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What If . . . ?

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Pastor Robin Fish

9th Sunday after Trinity
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

view DOC file

Sun, Aug 9, 2009
10th S. a. Pentecost

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, "Blessed art Thou, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  Thine, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O LORD, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all.  Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone.  Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name."

What If . . . ?

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

They are called "the commonplaces of life".  They happen to everybody.  Just when you think you have everything working smoothly, something breaks.  Just when you have your budget worked out, and it looks like you might have a little extra, something needs replacing, or repairing, or a surprise bill comes along and your budget is shot again.  Just when everything looks right, something goes wrong.  It is so common we even have a name for the thing; it is called "Murphy̓s Law".

Of course, that is the principle that things seem to go wrong at just the worst time.  It is not just applicable to the minor things of life.  Most of us can say "what if . . .?" about a number of things in life.  "What if I had gone left instead of right, I might have been rich (or some other imagined good)."  "What if I had asked that "other girl" out, perhaps I would have married her instead."  I know, for example that if I had waited for the scholarship I had applied for in college - which finally did come through, I would have never been drafted.  Perhaps you ask this question about some of the things that happen that you feel are sure are just not right -- sickness, the loss of a loved one, or some tremendously unhappy circumstances.  They all invite us to question why our lives are the way they are.  Perhaps we feel almost certain that something else was destined for us, or at least that we deserve something better, and we messed it up or missed out.  Anyone can ask the question, "What if . . .?" And so, that is our theme this morning, "What if . . .?"

Our lives are often different than we have planned and hoped.  Literature is full of observations about this fact of the human condition.  Poet Robert Burns, for example, penned this line in 1785 in his poem, "To a Mouse, on Turning Up Her Nest, with a Plough";"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  (Literally, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley") But the problem isn̓t really Murphy's Law, or bad timing necessarily.  The problem is sin.  Sin is what spoils our world for us.  Sin is why we have misfortune and failure. 

And it isn't any specific sin, necessarily.  Oh, sure sometimes we can "connect the dots" - we can see a direct relationship between certain sins and certain misfortunes.  So-called social diseases come from social sins, like adultery or homosexuality.  Disintegration of our lives and our resources can clearly arise from alcohol and drug abuse.  Cruelty and vicious gossip can affect our standing in the respect of other people.  We can, and often do, build our own troubles and heartaches.  Nevertheless, oftentimes we cannot draw a straight line from a certain sin to our immediate misfortune.  Our troubles often come not as the result of a specific sin, but as a consequence of the condition called "sin".

For the child of God, however, our text suggests that nothing in our lives is ever truly wrong - in the sense of being out of order, or that things are gone awry.  That is the confession of our faith, and that is the clear consequence of the words of our text, this morning.  Everything is just as it should be, and we need not ask, as a faithful child of God, What if . . .?

In our text, King David is praising God for success.  He is an old man here, and Israel has had a great gathering of resources for the building of the temple, which Solomon is going to do.  Everything is just right, at this moment in the text, and David waxes eloquent in his praise of God.  Such words are easy to come by in such circumstances, but these words are true in good times and in bad times - or they are false in every situation.  Therefore the words of David, which show us how to praise God, also apply even in those times in our lives when nothing seems to us to be right or good. 

Consider the words of David: "Thine is the dominion, O LORD, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all.  Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone. "

What if this is true?

You say, "Of course it is true, pastor.  It is from the Word of God." But then what does it mean, if it is true? 

If means that your life is what God has given you.  It is what He would have it to be right now - even when you think that this part or that part is wrong, or stinks!

You might want to say, "But Pastor, how can that be?  How can my poverty, my sorrow, my sickness be the way things ought to be, the way God wants it to be?" And the answer, the part of the answer that God wants us to have, is in our text.  God is in control of all things.  He has the power to establish the specific conditions of our life.  What if this is all true?  Then we trust in Him, that is, we must recognize that all is from His hand, and that what we suffer through is from God just as well as the things that we enjoy.  It might just be - and often is for sure - that there is more accomplished by our bearing up patiently for God and carrying the cross He has appointed than there is by enjoying the abundance and sweetness of the good things of this world.  That is not to say that we will find this "bearing up" pleasant to do, but it is to say that God can and God will do good through it.

Now, please understand; nothing I am saying is intended to suggest that you cannot work at improving or changing your lot.  Sometimes you are put in circumstances for the purpose that you will fight against them, and overcome them, and triumph - but the fact that you find yourself in such circumstances to begin with is from the hand of God - not by accident or luck, by "fate" or by "fortune".  God gives you the circumstances of your life to live in, and sometimes to struggle against and perhaps overcome.

The wife or husband that is troublesome and difficult may be the cross which God has given us to bear.  If you have a troubled marriage, those words are not always easy to hear - or necessarily a welcome message.  The friend, the parent, or the spouse who requires our help and service, many times too often for our comfort, is the holy work which God has given us to do.  While they consume our time and our energy and our resources, and the work doesn't necessarily feel "holy" - it is, for it is from God.  The catastrophic illness we face, the cancer, the failing heart, or whatever, is the condition which God has permitted or has imposed for our discipline and, ultimately, for our confession of Him.

The early Christians were a poor and socially disadvantaged lot.  There were not many of fame or wealth among them.  As a group, they faced discrimination of a sort alien to the experience of most Americans today.  While they often endured the least desirable of circumstances, from our perspective, they were the most powerful evangelistic force in the history of the Church.  They were good to their friends.  They were good to their neighbors.  They were even good to their enemies.  And they loved one another with a love that was clearly visible to others and almost tangible.  One of their greatest critics in the generation following the Apostles, a man who spewed venom toward Christians and circulated vicious lies about them, nevertheless had to pause - and marvel, "See how those Christians love one another."

What the unbelieving people of the world could not see, but what made these "Christians" different from the world around them was that their lives had been shaped by God.  Jesus had promised the hostility of the world and the hardships to be borne for the sake of being the disciple of Christ, so they were not surprised when it happened.  They did not enjoy pain any more than we do -- they just believed that God was with them to bless them and keep them, and that this world was not their primary concern, and that getting the 'gusto' out of this life was not what Christians were about.  They looked forward to something better, and they faithfully endured the trials of their lives because they believed - quite rightly - that God had placed them where they were and had given them the conditions of their lives, because the conditions of life are His to give, just as 1 Chronicles says, "Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone."

The when and the where and the how of our lives are the circumstances and the conditions and the opportunities God would have us use to serve Him and out of which we are to build what He would have us build and to do what He would have is do.  And it should be a comfort to the believer to know that he or she is not out of the sight of God or forgotten by God, not even in their distress, but that God is establishing the conditions of their lives and watching over them in love.

How do I know this?  I look at the cross.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Who would you imagine should have a better claim on Gods good will and blessing?  Yet He lived in poverty and died in agony.  Was it fun?  I suspect it is no more fun than any of our own troubles and pains.  It was real.  Jesus did it anyhow, and God made it all happen.  Scriptures tell us about how Jesus led the way to Jerusalem, steadily approaching the passion and death that He knew, and that taught His disciples, was awaiting Him there for Him.  God had a plan to save us, and it involved the grisly suffering and death of His own Son on a cross for us and for our sins.  Your sins are forgiven!

For Christ's sake, God counts us forgiven and gives us eternal life - a gift that is received by simply knowing it, and accepting the truth of it, and trusting God for it.  -- We call that combination "Faith."  The fact that God would do such a thing for our benefit demonstrates what He proclaims to us time and again - that He loves us.  He loves us to death -- and into resurrection and eternal life.

That love, demonstrated in our salvation, and in the giving of His precious Son, persuades us that God cannot be ignorant or uncaring about our lives.  Our text tells us that He has all of the conditions of life to give, and that He gives them.  He alone is responsible for where we are as His children.

What if you really believed this?  I am convinced that you do.  But the question is, what does this mean to your life a child of God?

What if you are right where God wants you to be, blessed with what God would have you be blessed with, to do the things God would have you do right where you are?

Well, you are.

Now, what I am attempting to describe for you is not determinism.  First of all, God has not revealed the details of His will for our lives, so we must live them out as though every detail depends on us -- and live our faith knowing that our moments are in His hands.  We are to walk faithfully, confessing by word and deed what we believe, and in whom.

Secondly, God takes the lives we live and brings the conditions to us.  You choose to do, God chooses to bless.  You decided the decisions of your life, God creates the conditions which give you the right place and the right time to confess Him and give Him glory - both the good conditions of your life and the difficult conditions, the ones we would all rather not have to deal with.  But behind both sorts of conditions is our loving heavenly Father, working for our true blessing, and using our faithfulness to show forth His presence and reality and glory to another.  He doesn't necessarily determine moment to moment, but He blesses us moment to moment, and He is watching out over us moment to moment -- so much so that the very hairs on your head are all numbered!  And we have His promise: No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

The final verse of our text says, "Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name."  And that is what we should be doing.  Thanking God for the good times, and giving thanks for the blessings, and thanks for salvation, and thanks that the troubles of life are but for a season, and we shall know joy and peace and glory forever, if we stand faithfully.  Luther said it like this: For all of this I owe if to Him to thank and praise Him, to serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true.

The moment of life that we find ourselves in may be good, or it may be awful.  It may be rich or it may be poor.  It may be comfortable, or it may be painful.  It is quite likely that our lives will touch all of those points as we live in this world of sin, and under the grace and blessing of God.  But no matter how your life is right at this moment, it is not out of control, or out of God̓s care and keeping.  While we may occasionally pause to marvel at how blessed we are, or stop now and then just to let the pain of the moment pass, We have the confidence of knowing the answer to the question of "What if . . . ?" There is no "if" about it, our heavenly Father is in control on our behalf.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)

These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.

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