In All Things, God Works

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Click here to listen to the audio recording of this message

In all things, God works. Even during the darkest times of our life, God continues to work God’s purposes out.

I’ve been through some pretty dark times in my life – a long history of depression, a survivor of sexual abuse, a month in a psychiatric hospital. Life can be tough! And when we or those we love are in the midst of suffering, we often wonder where God is in all this. We wonder how God can allow these bad things. And how God can make anything good come out of the bad.

In Romans 8:28, Paul assures us that in all things, God works for our good. But this verse, so thrown around, can feel like an assault, rather than a beacon of hope, when we are in the midst of suffering. When suffering is really bad, it is hard to imagine that God could in any way be involved. It becomes hard to remember that God loves us, passionately.

This recording is a re-presentation of the transcript of a sermon that I delivered five years ago. A friend of mine, who found this sermon meaningful back then, sent it to me recently, to preach my own sermon back at me, while I have been going through a difficult time. And I felt ministered to. She didn’t know this, but it was particularly meaningful because this month it has been 20 years since I was admitted to hospital for severe depression, an experience that is one of the touchstones of my life. And so, I present this message again, as a podcast, hoping that it may minister to you.

In all things, God works. Even during the darkest times of our life, God continues to work God’s purposes out.

Click here to access the written transcription of this sermon, as preached on 27 July 2008.

Participating with God

Dear Friends

Usually, my blogs are podcasts, and this will continue next week as usual. But today I wanted to post a brief reflection on our participation with God.

I do believe, with my whole heart, that God places a call upon each of us – sometimes this is a call to an explicitly Christian ministry, for example, a call to ordination or missionary work. But most often it is a call to be God’s person in the world, to use the gifts that we have been given to reveal God’s love to the people in our environment, to do our job in a way that reflects God’s values and priorities, to care for those in need, to live out our faith in authentic ways. It is a call to be Christ in the world.

For myself, after God called me into a relationship with him in 1984, I began to feel a sense of calling into ministry. I really can’t articulate what this call constitutes. I’m not one who has heard the Voice of God saying, “Adrian, I want you to do this.” Perhaps it was just a feeling. But it was a deep seated feeling, a strong conviction, an imperative, a persistent yearning, a burning in my belly, an annoying compulsion. There is something about this calling that I could not get away from. Nevertheless, I spent the first 20 years of my Christian life running away from this call. I was doing the Jonah! I genuinely did not feel equipped for ministry – my faith is far too frail and uncertain.

Then, back in 2004, through my participation in a version of the purpose driven church, I experienced a renewal of the call, so strong in fact that I HAD to do something about it. I approached a trusted spiritual advisor, and she affirmed the call and took it to our Church Council. Eventually, in August 2005 I preached my first sermon, on Romans 12:1 (you can access the text of this sermon, by clicking here). That first sermon was a confirmation of God’s call – as I stood at the lectern and broke open God’s Word, I knew, for absolute certain, that this is what I was put here for. It was only in acting upon God’s call that I really got confirmation of that call.

It has been a little over seven years, and I have been blessed, by God and the church, to have the opportunity to preach regularly – for the past couple of years it has been twice a month. I thank God for this privilege. God has opened up a space for me to do God’s work, for me to be used by God. This is something amazing about our God – God likes us to participate with him in his work in the world – God chooses to share the work with us. In the process of my participating with God, I have been blessed. And apparently others have been blessed through me. The knowledge that God’s Spirit touches others through my fragile offering of myself is awesome! It is in my brokenness and uncertainty, that God does what God does best – God loves his people.

For myself, the call that God has placed in me is not just an optional thing. Not something I can turn off. Not something that I can run away from. I cannot help but believe that since God gifts each of his children, and since God has a vision for each of his children, God must also have a call for each of his children. I believe firmly that God has a call for you. And if you are still reading this, then I want to prompt you to seek out that calling. To listen to God’s voice – typically, a still, small voice. To listen for God’s call – something in your bones, in your gut. Something burning, something that wants to grow, something that leads you towards God.  God does not just call some; God calls each one. God calls you!

There is a poem that has been very meaningful to me in my journey, which I wish to share with you this week. I’m not much into poetry (I hear some of you gasp! Sorry about that), but this one expresses most accurately what I experience in myself. It puts into words an experience that I am not able to articulate myself. I stumbled across is by accident, but really I think this is a gift from God. And maybe it is a gift for you too.

What is this seed that thou has planted in me
that I must bring to fruit
or pass my life in sterile waste?

What is this gift that thou hast given me
that I must in turn pass on
or it will destroy me?

What is it you are asking me to do
that I must do
or know my life defeated?

I ask, in Christ’s name
Amen.

–        Edward Tyler, 1978
Prayers in Celebration of the Turning Year.

Making Sense of God’s Will

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Making Sense of God’s Will

Sometimes life happens to us – the storms of life! – leaving us reeling and questioning: Where is God in this? Why did God let this happen? Is this God’s will? If it is God’s will, must I just submit to it? And if it’s not God’s will, must I fight against it? What is God’s will anyway?!

These are things we all grapple with from time to time. In fact, it is something I am grappling with right now. There are no easy answers. And so this message is really a message to myself. You’ll be listening in on my own questioning. Hopefully, you’ll gain a new insight into God’s attitude towards you; God’s love for you.

This message draws on several verses, not just one passage:

Matthew 7:9-11
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 18:14
“So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”

John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Ephesians 1:9-10
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

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. (NIV)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)

Psalm 23:4
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (AV)