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The Christadelphian | January 2016

In the magazine this month:

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Sunday Morning

God’s hand in our lives

Seeing the Lord at work in our lives reassures us that He will be willing to help in the future.

We meet together each week to remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, and reflect on its influence in our lives. This offers us wonderful privileges, such as the blessing of our sins being forgiven, the opportunity to separate ourselves from the world, and the blessings of having our God at work in our lives. This is why we make an effort to join together each week: to think about our God and His Son; to show that we trust in God, and allow Him to work in our lives. That is the case, isn’t it?

I admit to my shame that, in my case, it isn’t. Let me clarify: I do rely on God to heal me spiritually, to forgive my sins when I do wrong. I know and trust that He always does as He says, and I accept the onus for our relationship is on me. But am I being a witness that I rely on Him to guide me? I’d love to say yes; but most of the time this isn’t the case.

For example, if things are going well, God isn’t uppermost in my mind; instead of giving Him the glory (as I should be), I’m reflecting on positive circumstances. Or, if things are not going so well, He still isn’t top of the list. When a new problem occurs, I try and sort it out myself, rather than thank Him for the trials He sends, and asking for guidance. Yet I confess that God is uppermost in my mind when I’ve been unable to solve things. Despite ignoring His guiding hand when things are going well, if I turn to Him for help, He gives His answer every time. I can look back and see countless examples of God at work, but why do I never learn? Why do I rely on Him as a last resort, rather than it being the first thing I do? Why do I find it so difficult to let Him influence every decision I make, or cede control to Him? Nothing is too hard for Him – so why do I insist on trying my own way first, only approaching Him when my own efforts have failed?

However, there are numerous examples in scripture of characters who have the same problem; let us look at some now, to see what we can learn.

Rejecting God

The children of Israel are at the border of the promised land; they have seen the evidence of its fruitfulness, but the ten faithless spies convince the people that they are not strong enough to enter. The people, forgetting God’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt and ongoing sustenance, suggest that they return to Egypt:

“And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.” (Numbers 14:3,4

Joshua and Caleb tried to change the people’s minds, but to no avail. God pronounces His punishment – they were to remain in the wilderness until all who doubted were dead. Faced with this prospect, the people decide to take the land after all. Moses warns that they won’t succeed without God, but they ignore him and go – and pay the price for their faithlessness.

Trusting idols

At the end of Judges, the fledgling nation knew that God’s prophet Samuel was based in Shiloh. Following a recent defeat, they look for another strategy to help them against the Philistines. Unsurprisingly, they go to Shiloh – but not to ask for God’s help:

“And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3)

This was a poor choice. Rather than relying on God, they chose to use the ark of the covenant as an idol. Their words clearly show that they only thought of it as a ‘good luck charm’; and once more they paid the price for their thinking.

Trying our way first

Abraham had great faith and showed a willingness to serve God, but even he found it difficult at the beginning to trust Him completely. The first we learn about Abraham and Sarah is that they cannot have children; yet God promises Abraham descendants without number. Having been given this wonderful promise, Abraham tries to make it come true by himself:

“And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.” (Genesis 15:2,3)

Abraham starts by suggesting that any child born in his household could be his heir. God clarifies this: the heir will be Abraham’s own child. So, Sarah makes a proposition:

“And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her …” (16:2,3)

But Ishmael was not the heir God wanted; Abraham seems exasperated, as he requests of God, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (17:18).

Again God says no, but informs them that the heir would be a child of both Abraham and Sarah, which happens exactly as promised.

Why did they try their own way? From a human point of view, God was promising the impossible; they simply tried to offer more ‘realistic’ solutions, as they saw them.

Trying God’s way (mostly)

There was a famine in the land, and God tells Isaac not to go down to Egypt; he obeys, and ends up in Gerar. Yet Isaac still is not able to trust Him fully, as he implements his own measures when he moves to the city:

“And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.” (Genesis 26:7)

Eventually their real relationship was discovered, and it seems that Isaac needn’t have worried as Abimelech reacted with far more integrity than Isaac had expected. Why did Isaac conceal the truth? It seems to be a lack of communication – rather than ask for clarification, he relied on his own preconceived ideas or prejudice.

Shifting focus

Moses was the faithful leader of the Israelites but was, at the same time, very meek. Yet years of dealing with their grumbling day by day takes its toll. This comes to a head when the people complain about a lack of water and variety in their diet. As expected, God provided for His people:

“And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.” (Numbers 20:9-11)

Driven by frustration and anger, Moses hits the rock, despite being told to speak to it. Unwittingly, he disobeys God with all Israel watching – and God in His righteousness could not allow him to remain unpunished.

Trust in God

Over time, Abraham learned to allow God to work in his life. We now see a different man; one who knows that God always does what He says. God’s test would still have come as a surprise, but it doesn’t seem to faze him: take his promised heir to the land of Moriah, and offer him as a sacrifice. Humanly speaking, this would be baffling; but what a changed man! Now he can look back and see God’s hand at work in his life:

“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.” (Genesis 22:3)

There is no doubt now: Abraham immediately obeys. By this time, he trusts God so much that, even though he can’t see what will happen, he has implicit trust that God will do as He has always said. It shows the importance of past experience; seeing the evidence of God’s hand in the past helps us trust Him in the future.

Relying on God

God uses Gideon – an unremarkable farmer – to effect one of the greatest military victories in the Bible, and uses him to judge Israel for forty years. He reassured Gideon that He will work through him and Gideon allows this, it seems, without question. Gideon gives us a particularly positive example, because he has both a strong spirit of humility and a genuine trust in God right from the beginning. But this account also shows that God understands that we can doubt on occasion, and He allows for it. The account clearly reveals what God is capable of doing with so few resources (humanly speaking).

Joseph also is an excellent example of demonstrating complete trust in God; throughout the lengthy record of his life, he never seems to question the difficulties. From being sold into slavery, through imprisonment, to exaltation to being second in the land, he acknowledges God’s hand always being at work in his life. His willingness to be the instrument to bring about God’s will, and his apparent contentment with this, speaks so much of his character and trust in God.

Lessons for us

How can we use these examples to help us to put our trust in God, to let Him work in our lives, that we might serve Him more fully?

First, we have seen that human nature has not changed; we acknowledge that trust in God isn’t our default setting, but is something we need to strive for each day. We have seen the foolishness of denying that God can help us – whether in big ways or small. We have also seen that we should never rely on false gods or worldly objects rather than the true God! In addition, we have seen the effect that limited awareness of God’s hand can have on us. Instead, we should always remember that God never leaves us – even if we can’t see Him at a particular point. We should never think that we are not important to God, or that He will not help us. We have seen the vital importance of constant communication with our Father, and the positive effect that looking at past examples can have. Reflecting on occasions where God has worked with us in the past helps us trust Him more in the future. Additionally, we have seen the characteristics that we should develop – readiness to trust, humility, being content to allow Him to work with us – all of which help us to be more receptive to Him. Lastly, we can be sure that God has a purpose for us all; we need to allow ourselves to be guided, and make sure we adjust our character to follow as closely as possible to the best example in scripture – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s example

Jesus relied on God for everything; we particularly remember the Lord Jesus turning to his Father when he was contemplating the agony of the crucifixion. We know that his Father responded when it mattered the most; the Lord prayed for help, and his Father sent an angel to strengthen him, enabling him to face the cross and do his Father’s will. We are very grateful that God worked in His Son’s life as He works in our lives; we have the irrefutable evidence of this as we remember our Lord’s sacrifice. Let us not waste this opportunity, or try and do things in our own strength – as this sacrifice shows the power of letting God work in our life.

Mark Norris

 

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