SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
The Joy of Worshiping an Infinitely Wise God
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Sunday, July 20, 2008 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1189
Pastor Don Horban

A central conviction of the Scriptures is that God is never other than wise in anything He does - Psalm 104:24 - “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” The Psalmist takes note that everything God does - His “works” - are directed towards the wisest ends. In other words, not only does God know everything (omniscience), but His knowledge is never wasted knowledge. Everything God does is going somewhere. God never spins His tires. The goal of His knowledge and power - all of God’s divine ability - is wisely used.

J.I.Packer said it as well as anyone in his classic book, “Knowing God” - "Wisdom is knowledge harnessed to the right end. It's the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal and the surest means of attaining it."

Because God has access to all information, all His judgements are made wisely. He never makes a mistake. He always moves everything toward the proper end. In short, He, and He alone, can “work all things together for good”(Romans 8:28).

Think about this for a minute. God is never wrong. God is never confused. He is never caught wondering how He will handle any situation. He can never improve on any decision He has made. He has never had to correct an error He has made - never. He always does the right thing the very first time.

True, there are those tricky passages where the Bible speaks of God repenting and changing His mind. The people of Nineveh turn from their sins and God changes His mind about His coming judgement. But while God, in very human language, reveals the anguish of His heart, this isn’t so much a changing of God’s plan (He told the people they needed to repent to avoid His judgment) but rather it’s the people realigning themselves with what God intended all along. It’s a bit like walking into the wind and walking with the wind. You experience the wind in different ways, but it isn’t really the wind that changed.

Sometimes we get so familiar with the language of certain truths we get used to speaking the words without knowing what those words actually contain. When considering the wisdom of God here are the basics to keep in mind:

1) WHENEVER GOD DOES ANYTHING HE HAS ALL THE FACTS

Unlike us, He never works with just part of the information. When He deals with our lives, He knows the ideas in our heads and the motives in our hearts. He knows where every single decision we make is going to take us. We are transparent before Him:

Hebrews 4:13 - “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

This is amazing. In all that God does, He is able to take absolutely everything into account. When God’s ways look unwise to us it’s because, with our finite perspective, we never take all the facts into consideration in any of our decisions. We do the best we can, but to take everything into account lies far beyond possibility for us.

Now here’s the important question. Why does God tell us about His wisdom. Why do the Scriptures praise this aspect of Father God so vividly and repeatedly? And the answer is, it’s for us. We’re told this about our God so we’ll remember how ludicrous it is to rely on our assessment of our circumstances when God’s ways and ours don’t line up.

2) GOD WORKS ALL THINGS WITH ETERNAL ENDS IN MIND

I will always be stubbing my toe on the wisdom of God if I'm measuring it by my own assessment of the appropriateness and pleasantness of my circumstances. God’s goal for my life never has been and never will be its pleasantness.

In fact, we will come huge strides in understanding the ways of God if we remember just two features of the motivation behind everything God does. First, He is looking for the development of my Christ-likeness and, second, His eternal glory. And if my whole life is bent on the pursuit of self-fulfillment and instant reward God and I will constantly be on two different pages. And I can’t win if I’m not on God’s page. If I am going to see the wise hand of God on my life, I must be looking at it with His goals and ends in view.

So important is this truth, the Scriptures bulge with examples of learning to submit to the ultimate end of God’s wise agenda for our circumstances:

a) Job 23:8-10 - “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; [9] on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. [10] But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

Now, from a certain perspective, there is nothing good happening to Job at all. Certainly, everything looks confused and chaotic. Measuring from the outward circumstances of Job’s life, either God doesn't exist, or He doesn't care, or He's unable to do anything about Job’s problems.

Yet we know from the solid revelation of Scripture that all of those conclusions are dead wrong. Today, solid gold Job has a clear, complete picture. Back then, only God did. Job had to trust in God's wisdom. And as pious and poetic as those words sound - “Just trust in Almighty God’s wisdom!” - the reason Job was able to trust was he understood the goals of God’s wisdom - “....when he has tried me I shall come out as gold....”(10). God’s wisdom is directing everything to shape Job, not please Job.

b) 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, [4] who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Behold the wisdom of God. He uses the difficult situations of life to prepare us for ministry we haven’t any inkling about yet. In His wisdom He knows the end from the beginning. He’s getting Paul ready for ministry opportunities Paul couldn’t see yet. Paul was patient and prayerful enough to see the wisdom of God. God was putting Paul in some situations where Paul would have to really rely on the Lord for hope and comfort.

But why? What was God up to in His wisdom? Paul says it was so he, Paul, would be able to comfort others who would face the same kinds of situations. In other words, God was preparing Paul for helping hurting people on a deeper level than Paul could give if he had only advice to offer them, rather than the kind of genuine compassion that is borne from sharing the same struggles.

Pause over this truth for just a minute. I think this idea of suffering in the wise plan of God so we can minister more effectively the love of Jesus to others in their need and pain may be the best explanation for one of the most difficult verses in the New Testament - Colossians 1:24 - “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church....”

Certainly we can’t make up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions in the sense of helping redeem sinners. But we can, by trusting in the wisdom of Father God, know that everything He brings us through is done with the wise agenda of ministering the kind of love Jesus demonstrated when He suffered for us. We love and care for people on a deeper level when we can empathize fully with their suffering rather than merely spin out tidy advice for their situations. In His infinite wisdom God uses our trials to give our hearts over to those who need our help.

c) 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 - “So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. [9] But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Buried in the theology of these verses is the subject of unanswered prayer - or at the very least, prayers that don’t produce the answer we desired. Here is the great apostle Paul, a man who had been caught up in the spirit into heaven itself, who had raised the dead and cast out demons - here is this apostle, bumbling along like the rest of us, not knowing why God won’t listen to him.

If you've prayed over and over again for healing or help in some area, and the Lord hasn't shown you any reason to stop asking, then keep asking, seeking, knocking. But at some point in time, at least stop and seek His face on one very important issue: "Lord, what can I learn from this? Do you have some higher purpose? My love for you doesn't depend on getting you to perform a miracle. Teach me Your way."

That last phrase is so important whenever we’re studying the wisdom of God - “Teach me Your way.” Every Christian needs to learn deeply that God wants to do more than constantly just tell us what to do. He wants us to learn His way. Learning His way is just another way of saying “learning His wisdom.” Learning His way is learning the way He does things. It’s learning His goals and striving for His agenda. And it’s learning to do this by nature - without always having to be told.

Do you want to constantly have to tell your children to brush their teeth? Even if they obey you, do you want to always have to tell them? No. What you want is for them to mature in knowing what is truly important for themselves. Paul said he actually had to learn from the Lord that God was more interested in Paul’s humility than his comfort. This was learning God’s ways. And Paul would not have known this had God immediately answered his prayer for physical relief.

Here again, trusting in God’s wisdom has a maturing influence on our lives. This is the way it worked for Paul.

d) 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 - “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. [8] We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; [9] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; [10] always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

Again, we have to understand how the wisdom of God works or we're going to be confused. This relates to one of the most common mistakes Christian people make as they assess some form of service for the Lord.

We feel that our sense of inadequacy for some task means we can’t possibly be called to it. We think the only criteria for spiritual usefulness comes from qualifying to be used by God. We feel that our weaknesses put us on the sidelines of what God has for us in this world.

But Paul unfolds another aspect of the wisdom of God in these verses. He describes his condition under the load of ministry in words that don’t sparkle their way into many “how to” ministry best sellers - “afflicted,” “perplexed,” “persecuted,” and “struck down”(8-9). Like it or not, Paul says he goes through untold garbage - he feels crushed and overwhelmed all the time - and he's right smack-dab in the middle of the will of God for his life!

But God has a plan - a very wise plan - in this difficult situation. God’s plan is to cause people to marvel at the glory of Christ in Paul’s situation. God’s plan is to make sure no one gets the impression Paul strides through life in his own strength. That would only bring glory to Paul, not Christ. And God loves this world too much to allow people to focus on Paul rather than Christ. God’s wise plan is to have lost people reached evangelistically and Christians encouraged spiritually through Paul’s Christ glorifying life. Now, God in His wisdom has a totally different goal.

This is still God’s method of operation in our lives today. In everything I do He wants it to be obvious that my strength is in the Lord so when I get through some difficult situation people will stand and say, "How wonderful of Christ to enable Pastor Don’s life like that. That’s the kind of God I want to serve! Because if God can do that through him, just imagine what He could do through me.”

3) THINK OF THE THREE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD WE’VE STUDIED SO FAR

Think of the three attributes of God we’ve studied so far in this series. Each one matters a great deal to all of us:

What if God weren't eternal? No matter how good He was He would eventually wear out and die like the rest of us. And all His plans and intentions would die with Him.

What if God weren't unchanging? What if one week He wanted to redeem me but he next week He wanted to get even for all the bad things I had done. What if one year He was merciful but the next sadistic. Because He is an almighty God, who could stop Him if He wanted to be cruel or mean with His fallen creation?

And what if God weren't infinitely wise? What if He was eternal and unchanging but was constantly making huge, cosmic mistakes. Where would we be this winter if He forgot to put oil and natural gas in the ground. What if He just couldn't remember how to make the earth grow food. Or send rain? Or what if He just couldn't figure out what to do about my pride and sin?

I hope you can see how we benefit greatly from God being who He is. This is the reason for glorying in our God. These truths, perhaps more than any others, call for highest praise, deepest thought, and joyful sacrifice.

I close with A.W.Tozer again: "With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures."

And everybody said...