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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The gospel promises we're in good hands with our Father God
Text:LD 10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-12-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 100

Psalm 67

Hymn 55

Hymn 1

Psalm 34:1,7,8,9

Scripture readings:  Genesis 37, Romans 8:28-39

Catechism lesson: Lord's Day 10

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ Jesus,

Do you remember the story of Jessica McClure?  This was back in 1987.  Jessica McClure was a year and a half old when she fell into a well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland, Texas.  She became stuck 22 feet below the ground, but still above the water in the well.  Rescuers tried to reach her for 45 hours.  They had to drill a parallel shaft to the well and then bore across to where she was stuck.  A paramedic crawled through the tunnel and reached Jessica.  But she was wedged tightly into the well.  Other paramedics monitoring her vital signs on the surface were getting concerned.  She needed to come out immediately.  So they reportedly told the paramedic in the tunnel, “Pull hard!  She does not have more time.  You may have to break her to save her.” 

The paramedic pulled hard one more time and Jessica was released from the grip of the well.  As it turns out, she wasn’t injured from the rescue.  But they were prepared to do that if it was necessary.  It could’ve been different.  The paramedics were going to use whatever means necessary to rescue Jessica, even if it meant breaking her in the process. 

We often have a hard time seeing being broken could save us.  It’s hard to understand how a massive hurt in our lives could end up working for our good.  Yet this is what the doctrine of providence teaches us.  It assures us that God works all things for our good and he calls us to trust him on that.  This is part of the good news, part of what the gospel promises us.  And so this afternoon, we’re considering the gospel doctrine of God’s providence.  We’ll see how the gospel promises we’re in good hands with our Father God.

We’ll learn about what this means for our:

  1. Past
  2. Present
  3. Future

Many of us like to reminisce about the past.  We often think about years gone by and things that happened, good and bad.  Perhaps you lie in bed at night and memories come rushing back at you.  Perhaps there are memories you cherish.  Perhaps there are memories you wish you could forget.  And maybe there are just some memories that are just there. 

In any case, what we do with those memories has a lot to do with what we confess in Lord’s Day 10.  This is especially the case with the memories we wish we could forget.  As we reflect on things we said and did, or things that others said and did, things that happened, we need to remember who our God is and what he was doing in the midst of all that.  We confess from the Scriptures that he was there and he was actively involved. 

In Answer 27, we say that when we speak about God’s providence, we understand that to mean “his almighty and ever present power.”  Note those words “ever present.”  Those words point us not only to the present, but also to the past.  God is God and his power doesn’t change.  So when he upholds heaven and earth and all creatures today, we also know he did the same thing 20, 30, or 40 years ago.  He’s always done so.  When we confess that he governs everything so nothing comes by chance, we confess that for today, but also for the past.  God didn’t start being God yesterday.  Moreover, he didn’t start being your Father yesterday.  In other words, he has always been exercising his power in love for you.  His fatherly hand has always been at work in your life.     

We find that truth clearly taught in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…” [Repeat].  When we think about the past, these words are extremely precious.  In everything that has happened in the past, God was working for your good.  Even the most terrible things you wish you could forget.  Even those things which you thought were the work of the devil.  God was working with those things to bring good to you some day.  Maybe the good hasn’t come yet.  Perhaps it will be some time before it does and when it does come maybe you won’t even realize it.  But God has given his promise.  He wasn’t sleeping when those bad things happened in the past.  God doesn’t take coffee breaks.  He’ll take all things that happened in your past, good and bad, and make them good for you, somehow, someday.  As someone once said, he promises that behind every frowning providence he hides a smiling face.  Brothers and sisters, you must trust his promise and believe him.  Because of Christ and what he has done for you, God is your Father and he loves you.

So today when we reflect on the past, how do we do that?  We can take our cue from Answer 28, “We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity.”  When we don’t understand why something happened, our tendency is to be impatient.  We’re impatient with God because he hasn’t told us why.  We want an answer and we want it now.  And this is especially true when it comes to the adversities we’ve faced in the past.  When this is us, we need to pay attention to those passages of Scripture which teach us to wait on God.  For instance, in Psalm 38, David is being chastised by God and he cries out to him, but God gives him no answer.  Then in verse 15 he says, “I wait for you, O LORD, you will answer, O LORD my God.”  He will wait on God.  That’s another way of saying that David will be patient until the answer comes.  The answer might be the full explanation we desire.  But the answer might also be our Father’s gentle admonition to one of his children, “You will have to just trust me.  If I loved you enough to send my Son to die for you, you can trust me on this.  Look at the cross and you know you can trust me.  Look at the cross of Christ and you see how I can bring the greatest good from the most horrific suffering.  I did that for you.  Trust me with this too.”    

And when there have been good times in our past, we can be thankful.  “Thankful in prosperity.”  In Deuteronomy 8:10, we hear Moses speaking to the people of God, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD for the good land he has given you.”  Here the people look back at what God did for them in giving them the Promised Land and they praise him and thank him for that.  So it is to be with God’s people today as well.  When we look back over the years and see clear evidences of the good that God has done for us, naturally we thank him.  Keeping that in mind, you can hardly imagine a Christian birthday, wedding or anniversary celebration that doesn’t explicitly thank and praise God for blessings received.  Thankfulness in prosperity is just part of what we’re all about as God’s people and that also refers to the prosperity we’ve been given in the past.

So as we look back over our pilgrimage in years gone by, we need to see we’ve been in good hands.  God the Father has been there sustaining us and carrying us along, even though sometimes the picture has not always been clear to us.  The picture might not be clear, but his promise certainly is.  You see the problem is not that God wasn’t there, the problem is that we have a hard time believing the promise that he was and that he has a good purpose for us.  So we pray, we pray for more grace and that God would help our unbelief.  We need him to help us so we do believe and embrace the beautiful promise that he has been our help in ages past. 

We read about Joseph in Genesis 37.  What a horrible thing happens to Joseph as a young man.  Like Jessica McClure, Joseph ends up in a well.  Only it’s not an accident – his brothers toss him in there.  Then while they’re eating, a caravan of Ishmaelites happens by.  Instead of killing their brother, they decide to make a profit from him.  They sell him to the human traffickers.  In Genesis 39, you can read about what happened next.  Joseph got sold to an Egyptian official named Potiphar.  Then Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape and he ended up in prison.  You can imagine Joseph sitting in that Egyptian prison.  He’s far away from his home.  He’s been treated so unfairly by his brothers and by his Egyptian master.  Joseph would have definitely had reason to question God’s providence in his life.  How could God make something good come out of all that misery and injustice?  

Now if Joseph’s story in Genesis 37 and 39 had happened today, a lot of people would look at it, and say, “Poor guy, look at all his bad luck.  It was just one thing after another for poor Joseph.  Hopefully his luck will turn around soon.”  But is that what Joseph said?  Later in the book of Genesis we hear him say to his brothers that what they did to him they meant for evil, but God turned it for good.  Maybe he wondered when it was happening how it would all turn out, but later he could see it.  He knew God had been in control all along.  Joseph knew there was no such thing as bad luck.  Instead, there is a sovereign God who actively upholds heaven and earth and all creatures and so governs them that all things “come to us not by chance but by his Fatherly hand.”

Loved ones, as we journey through this world right now, we recognize that this is our Father’s world.  He is the sovereign God and he doesn’t tolerate any competition, even from things that don’t even really exist.  He doesn’t tolerate competition from idols – and we all know that idols are not real, at least not in their power to do anything good.  He also doesn’t tolerate competition from luck or chance – things that are also not real.  They’re only real in people’s minds.   

So as those who believe in “God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” we simply can’t talk about luck or chance.  God is sovereignly in control of everything, even the mundane like the roll of a dice in a game, or the shot that hit the cross bar.   God is sovereign.  Why do we sometimes talk as if he isn’t?  We do that when we use words like “luck.”  If we use that word, we may not mean to, but we’re giving credence to the existence of such a thing.  Then we’re saying, even if we don’t mean to, that God isn’t in control.  He isn’t sovereign.  I’m sure we don’t want to say that.  So rather than talking about luck and chance, as Christian confessors, we explicitly speak about God’s work in our lives, even with the mundane like the hairs on our head and those tiny birds flitting around outside.  And in doing this, we more and more bring glory to our sovereign Father in heaven.   We want to be a missional, outward looking people, don’t we?  Well then, in how we speak let’s always be clear that our Creator is in control.  As Proverbs says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  By doing that we help people see that he is the great God of heaven and earth, who not only made everything in the past, but keeps it all going today as well.  Today, in the present, we need to believe that and then also talk and act as those who believe it.  And God will use that to bring more people to himself. 

The sovereignty and providence of God is a precious teaching of Scripture and we should guard it carefully.  Sadly, there are several popular Christian writers who would rob you of this doctrine.  There is a common false teaching called open theism.  Open theism is the logical and consistent conclusion to Arminianism.  Basically, open theism teaches that, by choice, God isn’t sovereign, rather he makes room for man’s free will.  In his essential being, God reacts and changes according to what man does.  According to open theism, God doesn’t know anything about the future and God doesn’t ordain all that happens.  When we get surprised by something that happens in this coming week, God will be surprised too.  He won’t see it coming any more than we will.  Consequently, people who hold to this view often talk or write about God taking risks.  Anytime someone says that God is taking a risk, you know you’re dealing with someone who holds to this false teaching of open theism or has been influenced by it.  Open theism is a rejection of what we confess in Lord’s Day 10. 

The doctrine we confess in Lord’s Day 10 is biblical and so we need to guard it and cherish it.  And not only is it biblical, it’s also given to us as good news.  After all, what comfort is there in believing that God is subject to luck, chance or so-called human freedom?  Where is the good news with a weak and emasculated God?   What’s so great about a God who loves you but has no power to help?  What comfort is there in believing that God depends on anyone or anything else?  Really, what comfort is there in believing what isn’t true?  But there is comfort, for yesterday and today, when we believe that the sovereign God is there, he does care and he is in control.  That’s comfort for yesterday and today, but also for the future.         

As believers, we don’t have a guarantee of life on easy street.  As those who believe in Christ, sometimes we will have hard times.  That’s taught in numerous places in Scripture, but perhaps nowhere more clearly than in James 1.  In the second verse, James already speaks of this when he writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”  Trials are by definition hard times.  James points out how believers will face these in the future and when we do, there’s a certain kind of attitude we aim to adopt.  It’s the attitude of Christ himself as he journeyed through this vale of tears.  As Christ travelled through the valley of the shadow of death, as he suffered through his whole life, he counted it all joy.  Not only that, but he also was patient and endured what God brought his way, knowing it would be for good.

As believers, we’re called to bear our crosses as our Saviour did his.  Think of Romans 8:17 which tells us we are co-heirs with Christ, “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  As we face adversity in this life, Christ will dwell in us through his Spirit and conform us to his image.  That includes sufferings, learning patience through trials and tests.  James 1:3, says that “you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [or patience].”  So, as we look to the future, we pray for God to develop in us steadfastness and patience for the trials we’ll face.  We pray that with the firm hope that going through these trials, one day we’ll share in the fulness of Christ’s glory.

We also pray for God to develop thankfulness in us when he brings prosperity across our path.  When we have prosperous times, we can’t begin to think we did it for ourselves, that we have a right to be proud of ourselves.  That would be a worldly approach.  As those in Christ, we’ll be wanting to focus all our attention on God and his glory, giving credit where credit is due.    As Paul says in 2 Cor. 10:17 and elsewhere, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  In our future, there’s no room for glorying in human achievement, only room for more praise to be given to the sovereign God of grace and power.  And that’s why Paul also tells the Thessalonians in 1 Thess. 5:18 to give thanks always.  Even in bad times, but especially in the good times, we should be praying to God and thanking him.  So, brothers and sisters, as you look ahead to the future and all it brings, remind yourself to always thank God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.  There are always blessings for which to be thankful. 

Last of all, we can also know and believe for the future that because of Christ, God is our Father.  And because of Christ and what he did, God won’t stop being our Father.  Again, savour those beautiful words of Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Absolutely nothing can separate you from your sovereign loving Father!  Nothing!  That is God’s promise to you for the future.  You can take that promise to the bank.  You can know that God will never break it, he didn’t yesterday, he will not today, and certainly will not tomorrow!  AMEN.           

Prayer:

Yahweh, Sovereign Lord God,

We praise you as the God who upholds and governs all things by your providence.  We praise you for the fact that you have always been our faithful Father, you still are today, and always will be.  We thank you for the great love you have shown to us.  We praise you as the God who knows our days inside out and backwards.  We ask you to protect your people from those who would steal these truths from us.  Please give us more grace and help us to believe the promises of your Word for our past, present and future.  Help us with your Spirit to be assured that you work for good in all things for us.  Help us to believe the promise of your Word that nothing will ever separate us from your love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.    

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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