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."
Just as It Should Be
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
It happens 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 cash, 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". A scientist friend of mine used to say it was simply one of the corollaries of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Of course, this principle that things seem to go wrong at just the worst time is not just applicable to the minor things of life. Most of us can say "if only" about a number of things in life. "If only I had gone left instead of right, I would have been rich." "If only I had asked the other girl out, I would have married her instead." If I had waited for the scholarship, I would have never been drafted. Then there are the things that happen that we are sure are just not right -- sickness, the loss of a loved one, tremendously unhappy circumstances. They all invite us to question why and how our lives are the way they are. We feel almost certain that something else was destined for us, and we messed it up or missed out. Well, our text teaches us that everything in our lives is just as it should be. And that is our theme.
Our lives are often different than we have planned and hoped. Literature is full of observations about this fact of the human condition. "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." But the problem isn't Murphy's Law, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or even bad timing necessarily. The problem is sin. Sin is what spoils our world for us. Sin is why we have misfortune and failure. Sin is why we chafe against the situations and conditions of our lives.
It isn't about any specific sin, necessarily. Sometimes we can "connect the dots" - we can see a direct relationship between specific sins and certain misfortunes. Social diseases come from social sins, like adultery. Disintegration of our lives and our resources can clearly arise from alcohol, drug abuse, or gambling. 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 or specific misdeed to our immediate misfortune. Our troubles often come as the result of the condition called "sin".
For the child of God, however, nothing is ever truly wrong - in the sense of being out of order, or that things are gone awry. Everything is just as it should be. 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.
In our text, King David is praising God for success. He is an old man here, and they have had a great gathering of resources for the building of the temple, which Solomon is going to accomplish after David's death. Everything is just right, at this moment in the text, and David waxes eloquent in his praise of God. 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 right or good. Everything is just as it should be.
You might want to say, "But Pastor, how can that be? How can my poverty, my sorrow, my sickness be just as it should be?" And the answer is in our text. God has all things in His hands. He has the power to establish our life's conditions. If we trust in Him, we must recognize that all we experience is from His hand, except our sin, and that what we enjoy as well as what we suffer is from God. There is frequently more accomplished by 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 it pleasant to do, but it is to say that God will do good through it.
Now, please understand; I am not saying or even trying to suggest that you cannot try to improve your lot. Sometimes you are put in the circumstances you find yourself in so that you will fight against those conditions or circumstances, 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 merely by accident or luck, by "fate" or by "fortune". God gives you the circumstances of your life in which to live, and sometimes in which to struggle 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, that is not always easy to hear - or necessarily a welcome message. The friend, the parent, or the spouse who requires our help and service so much is the holy work which God has given us to do. While they consume our time and our energy and our resources, the work doesn't necessarily feel "holy" - but it is, for it is from God. The catastrophic illness we face, the cancer, the failing heart, is the condition which God has permitted or imposed for our discipline and for our confession of Him, and possibly for the blessing of others, that they may serve God by serving you.
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, they were the most powerfully evangelistic force in the history of the Church. The Christian Church grew phenomenally under the harshest of conditions. Of course, that was God's doing, not theirs, just as their endurance was by His strength and gift, too. Nevertheless, people simply marveled at the peace, the good humor, and the caring of the Christians for one another. They were good to their friends. They were good to their neighbors. They were good to their enemies. And they loved one another with a love that was clearly visible to others and almost tangible. It is reported by Tertullian in the Third Century that the critics of the Christians, who were often their persecutors, still had to marvel and say, "See how these Christians love one another."
It isn't that every single one of them did so, but such genuine love was predominant among them. Of course, there were false Christians, liars, adulterers, hypocrites of every sort among them. The early Christian Church knew heresies and divisions just like today. There were busybodies, gossips, troublemakers, and those who were intent on scamming the Church for an easy living or some small measure of worldly fame or authority - you know, they wanted to be a big fish in a small pond. Those conditions and evils still exist today. But those early Christians suffered them -- that is, they endured them -- and they dealt in patience and love with one another, and honor and respect toward others, outside of the Church. And the world outside could often hardly wait to hear what made these Christians so different in such a good and sturdy way.
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 the main attraction, and that getting the greatest amount of gusto out of life was not what being a Christian was 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, "Thine, 0 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, 0 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.̓
Faith, if it is living and active, must teach that everything in life is just as it should be. 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 have a better claim on Gods good will and blessing? Yet He lived in poverty and died in agony. Was it fun? It was clearly no more fun than any of our own troubles and pains. It was real. Jesus did it anyhow, and God made it all happen. Scripture tells us that Jesus led the way to Jerusalem, almost running to meet the passion and death that He knew, and that He taught His disciples, was awaiting Him there. 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.
For Christ's sake, God counts us forgiven, when we repent, 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 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 of 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.
Now, what I am attempting to describe 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 out faithfully, confessing by word and deed what we believe, and in whom. Some people are really uncomfortable with the notion that God gives us the difficult things in life. Whether He has planned them or simply permitted them to come to us, I see no difference. My faith tells me God is with me, and He knows, and He will not allow anything to come to me that will work destruction for me. I find it comforting, particularly in times of trouble, to know that God in charge and guiding my life.
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 time to confess Him and give Him glory - both the good conditions and the difficult conditions. Olympic Gold Medalist, Gabby Douglas, confessed her faith - the same sort of thing I am saying here - after she won her gold medal, saying, "I give all the glory to God. It's kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me."
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 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. Chances are real good 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. It is, as everything must be under God̓s keeping, just as it should be.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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