Article based on a Sermon

Is God In Control?

by Jon Pippy

(PLAY FROM START)

Brethren, a business acquaintance was telling me of a letter the family received from a close relative. The letter did not contain good news, because the relative was just informed by the doctor that the bone cancer that was supposed to have been in remission, came back to life after eight years. It had invaded the skeletal frame of her body. One hip was already destroyed. The doctor really didn’t understand how she was able to walk. You know, such incidents are all too common today, aren’t they, in our society amongst people?

As we gather here today to serve God on His Sabbath, we know of many people who are struggling with all sorts of sickness and disease and cancer. I know lots of people. I work with some. But you know brethren, cancer and physical ailments are only one source of our anxiety. In society today, businesses are in financial crisis, families in disarray, as Mr. Bowles mentioned, and financial troubles for businesses, and families falling apart, and all the rest of it. What about Christians? What about Christians?

Well the reality is, all of us face adversity; at different times, in various forms, at different times in the course of our lives. We all do. Some of them are pretty difficult, very heavy, and tough to deal with. I read once where one psychiatrist put it very simply, he was asked about life, he said, "Life is difficult." I believe it was Dr. Phil who said that, we have him over here now.

You know brethren, adversity and accompanying emotional pain comes in many forms. It is not just physical, it is not just sickness. No, it’s heartache. Perhaps of an unhappy marriage, rebellious children, losing one’s job, whatever it may be. Others experience the frustration of dashed hopes and unfulfilled dreams. The world is full of people like that. Our ships of hopes and dreams are dashed on the rocks of disappointment. That happens to all of us at times during different things that we experience.

Still others experience the dull ache of loneliness, or unexpected death in the family. Perhaps there is some humiliation of being rejected by other people. Perhaps a demotion at work. Whatever it might be. All those circumstances contribute to anxiety, to emotional pain. It comes in varying degrees and it comes at various times. Some pain is very sudden. It is very traumatic, it is devastating, and other adversities are chronic, and they are persistent. They are designed to wear you down. That is what Satan wants, he wants to wear us down inch by inch, little by little, degree by degree.

Then on a much larger scale, newspapers show us grief and heartache and pain on a massive scale in various parts of the world. People in society say, I have heard it, and so have you. They say, "Where is God? Where is God? Does He care?"

Christians might, on occasion, be tempted to say, "Where is God?" as well. "Doesn’t He care about my circumstances anymore? Doesn’t He know what is happening to my life?" You know there is no bitterness, there is no anger involved, it is frustration. Even when life is smooth, when things are going our way, when our daily walk is pleasant and smooth, we don’t know what the immediate future holds obviously. In Proverbs 27:1 it says:

"Do not boast of tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth." (Proverbs 27:1 NKJV)

So my question this afternoon and the title of the sermon is very simple, 'Is God In Control?'

Someone once described life this way. You might have heard this before. It is like having a thick curtain hung across our path. A curtain that recedes before us only as we advance, step by step. This big thick, thick curtain, you can’t see around it, can’t see under it, can’t see over it. It only moves as we move forward. Interesting way to put it. None of us can tell what is beyond the curtain. Sometimes the receding curtain reveals life’s events much as we expected. But often, in fact far too often, it unfolds contrary to our expectations and to our desires.

So the question comes naturally in some cases, where is God in all this? It can happen that way. I have heard it many times. Where is God in this situation? Can we really trust God when adversity strikes? Can we really? When our lives are filled with pain and adversity, does He intend to come to your rescue? Will He deliver those who call on Him?

It’s about trusting, isn’t it? But most importantly, is God in control? The real question for Christians should be, do I have confidence that God is with me even though I see no evidence of His presence and His power? Do I trust God and have confidence even though there is no real evidence? I can’t see Him, I can't feel Him, I’m not sure He’s there.

The apostle Paul pleaded with God to take away the thorn in his flesh. Joseph also pleaded with Pharaoh’s cup bearer. He said, “Get me out of this prison. Get me out of here. Speak to the man and tell him what is going on here. Tell him I’m a good guy.” It didn’t happen, because he didn’t know what God was working out.

You know something brethren, it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. It is true, because if we disobey God, we defy His authority, but when we fail to trust Him, we doubt the sovereignty that He has over our lives.

Psalm 78:19, in order to trust God brethren, we must see our circumstances through the eyes of faith, not through the eyes of sense, what we’re sensing, what we’re feeling, our emotions, whatever it might be.

"Yes, they spoke against God: They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Behold, He struck the rock, So that the waters gushed out, And the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people [is He really capable of it]?" Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel, Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation:" (Psalm 78:19-22 New King James Version)

Trust and confidence brethren. The scriptures reveal many things, but the three essential truths that we will refer to here this afternoon are these:

1) God is sovereign.

2) God is infinite in wisdom.

3) God is perfect in love.

You can take these truths as they relate to us, and you can turn them around. God is sovereign, God is infinite in wisdom and perfect in love. But you could put it this way as they refer to us. God in His love always wills what is best for us. Always, not sometimes, not when the weather is good - always. In His wisdom, He always knows what is best for us, and in His sovereignty, He has the power to bring it about for us. That is the wonderful thing about the Plan of God. The way God has laid out His Word, His Holy Days, the whole plan and program is here, and oftentimes we don’t see it.

God Is In Absolute Control (PLAY FROM 08:08)

Let’s turn to the book of Lamentations. Not a book that we refer to all the time, but it is one that has some wonderful gems in it; Lamentations 3:37:

"Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, When the Lord has not commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That woe and well-being proceed? Why should a living man complain, A man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to [our God];" (Lamentations 3:37-40 NKJV)

You see brethren, God brings His sovereignty, He brings His wisdom, and He brings His love to bear in our lives, but there are times when we might say, "Is God really in control?"

As one noted Jewish Rabbi in Toronto who gave a lecture, and had a little brief article in the paper. And he was going on and talking about the plight of his people, during all the difficult situations over the years, during the war, and the holocaust, and the suicide bombs in Israel today, and so forth. He sat back and he said, "God wants the righteous to live peaceful lives, but sometimes, sometimes, even He can’t bring this about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming innocent lives." He either lost sight of who is in control, or he never knew who was in control. That is a sad commentary, isn’t it? "Yeah, I guess God doesn’t have it anymore. No, God is dead." And you can hear people talk like that.

Colossians chapter 1:17 Is God in control of everything? Does He really know what is going on in every facet of society? Does He know what is going on in your heart and mine? Yes He does.

"And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." (Colossians 1:17)

So the so-called laws of nature, are nothing more than the physical expression of the steady will of Christ. Is God sovereign? Does He have the wisdom and the power? Let's turn to Psalm 147:1, there are so many places to turn, let’s just look at a few here. Was the Rabbi right? Has he discovered something we don’t know? God can’t do it anymore? Let’s read some verses here;

"Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises unto our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted [we are talking prophetically, looking down the road, yes, is this not for us as well? Does He not heal our broken hearts?] And binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; he calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. The LORD lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground. Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God, Who covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens which cry." (Psalm 147:1-9)

You can read the rest of it yourself. God did not simply create and just walk away. Believe them and I’ll create them and give them some things to do, put some laws down, and then I’ll leave them on their own. No, He sustains, and He maintains. That is so obvious through the scriptures here. Psalm chapter 31:15, I just want to read the first few words here;

"My times are in Your hand..." (Psalm 31:15)

You know, my times, my life, would be the same. You could say, your time, Mr. Bowles time, Mrs. Bowles time, my time, your life. It means continually, are in His hands. He didn’t just call us and walk away and leave us to our own devices. If you left me to my own devices, I’m a disaster! I shudder to think where I would be today, if God had not called me. I won’t go into my history, it’s not necessary, but it is not good. I shudder to think. I am so grateful for that, in spite of how imperfect I am, and we all are. I know I was called. I know God intervened in my life. I am very grateful for that. My life is in His hands, my times, definitely, and so are yours.

David said, my life is in your hands, and by His power, and His wisdom, and His love, He sustains, and maintains us. We are not left to our own devices. We don’t do it on our own. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to do it on your own? Even though sometimes we think we have to do it on our own.

Let’s turn to Daniel 4:34. Here’s a familiar story. We won’t go into it in detail obviously, but you know the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. Good Ol' King Nebuchadnezzar. He learned a lot of important lessons in his life, and he also knew who was in control.

"And at the end of the time [this was back after Nebuchadnezzar became like an animal crawling around out in the backyard. At the end of that time] I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I [he didn't curse the Lord, I] blessed the Most High and praised and honoured Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand, Or say unto Him, 'What have You done?'" (Daniel 4:34-35)

Absolute control. You have to think about this brethren. What is God creating and developing here anyway in us, the called out ones, the elect? I think we are often far too unaware, and fail to grasp the significance of just how involved God is in our lives, in every facet. I think we sometimes lose sight of that. I know I have on occasion. I admit that openly. I have. You have to get back on track as they say. Get things straightened out. We saw He controls the universe. That He calls the stars by name. But stars are not going to help restore God’s government, are they? No, we are - we are! Matthew 10:29;

Our Importance To God (PLAY FROM 16:28)

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will." (Matthew 10:29)

A little sparrow dies, God sees it. Your struggling, you’ve got your troubles, you’re trying to serve your God. You’re tithing, you’re obeying God. You’re doing what’s right, you're having all these troubles. Has God somehow forgotten about me? He knows about that sparrow. He knows exactly what you are going through. Exactly. How much more important are we? We are far too important brethren, to be left to our own devices. And thankfully we are not. If God is aware of a little sparrow, a worthless sparrow, if I can put it in those terms, how much is He aware of and in control of the absolute epitome of His creation? You know the answer.

Human beings are made in the image of the God family, and we are now developing and becoming like They are. Or we should be, in character, in thought, in outgoing concern, in selfless love. All those attributes and characteristics of the God Family. We must be putting those on as well and developing those in our life, no matter what the circumstances. Can we put absolute trust in God? Can we be certain that God is really in control? Brethren, we are far too important to be left to our own devices. Far too important.

If there is a single event in all the universe that could occur outside of God’s sovereign control, then perhaps we can say, "We can’t trust Him." But there is not one thing. His love may be infinite, but if He lacks the power, if the power is limited, then His purpose could be altered. But He has the power. The Rabbi said it was too difficult for God to accomplish certain things.

Let’s put it this way brethren, you may entrust to me your most valuable possessions, all your silver and gold - if you have any silver and gold. And I may love you, and I may want to sincerely honor your trust, but I don’t have the ability, the power to guard your valuables. Then why would you entrust them to me? You wouldn’t, obviously. The Bible says that we are like jewels in God’s crown. Do you ever think of yourself that way? You are like a jewel in God’s crown, very valuable, very valuable to Him. Notice what Paul said about trusting here in II Timothy 1:12;

"For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I have committed to Him until [the Last] Day." (II Timothy 1:12)

What did He entrust? What did Paul entrust to God? What do we entrust to God brethren? Just our eternal destiny, that’s all. Our eternal life. Paul said, I believe, I am convinced.

What about our problems in life. Do we believe that God is in control? Do we really trust Him? Are we prepared to go out on a limb on the chance that it might be cut off? Yes. You know why? Because He can catch us when we fall. He can catch us when we fall.

We all have stories to tell, events in life that occur. But you know brethren, there are many hurts too, that people are struggling with and going through. I know lots of people who are struggling. Lots of difficulties, and lots of hurts. But God is in control. Within that control, we have to recognize that He allows us to experience these things. God allows His people to experience pain and sometimes that pain is hard to deal with, is very real, and we suffer. I have had my moments over the years, believe me. I know what I am talking about, as I am sure many or most of you do. But God is still in charge, and we can trust Him to see us through. That is a reality. I believe that.

Turn to Romans 8:28, you know this verse. This scripture can sometimes be difficult for people to deal with, on occasions. God is orchestrating events in His Church and in His people to fulfill what? His purpose. You have heard this before a hundred times;

"And we know that all things work together for good [all things] to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

His purpose is to bring you into His Family. His purpose is to nurture you, care for you, love you, lead you, guide you and bring you into His Family. I love that scripture in Matthew. Maybe we will read it later, where He talks about it is my good pleasure to give you the kingdom. God is always giving. I want to give to you, care for you, love you. God looks for intelligent cooperation from us doesn’t He?

Job chapter 42:2, I’m just going to zip through a few scriptures here that clearly show that God does as He pleases, and He makes it quite clear exactly what pleases Him, and what He wants. Jesus Christ and God the Father is so looking forward to the fulfillment of the Holy Days, of the plan of God, smiling and looking down on us.

"I know that You can do everything, And that no pupose of Yours can be withheld from You." (Job 42:2)

The Rabbi said it was too difficult for God. "Oh yeah, He’s lost touch." Oh no he hasn’t. No He has not! He knows exactly what is going on. Psalm 115:3;

"But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:3)

Thankfully we serve a loving God, not a self centered God. He is concerned about His Family, His begotten ones, His elect, the called. He is concerned about the universe. He is concerned about eternity and He wants us all to be there. In this very short life span, we have got to devote ourself to understanding that the way, as Mr. Armstrong did. He really understood didn’t he? He really knew.

Isaiah chapter 43:12 just a couple more here. I’ll just turn to them for you if you like, and he said:

"I have declared and saved, and I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses,' Says the LORD, 'that I am God. Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?' " (Isaiah 43:12-13) 24:30

God makes it quite clear that He is in absolute control and there is nothing in His plan that can be thwarted, nothing that can change. No matter what your circumstances, my circumstances, what’s going on in the world, nothing can change His Plan. It will be fulfilled. Isaiah 46:8;

"'Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, And I will do all my pleasure,'" (Isaiah 46:8-10)

And what is it that pleases Him. It is His pleasure brethren, to give us the Kingdom. To give us a place in His family, to shower His love down on us. In fact, that is what He wants to do. It is His pleasure to give us His Spirit. It was His pleasure to call you and to call me.

Deuteronomy chapter 14:2. You know something brethren? This goes all the way back to our spiritual forefathers. Just notice this, we usually look at this area of scripture when talking about clean and unclean meats, look at verse two;

"For thou are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 14:2)

We are like jewels in the crown of God, chosen for a great purpose, not because of anything we have done. We know that. We mention that often, but it is good to say it again. It is His good pleasure. God gives so much. He is just a giving God, always giving, always giving. What do we do? Always taking, always taking. I need help, I need this, I need healing, I need that. God is giving, giving, giving. Wonderful, what a Great Being that we serve.

The Difficulty Of Not Knowing God's Actions In Advance (PLAY FROM 27:01)

One of the frustrating parts for Christians is not knowing God’s will in certain situations. I wonder what God is thinking? I wonder what He is going to do here and do there? What is going to happen over here? We say, "If only I knew what God is going to do, it would be easier to deal with." You know what my response to that is? Maybe, don’t be so sure - don't be so sure. But that's part of the test isn’t it? That's part of the test. We cannot assume anything. That is where trust comes into the picture. That is where confidence that God is really in control, that is where we exercise it.

Back in the glory days of the Church, when we were raising our family, twenty five to thirty years ago, everything was great. We had a wonderful time, wonderful years, wonderful people, wonderful experiences. It was terrific. Back in those days when the ministers talked about faith, talked about adversity, talked about building character, talked about trials. Oh yeah, no problem, I can handle it, I know I can deal with it. I didn’t know what trials really were back then. Because until you are put to the test, until you are put to the wall you don’t know either. You don’t know what your response is really going to be. If you don’t build that trust, and that confidence, and that loyalty, and that love, and that concern, for that Great Being, you are going to be in trouble when the screws get turned. Then you’re going to be in trouble, and so will I.

Turn to Esther 4:10 the Book of Esther is a beautiful story, and an outstanding example frankly, of this reality here that God puts people to the test. This is an outstanding example of putting trust in God. Because here we have the story picking up steam, as Mordecai learns of Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews. He told Esther, "You’ve got to go to the king. You have got to sort this out. You have to intervene, you have to help me here." Esther had a problem, she had a huge problem. Notice verse ten;

"Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him command for Mordecai: 'All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden sceptre, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.'" (Esther 4:10-11)

She knew the law. You walk in and say, “Here I am,” you know, the gallows.

"So they told to Mordecai Esther's words. And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: 'Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet and who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this [maybe that’s why you’re here Esther]?' Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 'Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so will I go in to the king, which is against the law, and if I perish, I perish!'" (Esther 4:12-16)

She acted decisively, but there is something very interesting here brethren. Esther did not presume to know God’s will did she? She said, "...if I perish, I perish!" (Esther 4:16) She didn’t presume anything. She knew she had to act and do something. That to me is going out on a limb, isn’t it? But she certainly knew that God controlled the King’s heart. She didn’t just say to Mordecai, “God’s in charge, He will work it out, let’s go have a coffee.” No she acted. She did her part, and let the chips fall. You do your part as a Christian, you live your life the right way, let the chips fall, and God will guide and direct you and sort it out. Esther, an outstanding woman, outstanding faith, outstanding trust, and understanding who is in control.

We do not always know how God is going to answer our prayers, or if he will move in the heart of another individual. We don’t know that. Esther was not sure. But it was enough to know that our destiny is in God’s hand, not those of other people.

God allows situations to occur in our lives brethren, but never allows situations to undermine His Plan for us. That Plan is never thwarted, never deviated, it is always the same. Of all these things that come to hit us, all the trials and circumstances and all the things that we have to deal with, God allows it to happen, because we grow through adversity. When times are good, and times are great, and everything is fine we’re smiling, life is good, we are growing to a degree obviously, but not in the same way. 32:31

God will not let anything get in the way of His Plan for you. I’ve got a plan for you, and you, and you and everybody that might be listening today, and He is not going to change it. He wants you to be part of His Family. He wants to raise you up. It is beautiful when you put it all together isn’t it? When you really think about it, how fortunate we are. "Well I don’t feel very fortunate, this has happened to me, and that has happened to me, I am having this trouble, and that trial." Those are only fleeting moments as far as God is concerned, fleeting moments. We are so important to God, brethren. We are jewels in His crown. We are so important. We will talk about that at Pentecost tomorrow.

Let’s turn to Zephaniah 3:17 a prophecy that we can apply to ourselves today.

"The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over thee with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

I think that is an outstanding verse. Rejoice over you with gladness, quiet you and strengthen you with His love, and rejoice over you with gladness, with singing. Not just happy, but rejoicing. Breaking out in song, for you! That is the God that allows events to occur in our lives for our good, brethren - for our good. "...If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) as Paul said.

The Pressures Of The World (PLAY FROM 34:54)

I don’t know if many young people are listening today, or maybe they will by tapes, at some point in time. Let me ask you young people, "Do you believe God has a Plan for you? Is He watching over you? Does He have any control over your circumstances as you try and live the right way? Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are also very important to God and to His Plan?" If you are trying and obeying your parents and living your life the proper way, keeping yourself from the evils in society, do you think God doesn’t see that? Oh He does - oh He does. That is a reality, young people, it really is.

There is another reality. It is the reality of society. There is one that you have to be confronted with, and confront all the time. The reality of the glitter, so called, society, yeah. How about the reality of AID's? No glitter attached to that. Broken homes, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, teen suicides, despair and hopelessness. We see that among so many young people. In Toronto it is pandemic in the young people. They are flocking to gangs to feel loved and cared for, "I got a gangster with a gun, but at least I’m a part of something." Where is the family? Where is the father? If they don’t get involved in those situations, they get ostracized, like with peer pressure, and it’s difficult. God knows that sort of situation are young people are in sometimes, He cares for you.

I was reading an article about teen pregnancy totally out of control in Scotland. I said, "Wait till I come to Scotland, I’ll go speak to those people." No, but it’s an article in the Edinburgh News. There was a twelve year old girl, in West Lothian, somewhere around Edinburgh, and the reporter says that this girl has now become the youngest mother in the UK, after falling pregnant at age eleven. I said earlier, teen pregnancies, that now lowered the bar, again. It is unbelievable, age eleven! She admitted to her family that there was drinking and smoking, and all kinds of things involved, that led to this situation occurring. What a shame, what a mess, what chance do those young people have? Young people, you have a hope. You have an opportunity to serve your God someday. If anyone is listening in, He cares for you. He wants you to serve Him. He wants you to learn and to grow and to follow the right path. Listen to what your parents say.

On the morning of October 21, 1966, at 9:15 a.m., just before the children had settled into their first lesson at the school house. Some of you here will probably remember this. A section of a coal mine in Wales, slid down a slippery slope into the quiet community of Aberfan. I can remember reading about it, and seeing those unbelievable horrific pictures. You know after it was over, after that black slime came down the hill and devoured that school, there were five teachers dead and one hundred nine children. This was a tragedy of epic proportions for the small town.

Why do I bring this up? What am I mentioning it for? It fits in here, because there was a clergyman who was asked by some of the people, the despondent parents, the reporters, as they were talking to people, and they asked the question, "Well what about God in all this, Preacher?" You know what his response was? He said, "I suppose we have to acknowledge this is one of those occasions when the Almighty made a mistake." Incredible - incredible.

Have you ever wondered when trial and calamity strikes, if God has not made a mistake in your life? Why did He call me? How come He couldn’t call me later when I didn’t have all these problems? Have you ever thought that? Maybe on occasion you might have. I can see some eyes here, I know you have. We have all gone through that. We say, “This is too difficult.” Those are fleeting moments, because we understand. But some people say that with a lot more force. God doesn’t understand. He made a mistake in my life. He does not make mistakes brethren. God does not make mistakes.

He knows who He has called. He alone is infinite in wisdom. And we learn God’s will by reading the scriptures don’t we? That is where change begins. As our minds are being renewed day by day. Sometimes it’s hour by hour, you know if we are going through difficulties and trials. But real change, down in the depths of our beings is worked out in real life.

I call that sometimes, brutal reality of Christian life. It doesn’t mean that the Christian life is brutal. It means that the circumstances can be, and they can be. I'm not going to diminish that, and play it off. I know how tough it can be for some people. Believe me, I understand that. I think we all know by now, that most Godly character traits can only be developed through adversity, and if you think differently, you are kidding yourself.

Christ learned obedience through what? All the good times He had? He learned obedience through what He suffered. The kind of love that freely gives of itself at great cost to itself, can only be learned when we are confronted with situations that call for a sacrificial love. You think of all the occasions when God has probably put some difficult circumstances, or difficult people, in our lives. It is difficult to love that person. Why did he or she have to come along? God will do that sometimes. We have got to learn to give a little, and make it a real sacrificial love, and have that concern for people. That does happen on occasion I know.

Think about this. The fruit of the Spirit called joy cannot be learned in the midst of circumstance that produce natural happiness. It can’t, because if I’m experiencing joy, that is wonderful. I am happy, happy to be here, to be with you all, but not as a result of exercising the Spirit of God. "...count it all joy when trials come." (James 1:2 paraphrased) when things are tough. I am learning through this. There is a joy I can have here. Maybe I’m not smiling, but there is a depth of understanding I am gaining from this. I am learning to build character, learning to become like God and Jesus Christ, to become like they are.

God is infinite in His wisdom. He knows exactly what adversity that we need to grow more and more in His likeness. These things happen to you, but they don’t happen to the next guy, because that’s what you need. I have to deal with certain things, and someone else doesn’t even know what I’m talking about, because that’s what I need. But God knows. He knows what we need, and also knows how to bring it to come to pass in our lives.

God never explains to us exactly what is going to happen. I never get emails. There is a trial coming next week, get ready. No, I wish it would be like that sometimes. No, He doesn’t tell us what He is going to do, and doesn’t tell us why He is going to do it. There are no gentle hugs; Everything is going to be okay, don’t worry, you know, arm around your shoulder. No, He doesn’t do that. It comes - BOOM! Hits you like a ton of bricks sometimes. Where did this come from? Then we have to deal with it. In this life you might never find the answer to why this or that happened. You can’t analyze it to death and try and figure it all out. We have to move on in faith. Move on in confidence, move on in hope.

We just read scriptures that show that God can do whatever He wants to do, and He wants to take care of His begotten children. He wants to bring them into His Family. He said, "I’m going to do it. I’m going to see it through. You are not going to get away. I'm going to bring you through." Philippians 1:6;

"being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;" (Philippians 1:6)

He who has begun a good work in you, He’s going to will it through to the end. It is going to happen. He is going to complete it, and you can’t get away from that. That is a promise, a beautiful promise. The scriptures are filled with thousands of promises. Thousands of promises in the Bible. The joy then brethren, is God’s promise to man. He is always giving.

David's Example (PLAY FROM 44:53)

As we just saw, the door of God’s promises swings both ways doesn’t it? One of the premier examples of a man showing his repentance toward God and who really understood and claimed the promises of God, was David. There are so many examples you can look at in his life. Let’s go to II Samuel 12:1 and have a look at one here. Perhaps we can see ourselves in this picture. Let’s set the stage for understanding something about David’s character as well here;

"The LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said unto him: 'There were two men in one city, one rich, and the other poor. [One had lots of things and the other didn't have a lot]. But the poor man had nothing, except one little...lamb [little baby lamb was all he had and he was all he had]. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.'" (II Samuel 12:1-4)

He took that one guy’s poor little ol' lamb for himself. He had all kinds of them.

"So David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, 'As the LORD lives, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die!: ...Then Nathan said to David, 'You are the man! ...'" (II Samuel 12:5,7)

That must have cut like a knife through him.

"Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave thee the house of Israel and Judah [I gave you everything]. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife..." (II Samuel 12:7-9)

You have made a mess. You know the rest of the story. Nathan asked a hard question. He said, "Why have you despised the commandment of [God]? ..." (II Samuel 12:9) Do you ever see yourself in a question like that as it relates to you and your life, things you’ve done? The point is brethren, David had somehow gotten far away from God. It would appear that he felt God didn’t know what He was doing. God couldn’t see. David caused much stress in Bathsheba’s life didn’t he? Her baby died. Her husband was killed, and all Israel found out what had gone on. Then David’s son, Absalom, decided his father wasn’t fit, so he wanted to take over. Many people died. What a mess.

What a mess we can often create because of sin, yet we have a patient and a compassionate God who promises to forgive and forget if only we would deeply repent and stay in a humble frame of mind, as we live this human life experience. "Obey Me and I promise to help," God says. That is intelligent cooperation. We know what we should do. David knew. When he got up on that roof, he should have walked away, turned away, "I don’t need to see that." Blame her for being up on top of the roof having a bath? No, blame himself.

Let’s notice a statement about God’s character. It’s found over in Numbers 23:19;

"God is not a man, that he should lie, Nor a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19)

You know brethren, that is a tribute to God’s reliability. Notice the inference that man is capable of promising and breaking his word, isn’t he? Totally and absolutely. God is in complete control. He never breaks His Word. His promises are sure. What He started in your life and mine, no matter what is happening to you now, no matter what happens in the future, He is going to see you through it all, because He has got a plan for you, a purpose for you, and a place for you.

In Psalm 51, we won’t turn there, you know the story. It talks about David’s repentance. God was patient with David, and thankfully He is patient with us, patient and forgiving. We are not above the law, and perhaps at some point David might have thought that he was. "I’m the king, I can do whatever I want. I’ve got this and that etc." No one is above the law. Everyone is subject to the law of God, and that is why Christ died. That is why He paid the penalty. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. Not our goodness. Our wretchedness just brings it to the point where we need repentance.

You stop and think about God’s control and then consider how much He has done for us. Do we sit back and think about that? How much God has really done? How about looking at the different things over the years since we were called. You can look at a lot of trials you are going through now. What about all the wonderful things God has done through all those years, and is still doing? It gets tougher near the end, doesn’t it? That last lap you’re huffing and puffing, you know, it's tougher. And there is more stress on your life, difficulties in the Church, and all the rest of it.

We need to evaluate ourselves. Compared to the goodness of God, we can see how evil we really are. Like Mr. Armstrong said, "A worthless hunk of human junk." That’s how he put it. That’s how he saw himself. He knew it was time to get on with life and repent of it, and get on and let's do the job. Let’s serve my God. He’s there with a promise, a plan a future, a program. We can put all that stuff behind us, whatever it might be. The difference is brethren, that he knew that he was a useless piece of human junk. He really understood that. He believed it. Ultimately he repented toward God in faith, and then claimed the promises.

He went to do the Broadcast; "I have one dollar, it’s going to cost three, for the half hour." Where is that going to come from? He gets out of the car, and someone walks up and hands him an envelope. We see those examples in his autobiography, it is amazing. He had the faith, he knew God would take care of it. Outstanding example! Small things like that, but powerful in terms of faith, and confidence, and trust. Mr. Armstrong, he knew exactly who was in charge - he knew exactly.

II Samuel 24:11 we see a scripture here that should give us great comfort. God’s purpose and wisdom is greater than any adversary. David had a big problem here, after numbering the people - one big problem. He numbered the people and then he was told by Gad;

"Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, 'Go and tell David, 'Thus saith the LORD: 'I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.' [so here comes the punishment] So Gad came to David and told him; and said unto him, 'Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.'" (II Samuel 24:11-13)

You know brethren, this is the beautiful part about these verses, when I say about the wisdom here;

"And David said to Gad, 'I am in a great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercies are great; but do not let me not fall into the hand of man.'" (II Samuel 24:14)

He didn’t turn himself and the people over to armies, and to pestilence, and whatever else might have been going on, and the famine. All of that would have troubled so many people. He said, "God I lay it on you. You decide what my punishment should be, and I will be under your control, and I’ll be under your love." That must have been a tough decision. Let me see now, three months plague, seven years of famine, hmmm. No, he just said, "God I’ll leave it up to you, you decide in your love and your greatness, and your compassion. I will let you decide what the punishment must be."

We Are Never Forsaken, Never Forgotten (PLAY FROM 54:28)

Brethren, nothing can separate us from God’s love. We are never forsaken, we are never forgotten. Satan would have us believe the exact opposite. With all the confusion out there today, Satan is trying to get everyone stirred up to be uncertain about anything. The right way to go, get back on track. People are saying, "Well, where’s the track?" They have forgotten the foundation, they don't understand it any more. He is stirring up the pot everywhere he can. God will not allow that to happen in your life if you are steadfast, loyal, and true, and faithful.

Colossians 3:12 the first part of this verse is really very beautiful. You think about how you as a mother or father, look at your children. How much you love them and care for them. Just the first part of this verse;

"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved..." (Colossians 3:12)

How many times have you read through that and never thought about it in the terms of holy and beloved? That is dearly loved, brethren. You are dearly loved. You are not just an acquaintance of the Great God, you are dearly loved. Not just loved, but dearly loved. It is only His called out ones that are spoken of so tenderly. Nobody else, so lovingly. What a Great Being we serve. What a marvelous plan. He can say, "You are my holy and beloved people. You are the jewels in my crown." He who says, "Trust me no matter what. I am in control, no matter what happens. You are far too important to be left to your own devices." And God is not going to leave me to my own devices, or otherwise I’m finished. I know He has not left me to my own devices, thankfully.

Let’s go back to Lamentations 3:19 for a second. You ever felt cut off from God? You ever have that happen where you feel He doesn’t understand anymore? "I’m on my own. I don't understand anymore, I can’t do it." Whatever those thoughts might be. I know that has happened to some people. I know some of you have had those moments.

"Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers And sinks within me." (Lamentations 3:19-20)

This is a prophecy for the future. But it is a principal for every generation. I remember things that happened and the way it was. My heart sinks. But notice in verse 21 the mood changes, there follows some wonderful scriptures here, the mood changes;

"This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope [not despair, but hope]. Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:21-23)

That is the God that we serve brethren. We have to see our circumstances, see God through our circumstances, and oftentimes we fail to see, when He is right there. That is what Joseph came to see after he was let out of prison. That is what Abraham came to see, and Samuel, and David, and you, and me. I Thessalonians chapter 5:18. You know this scripture well;

"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Being thankful in good times, and hard times. Does that mean I’m really grateful for this broken leg I have. You know the stone fell on me when I was working, and I fell off the ladder broke my arm, "Boy that’s great!" Or "I’m really grateful that I was fired last week." Or as the kids say, "I was made redundant." No, I’m not necessarily talking about that at all. But thanksgiving to God is an admission of dependence. In the physical sense, recognize that God gives life, and breath, and everything else. In the spiritual sense, God made us alive in Christ when we were dead in our sins. Everything that we are, we owe to God, everything.

God’s sovereignty, and His wisdom and His love are brought to bear on all the unexpected turns, and shifts, and twists, in the road of our lives. There are many of those I know. To be grateful and thankful, then is the willingness to accept the truth of God. Accept the truth from God’s Word and rely on it. I am going to believe what it says here. I am going to rely on it. I am going to have that hope, and confidence, and trust. He called me for a purpose and He is going to see me through, no matter what. And we don’t know exactly how it is going to turn out, in terms of our circumstances. We don’t know, but we know that He is working for our good.

I Thessalonians 5:23-24 he says:

"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful [is faithful, and], who also will do it." (I Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Another promise. I didn’t say it was going to be easy brethren, I didn’t say that once in the past hour and a bit. I didn’t say it was going to be easy, but that is where the trust and confidence comes in that God is in control, complete control. We can see a close connection between the promise of Romans 8:28, and I Thessalonians 5:18. One is a promise, all things work for good for those that trust God. One is an admonition, to give thanks always.

Here is how you can put it together. We are to give thanks in everything because we know that in all things God is at work for our good. I like that. It really makes sense. Give thanks in everything, because we know that in all things God is at work for our good. We can get the most comfort from Romans 8:28, just remember that God is pro-active where we are concerned. All things are going to work out. He is pro-active, not reactive. "Oh, I didn’t know that was going to happen to Jon, I'd better take some action." No, He knows exactly how to use adversity and trials for our good.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. He knew exactly what He was doing. No one else could see it then of course. Joseph sure didn’t know what God was doing, what He was working out. If we knew the answers beforehand, how much faith would we build? How much perseverance would we develop? How much patience would we have? Not much, not much.

I have asked the question many times. Can we trust God? Is He in absolute control? The answer is Yes and Yes. How can I say that with such certainty? How can I get up here and make statements like that? Because God is completely sovereign, because God is infinite in wisdom, and because God is perfect in love. Everything that occurs in our lives is for our ultimate good - everything. We don’t know how some events will turn out. But we can be assured that God will never allow situations to occur that undermine His Plan for us, His Plan for you and for me, never. Growth and change from confronting adversity, and above all, you must see the hand of God in every area of your life.

I want to conclude by re-reading for you a beautiful verse in Zephaniah 3:17:

"The LORD your God in the midst, The Mighty One, he will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

That is really beautiful, that's something - it really got to me. The Great God is rejoicing over us! Not just a little happy, a little smile. He is rejoicing. Beautiful. Strengthening and encouraging you with His love, His steadfast love. And He is rejoicing over us with singing. Beautiful.

Great is the God that we serve brethren. The God who is in complete control and that God we must learn to trust with all our being.


Footnote:

All scriptures are taken from The New King James Version.