28 January 2006

“What is He doing?”

Les larmes de mathis
Originally uploaded by GwiR.

Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

In isolated conversations this week, I witnessed two different men break. Both of them felt confused and separated from God and, in our conversation, they began to weep. These two are men’s men - strong, faithful and loyal. It takes a big wave to rock either’s boat but this week, both were rocked. Although it is surprising when grown men break and weep, it is more surprising how much theology matters.

Listen to Tozer:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Both men were asking the same question: “What is He doing?” The pain of their circumstances challenged their faith in His goodness. Graciously God used our conversation to refine the question to “What does God want?”

Hope began to stir in both men when they considered a biblical answer to that question. Starting there removed the pool of Narcissus. Their gaze shifted to Him and wisdom developed (Psalm 111:10, Psalm 19:7-9). I believe the question “What is He doing?” really could be translated to “What is He doing to me?” with the emphasis on “me.” Starting here sends us into a hopeless quest into our own poverty. Earnestly, we stare into a reflection and despair.

“What does He want?” is more approachable biblically maybe, initially, because it is less specific. We can know what He wants universally. Unfortunately this tempts us to discount the hopeful potential of the bible because generalities don’t speak to our specifics, but is that really true?

Consider Romans chapter 8:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,* for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be* against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.* 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The real issue is not whether this text can speak to our specific situation. The real issue is our belief. Do we really believe this is true? If so, our circumstances are very hopeful indeed. God is working out all things for our good. He wants us to be happy – in Him. We cannot be truly happy with anything less.

Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

All things are being worked together to make known to us the path of life. We can trust that His Sovereign intentions towards us are tender.

But there’s more.

Psalm 23:1-3
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.*
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness*
for his name’s sake. (emphasis added)

The situation you are despairing about...(yeah that one) IN THAT SITUATION He wants to bring peace, restore your soul and lead you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. First and foremost God is seeking His own glory. We must remember that, because there is more at stake than our “good”, namely His glory, God is also fierce. He makes us lie down in green pastures.

“Rather than solving our problems, [God] more often uses them to unsettle us, to make us less sure of how life works, to provoke us to ask the hard questions we’re terrified to ask, to surface the stubborn doubts and ugly demands that keep us distant from Christ.”
- Larry Crabb

He will use any means necessary to arrest our pursuit of happiness in anything less than Jesus Christ. This is why our salvation should be approached with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13) and yet we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16). In our dependence we reveal the greatness and absolute sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

God is seeking desperate worshippers (John 4:23-24) and this is not vanity. When He receives glory, His children receive something profound: “pleasures forevermore” at His right hand (where Christ is seated; Hebrews 12:2). Peace and happiness exist in Jesus Christ and nowhere else. When He is on display in truth our vacancies are filled in worship.

We need to change “What is He doing?” to “What does He want?” or even “What does He want FOR ME?” He wants to make you happy. Yes...happy – in the only place you can be. Your tears are real but they are part of a journey to happiness.

Psalm 126:3-6
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. 4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. 5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

When the things of this world are proven to be a bowl of bean stew in comparison to Christ (Hebrews 12:12-17), you get what you want (true joy) and God gets what He wants (His glory). What a hope! Our joy and His glory are indeed connected.

How do these “general” truths connect with me today? If I believe these things my energy is no longer spent on evaluating my poverty but in clinging to His sufficiency. Ultimately life and salvation are the means by which God is glorified. My only part is to be a non-innocent bystander, an undeserving benefactor of God’s pursuit of His own glory. Therefore it doesn’t depend on me (Romans 9:14-16). We must stop looking back to decide exactly which sin (out of billions) is holding back God’s blessing (John 9:1-5, Philippians 3:13-15). Your tears are tenderness. God is making you receive Him and Him alone. You have not messed up the plan of God, you are walking in it – look ahead.

Furthermore, praise His tenderness and grace; God does not take our tears lightly (John 11:1-44)

Psalm 56:8
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?

God does not hold His sovereignty as man would. His absolute power has not corrupted absolutely. He is not distant, mean, cold and calculating (Hebrews 2:17). He is making us lie down AND He is weeping with us in our confusion and sorrow.

Theology matters. It mattered to these two men. When they saw that God first wants His glory and then that He is glorified when He becomes our only source of joy, hope prevailed. They saw how God could be working their difficulties for their good. They saw His ferocity, His control and His tenderness and they saw One worthy of worship. Their perspective moved from “inward-poverty-seeking” to “Christ-sufficiency-speaking.” Both men left our meeting as red-eyed reapers carrying songs of joy.

How we view God is the most important thing about us. While it could be argued that His fullness will take an eternity to explore, we must start somewhere and resolve to continue the journey. Start with His sovereign plan for glory and you will discover the absolute purity of His goodness. Start with His goodness (i.e. why hasn’t He been good to me?) and you will find yourself trying to shortcut His sovereignty and, in the end, foreclosing on His perfection. One path leads to worship and joy they other to compromise and confusion.

He wants His glory. He wants our good. He is treating us as sons (Hebrews 12:3-13) to achieve both in us. May we firmly embrace all that is ours in Christ Jesus through tears and through laughter and may this hope be an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:17-20).

1 comment:

  1. Mitch

    Thanks for the clarity. We should just assume that the abundant life in John 10 isn't going to look like we think it will look, or like we want it to look.

    We should also stop reading "Your Best Life Now," and start reading Job.

    As life unravels, let our grip be ever tighter to his hand.