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What God Ordains

Pastor Robin Fish
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

view DOC file

Wed, Oct 1, 2014 

What God ordains is always good - even when it does not appear that way to us.  As we wrestle with the painful realities of life, the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh will often challenge that truth and tempt us to doubt God and His goodness.  That is one of the challenges of faith in this world, to hold fast and continue to trust God and believe.  It is why the Word of God so frequently exhorts us to cling to faith, to hold fast to what you have, and to trust God to preserve you.  This single temptation is the reason you are encouraged always to be in worship for the gifts of God in the Sacrament and for the fellowship with His saints, to be in Bible Study on Sundays to grow in knowledge of God's Word, and to have home devotions and daily prayer, especially prayers of thanksgiving, and to speak of your faith to one another, and to do all that God gives you to do to support your faith.

See Hymn 521 in TLH.

What does God ordain?

Everything, except sin.

He knows that sin is going to happen.  He knows who and what and where of sin around us, and He takes all of that into account in His plans for us that He may bless us and keep us, and even use adverse happenings to bless us.  He knows about sin, but He is not the author of it nor does He ordain it to be or happen.

Human reason often says that if God knows, He is causing it or 'ordaining' it because, if He knows it is coming and does not stop it, it must be His will.  Admittedly, the argument is deep and confusing at times.  We find ourselves acknowledging that God is capable of thinking in ways we are not and doing things we cannot even imagine.  We simply must confess what Scripture tells us, even when we cannot work out the seeming contradictions.

This is a debate in the Church that has been going on for longer than I have been alive.  Does God know me or you personally?  Does He know about all the details of your life and what is happening to you?  Do the passages that speak about God choosing and saving refer generically to "those that believe" or to each one of us?  Then, human reason asks if God can actually do anything about it or us?  This falls into the question of theodicy (If God is good, why is there evil?) which we have spoken about before.

Back to what Scripture tells us.  God knows us, each, individually.  We get that from where He speaks to the prophets and says that He knew them before they were born (i.e. Jer. 1:5).  The history of our Savior's lineage tells us that God is in there step by step.  Your Baptism tells you, because there God speaks your name as He claims you as His own - although He speaks through the lips of a servant called to speak His Word in a specific place at a specific time, rather like a prophet, only not precisely the same thing.  He echoes Is. 43:1, "I have called you by name.  You are mine!"

He also identifies you individually in the Lord's Supper.  He places His body into your mouth and His blood at your lips individually. He forgives you your sin.  It is not a generic thing, like spraying the crowd with a fire hose, and you just happen to be there and get wet.  He gives it to you, and while He also deals with the others at the table with you, He deals with each of them individually too.

We also have the promise from Jesus that His Father will listen to and answer each prayer because "the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father." (John 16:26).  To do that, He must be paying attention to each one of us who are His children.

Does He know what is happening in your life?  Of course.  God knows everything.  It is one of His attributes, omniscience.  But better than that we have the words of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 10 and Luke 12, "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows."  He is aware of you down to the details, and He is concerned for you.  Jesus describes God's attention to the small and numerous sparrows, to comfort His disciples (and that is us today) with the care and attention of the Father.  God is paying attention with an eye toward keeping us and bringing us to Himself in eternity.

See, that's the thing, God is not necessarily working on making you rich or famous, or even happy in the sense our culture teaches us to desire.  He has our salvation in mind, and our resurrection to everlasting life in glory with Him.  That is where the preachers of wealth and health and human achievement and satisfaction go wrong.  The want to attract a crowd, either to fleece the flock or to validate their bad theology, so they preach what tickles the ears of the flesh.  Who doesn't want comfort, or fame, or abundance, or some sort of outward validation?

God is looking for faith, however, faith He builds through Word and Sacrament.  If it is experienced, seen, or felt, it is knowledge and it is experience, but it is not faith.  Paul writes, "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?"

Generally God is not opposed to comfort or abundance or wealth.  He bestows those blessings broadly at times.  But He does so as part of His plan and purpose, not for our amusement or comfort.  He will also withhold those blessings or withdraw them from where they have been for His purposes, too.  His purpose in either case is to find or observe faith, and generally for us to recognize His work and the faith He bestows through His Holy Spirit as well.  When God tests our faith, it is not for Him to see it.  He can see it all of the time.  It is for us to see it and know it, and take comfort in God's work in and among us.  It is a teaching tool.  He may also have other purposes for His blessings, but this is one.

Your wealth, your abundance of things, your health, your success, your poverty, your illness, your lack of success, and all that God gives you is about more than just you.  Your life itself is not just about you.  It is your life and you are to live it, but it is about Christ and about your neighbor.  Christ's life was all about you.  Your life is for confessing Christ, showing what faith is about, and caring about and caring for your neighbor.  The best of us mess that up all too often, and we need to repent, but that is why we need to hear it over and over again.

The question is, if God is good, and He loves us, and He can do things to make life better, why doesn't he?  That is the theodicy question, in one of its many forms.  The answers of human reason have run the gamut from "He can't, even though He would like to," to "He could, but He doesn't want to."  Of course some just dismiss the concept of God existing out-of-hand, but that is the answer of hardened unbelief.  For those who want to believe that there is a way to understand God and the difficult things they see around them, the answer has to either fit in with Scripture, or fit their ability to comprehend.

God loves us.  Scripture says, "God is love."  Any answer that suggests that God doesn't care about us abandons God's own revelation of Himself.  And while we are here, let's note that if you abandon the Scripture as God's and true, religion simply becomes one's own wishful thinking, and has no truth value or genuine power, except the power of self-delusion.  Christian teachers who talk somewhat like Christians but deny the Scriptures (or what they say) and teach their own thoughts have abandoned God and the faith regardless of what they may say.  For example, if one teaches that Christ did not institute the Lord's Supper, but that the church established it later as a memorial ritual, that one rejects any real power or benefit in the sacrament, except the "power" of a shared myth and a shared ritual.  Islam teaches us what sort of power those things have, and the result is uniformly evil.  Note beheadings and the abuse of women and children and constant violence in the name of Islam for illustrations of this principle.

God is at work, accomplishing what He purposes through all means at His disposal, particularly through His Word, "So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."

The question of theodicy is a question because we are limited in our ability to see and understand. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

So we need to humble ourselves, as the Apostle Peter says, under the mighty hand of God.  He is good, and He loves us, and His will toward us is good and salvation.  The cross of Jesus Christ shows us that.  The cross says, "this is how far God is willing to go to rescue you.  This is how much He loves you."

And confess inside yourself (and then outside) that God knows you and cares for you personally. Then you are left singing the hymn on the first page.  Christians recognize that life is not going to be everything we want it to be in this world and during this life.  The reason for that is sin and how it impacts every aspect of life, and how God's plan for each of us and for our neighbor as that part of His plan touches on us.  But His desire is, "God would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  Toward the goal of the salvation of those who do not refuse His gift in Christ, life will be a blessing, a gift, and a challenge.

Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."

And keep Ephesians 2:8-10 in mind, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Join me in praying for faith and patience and understanding for each of us.  Life is not what we want at every moment, but we do want God's good and gracious will to be done, so we can join together in glory to sing His praise, and do whatever else He has planned for us, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

Yours in the Lord,

Pastor Fish

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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