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The Will of God

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

view DOC file

Sat, Nov 1, 2008 

I am writing this two weeks before the election.  I cannot say how it will turn out.  That is why I write at this time.  It could turn out that the wrong man is elected, according to my judgment, or yours.  It could be that we are perfectly delighted with the outcome - or at least not deeply disappointed.  We might be tempted to think that something wonderful or something awful has happened.  The House of Representatives and the Senate could change in complexion and we could be frightened at the possibilities the changes portend, or we could be comforted by the way things appear to have worked out.

Two thing come to mind immediately.  The first is merely practical: we could be wrong.  What we think is awful could work out for our temporal benefit, and we will end up delighted with the outcome, and what we think is a good result could work out to be a big mistake, and we will rue the day that we got our way.  We can only see the minute in front of us, not the future.  We cannot imagine how things will work out.  We can only imagine how they might.  And we could be wrong.

The second thing that comes to mind in this connection is that God is running the show.  He doesn't determine every jot and tittle of our lives.  He leaves a lot of that up to us.  That is why we sin - or why we can sin.  But if we believe what Jesus said, God is active in our lives and completely aware of our circumstances.  The Old Testament shows us that God is involved in the affairs of His people, and guides events, and even guides individuals so that His plans and purposes come to pass.  Life doesn't seem like that most of the time, but I believe that is where faith comes in, and we are called on to trust God.

If you read this before the election, this is a preparation.  If you should read it after November 4th, count this as a perspective with which you may face the election results.  God is in charge, and the election results are according to His will.

You don't have to take that personally.  Whether the man you voted for won or not does not mean simply that God was in agreement with you about the candidates, or that He was withholding some good thing from you (depending on your perspective).  It means that what God is doing is served by the election of the next President, and the outcome of the congressional contests.  In some cases, this may be an answer to prayer.  Of course, God may have been saying, "No."  In other cases, this may be what the nation needs to move the country in the direction God intends for it.

I don't see the will of God as always being what I would consider pleasant.  Sometimes we need to be humbled.  Many times we need to repent, both as a nation, and as individual Christians.  Some results can be seen as a call to action. Other results may serve as a penultimate judgment on individuals or parties, or the nation, and even on the world.  I say "penultimate" because it isn't necessarily the final judgment.  It is simply the judgment that something is not right, that certain conditions or blessings are no longer to be given, or that policies and behaviors are wrong and merit a divine response.  We will not be able to actually make those assessments until God tells us, if ever.  I just think it is important to recognize that what happens is not always pleasing to us (or displeasing) and we should not assume that what is happening around us is all about us.  God has more fish to fry, so to speak, and He may well call us into service in ways we could never have anticipated.

National sorrow, for example, is always a call to Christians to hold forth the comfort of the Gospel.  In order to be able to do that, we must find that comfort for ourselves in those troubled times.  In times of national shame, we might be called upon to summon our neighbors to repentance - but then we must know how to repent ourselves, and actually do it.  We might be called to fight some great evil that arises among us.  In Germany, during World War II, many Christians gave their lives protesting and resisting the great evil of the "Final Solution."  Others suffered cruelly for refusing to follow the herd into the embrace of National Socialist fanaticism.

The party spirit which so deeply divides our nation today is not God pleasing.  It is also contrary to the highest hopes of our founding fathers.  When our political party prevailing becomes more important than the welfare of the nation or the well-being of our neighbor, something is wrong.  It is not merely a political mistake, it is an ungodly evil, for it sets something like a party-spirit above the love for our neighbor and the compassion God teaches us that we should have for one another.  Surely someone from the other political party is not as loathsome to us as the Samaritans were to the Jews in the time of Jesus, and yet He taught us about 'neighbor' by means of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Even more troubling than the divisive party spirit of our times is the resurgence of militant atheism.  We ought to expect the enemies of our Lord to rise up in battle array to seek to destroy His influence in our world - which means also to destroy us in the process.  But we are to be so much the image of Christ in our lives and faith that the lies and the distortions of those who promote a godless world-view can find no easy foothold because our living out of the faith and hope we have in Jesus Christ is so clear and persuasive that no one is willing to believe that our faith is a danger to them or an obstacle to good in our society.  Rancor and surrendering to the world's methods of protest and expression of dissent do not serve our confession of Christ well.

Fear and despair over the way the world works, or over what we imagine is coming on the face of the earth is also not an effective strategy.  We are to be those who face the signs of the end with confidence and hope and heads uplifted searching for the soon-to-come return of our Lord.  In troubled times, we - the true people of God - are the ones who can offer hope, and reach out with compassion and help for those who are terrified by what they see happening around them.  After all, what is the worst thing that can happen to us?  Death!  At least that is the perspective of the world around us.  But we know that it is not death to die in Christ.  We can afford to take the chances and risk whatever it takes to help someone else see the hand of God and the salvation which He has won for us all.

Some people start to panic.  They build up great stockpiles of "stuff" by means of which they hope to endure the coming hard-times.  Some planning for an expected trouble is wise, of course, but panic and being driven by fear is not the part of the child of God.  I have learned in my short life that you cannot outrun the will of God.  If He plans for you to prosper, you will.  If He plans for you to deal with difficult circumstances, you cannot plan and save well enough to avoid the hardships He intends to use to accomplish his purposes.  The Bible says it rather clearly in Psalm 127:1, "Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain."  The Psalm goes on to say that it does no good to worry or fret.  "For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep."

You see, I am persuaded that God loves me - and you too.  The cross of Jesus Christ is the most powerful argument in that regard.  I am sure that He loved His Son, but for us, His Son endured unspeakable pains and difficulties.  The end result is that our sins are forgiven, so even when we are tempted to wonder what we did to deserve the troubles of our lives, we can be assured - and rest assured - that our troubles do not come to us because we deserve them.  We actually deserve far worse.  No.  God is dealing with us in love.  He may also be using us to confess Christ or leave an example of how a child of God faces sorrow or sickness with faith and even thanksgiving.  He may have us chosen to reach out to help or comfort others in their distresses.  He surely has planned for us to hold one another up in the midst of the troubles we endure.

In the time of the first Christians, they were hated with a ferocity we Americans have trouble understanding and may never have seen, except in the hatred of the fanatical terrorists.  They endured tortures both terrible and imaginative.  They endured because they knew that this life was not the whole story.  They looked for that city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  They were looking forward to the promise.  One of the things that they did is live out the love for one another so openly and completely that even one of their great detractors had to marvel and exclaim, "See how those Christian love one another!"

We are not called to anything different than they were.  The promises of God are the same, and the command of Christ is the same.  Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  Perhaps the difficulties of the days in which we live are to assist us in finding the clearest expressions of that love.  Maybe in times of wealth and success and whatever good we may have known in the past, it was too easy to presume that we loved one another and to avoid the necessity of actively doing so.  When things go wrong, and we fear for the future, God gives us the precisely right environment to show forth faith and live in mutual love, and reach out in compassion to others.

Of course, much of what I have written above sounds like the elections have turned out badly (at least from my perspective) and life has gone to 'heck' in a handbasket.  I know that no matter which party prevails in the elections, someone is going to be tempted to feel that way.  But, as I said, I am writing two weeks before the final contest this election cycle, and the race is a statistical dead-heat at this very moment - or so say the pundits and the polls.  But emotions are high, and the issues of critical, or so they tell us.

But if there were no election, with all the stress and anxiety that accompanies it, there would be life.  Life has its troubles and sorrows and strains and stressors.  In the face of life, we are called to stand firm and stand boldly and walk in complete confidence in our Lord.  God is with us.  His hand is guiding the world. It doesn't always seem that way.  In fact, it almost never seems that God is in charge and guiding things for our welfare.  We only feel that way when things are going in a way we really enjoy.  Otherwise, we are sorely tempted to think that life is spinning out of control.

God wants us to walk by faith.  We endure the troubles of the unbelieving world around us at the same time and in the same proportion as they, so that we can empathize with them and demonstrate - by living out our faith - how great and wonderful God is, and what a good thing it is to know Him and enjoy His salvation.  After all, this world is not the whole story.  It is hardly more than the cover page in the story of our lives.  We have a whole bunch more living to come, and most of it will be in conditions which do not include sin, sorrow, uncertainty, or death.  While we are here, we are God's hands to work blessings in the world, and God's voice to tell the frightened and the unbelieving about His marvelous love and the salvation which He has won for us and for them.  And we are here to hold one another up.

So, I am glad I got to write this before anyone knew what the results of the election were.  God is doing something, and it is not altogether clear what it is that He is doing.  I just know that it is good, because He promises me good, and I know that if I perceive it as unpleasant or undesirable, God has me covered.  I don't have to fear, and I waste my energy chafing against it.

Besides, my analysis of the situation (resulting from the elections) could be wrong.  The wrong guy (whomever that might be in your mind) might do good things, and the right guy (again, a personal judgment) might dig us a deeper hole and create even greater difficulties.  Who would have thought that we would hear people talking about, and even fearing, another great depression in our age?  "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."  I take comfort in the fact that what is happening around me is at the very least within the will of God!

If you read this before Nov. 4th, go vote! (It is a God-given privilege.)

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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