good and not evil.  Yet I am here to tell you that though God’s plans were for good, the things which happened were not good in and of themselves.  Many died during the siege against Jerusalem.  Utterly evil and wicked things were done in Jerusalem at this time.  We have biblical records of mothers boiling their children for food. (see Jer. 19:9 and Lam. 2:20)  Yet God claims that he has plans for hope and for a future!  You see, we need to acknowledge that God is sovereign.  We, like Job, may not see the hand of God in a thing until much later.  Sometimes we will never know, just as Job never knew, why a tragedy occurred in our lives.  It is our trust in a Sovereign God which will deliver us in such a struggle as this.  Paul describes this trust.  In Romans 8:28 we read, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.[11] God, being Sovereign, works in our lives.  He takes the evil, and uses it for His purposes to be for us a good thing.   
 
The captivity of Israel began a time of pagan nations ruling the earth.  Beginning with Babylon, then to the Media, and Persia (modern day Iran), on to Greece, and then Rome.  Let’s examine a passage from Daniel about the ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar who had a dream.  Daniel 4:1, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid… 4:24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will[12] Now look at this testimony from the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar:  4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.
 
      The dream which God gave to Nebuchadnezzar, and which was interpreted for him by Daniel, came true.  God sent the vision.  Then, a year later, he fulfilled it.  What was God’s objection to Nebuchadnezzar’s rule?  It was his pride.  God was offended by his pride.  Listen to the King’s response once he was brought to his senses again:
 
34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
     for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
          and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35      all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
          and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
          and among the inhabitants of the earth;
     and none can stay his hand
          or say to him, “What have you done?”
36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. [13]
 
         To be humiliated in such a way really changed the king.  What was his response?  To praise the most High!  This should be our response to trials!  Consider it pure joy brothers when you fall into various trials, write the apostle James.  Consider this: In light of the Eternal Sovereign God, and His certain Love for you, you can bear the difficulty much easier.  Jesus said,  28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [14]
 
            I want to show you a place in Scripture which will demonstrate faith in God’s Sovereignty.   In the book of Daniel chapter 9 we read, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.[15]  Daniel was a 14 or 15 year old boy when he was taken in captivity.  Now, 70 years have passed and he is 84 or 85 years old and recognizes that the time for the prophesy is complete!  In all the Bible there are many prayers recorded and Daniel 9 is one of the great ones.  Look it up this afternoon.  It will astound you.  Daniel tells us that he perceived in the books the prophesy was complete.  Are you ready to be that trusting of God and His Word?  Daniel was.  We may not have all the answers, but God’s Word is complete, and enough for us.
 
When we remember the Love of God which He demonstrated for us by dying in our place even while we were still sinners, we can also remember that same love is with us today.  We only see through a glass dimly.  What a story will be told to us when in heaven we stand before our King and he shows to us all the ways he was sovereignly in control!  I said in the beginning Walking in God’s Sovereignty removes the burden of Daily living from your shoulders to His.  I hope this encourages you.  Our God is in control and because he loves us we can be assured that whatever we’re going through is part a His Sovereign plan!  A plan which we may, or most likely may never know about, but which will produce for Him, glory!  Praise the Lord!!!



[1]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Job 1:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Job 1:6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[3]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jn 3:16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[4]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Job 1:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[5]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Job 1:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[6]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jn 15:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[7]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Job 2:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[8]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 10:28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[9]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Job 42:10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[10]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Je 29:10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[11]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 8:28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[12]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Da 4:24). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[13]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Da 4:28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[14]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 11:28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[15]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Da 9:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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