Why do we know what we know?
We undoubtedly live in a privileged day. God has certainly given us so much. Those of us who live in the United States live in relative safety. In comparison to the rest of the world even the poorest of us have great abundance. Our country affords us unprecedented freedom that most of the world lacks. We live in a time when God's Word is easily accessible. For all of us we have been partakers of 2000+ years of the preaching and teaching of God's Word. The question is why are we here in this time and in this day? What is our responsibility with all that God has given and taught us?
It brings to mind certainly two verses:
Esther 4:14 shows us the dialogue between Hadassah and Mordecai provoking this same question. Hadassah (Esther) had been allowed to rise to the height of Queen in one of Israel's darkest hours and Mordecai (her Uncle) makes this statement concerning her responsibility. "For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
We can answer that rhetorical question Mordecai poses knowing the rest of the story. Esther certainly was given the stewardship of the high office of Queen for the events that would transpire in the following chapters of that book delivering the Jews from sudden destruction.
Paul in I Corinthians 9:17 expresses a similar thought concerning his stewardship of the Gospel, "For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me."
In other words, Paul understood that he was given a mission for the spreading of the Gospel for 'such a time' as he lived.
Continuing this thought, we must then understand that God has given us His Word in its entirety for a purpose. There is no doubt that we are given His Word so that we might know the Gospel. The great purposes of the Bible not only include our knowledge of salvation but also our knowledge of God Himself and His holiness. But what about a specific passage such as Revelation 16? In understanding the sequence of events in the book of Revelation, those who have trusted in Christ for salvation will be in heaven long before chapter 16 takes place. So to what purpose should we ascribe the knowledge of the horrendous events that will take place in chapter 16 for you and I today?
First let us review what is given to us in that fearful chapter. We find it opens with a statement of God's wrath being poured out.
"And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth."
This verse speaks to the severity of the judgement of God, the completeness of the judgment (mentioned in 7 vials or bowls), and lastly the certainty of the judgement (indicated by the command "Go your ways, and pour out...") There is no amount of praying that will reverse what follows in this chapter, and because it is written in God's Word we can count on it as surely coming to pass.
We not only see the fullness of God's wrath but also the fulness of the scope of destruction. This is not some localized event that will occur in one place but rather this judgement is "upon the earth." In other words, global destruction. As the chapter continues, of which I would compel you to read for yourself, the following 'vial' judgements are given:
1. Vial 1 - Noisome and grievous sore v2
2. Vial 2 - the Sea "became as the blood of a dead man:" "every living soul in the sea died." v3
3. Vial 3 - Water sources turned to blood "they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." v4-7
4. Vial 4 - Scorching with great heat "men were scorched with great heat..." and yet"they repented not to give him the glory." v8,9
5. Vial 5 - Darkness and pain v10,11
6. Vial 6 - Deception and the gathering of the final rebellion v12,13
7. Vial 7 - Thunderings, lightenings, a great earthquake(islands flee and mountains disappear), and hail (60-100lbs a piece) falls upon man. v17-21
As we look at this list, which our imagination just has the ability to scratch the surface of, we must ask the question, Why did God give us this incite?
Might I suggest at least one reason; that we would be reminded of the impending judgment that will come to pass and be more fervent in our yielding to our Savior to preach the Gospel.
As I am reminded of the power of the Gospel let us leave this gruesome scene by meditating on these two verses:
Acts 26:18 “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Colossians 1: 11-14 "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:"
Both of these verses give us the hope that today we can, should the Lord tarry, see folks translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. Our responsibility for 'such a time as this' is to be diligent in witnessing to the lost around us. Let us never forget our stewardship of the Gospel in this late hour.
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
...but for the glory of God...
"When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." John 11:4
Our perspective, or as the Bible terms it our vision in life, determines everything from how we move and breath to how we think and feel. Circumstances and even trials will be perceived by our vision of God. The big 'why' question often plaques us, normally in times of difficulty. It is interesting to note that the 'why' question normally does not come during times of great blessing. Our God desires us to have the right vision of Himself. And so as the Bible unfolds from Genesis to Revelation, it not only shows us how to be saved but it also shows us how to live in relation to Him. Seeing our lives God-ward is key to living the abundant Christian life. In other words, our eyes fixed upon the Savior will make all the difference in the world. Over and over again God demonstrates His glory through the pages of Scripture and compels us that we are privileged to glorify Him. In John chapter 11, we are told of a man by the name of Lazarus who has been recorded for all eternity in the pages of God's Word as the man Jesus raised from the dead. Just a few chapters later he would literally be a living testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ. And yet without the perspective given to us in verse 4 of this chapter, people would see Lazarus' sickness and death as nothing more than a tragedy of the present cruelties of this world.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus himself at this point in chapter 11 were grappling with the big question 'why.' No doubt they also had scores of other emotions that come with an untimely sickness that continues to get worse and worse. Knowing that Jesus could heal Lazarus if He wanted to, Mary and Martha sent saying, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." (John 11:3) Can you hear the present cry that many of us share in times of difficulty, "He's sick, come quickly, help!" ?
Jesus however gives us (the reader and those present at this statement) some vision concerning our lives in relation to God. Our Lord and Savior states, "This sickness is not unto death, but..." (John 11:4a) But what?? Underline the following statement of heavenly perspective, "but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." (John 11:4b)
Sickness is one thing, but physical death is something entirely different. Temporary inconvenience is unpleasant, but what about a complete giving of our lives that God may be glorified? Do we say Lord I am willing to suffer to a point in this world but only to this point? Are we willing to have the 'all in' heavenly perspective concerning our lives in their present circumstances? I wonder myself, if I were given the knowledge that God was going to take my life for His glory, would I say, "not my will, but thine, be done" even as our Savior said? Knowing the rest of the events in the life of Lazarus it is easy to sit back and say, "No problem, I could deal with that!" If we were to be honest however, all of us have trouble when times get tough.
Notice some startling truths we can see concerning our lives in relation to God.
1. God knows the totality of our circumstances.
This is evident when Jesus states, "...This sickness is not unto death..." (v4) and later in verse 6 we are told "...he abode two days..." The beginning, the ending, and everything in between is known by God. The good times, the sicknesses and the struggles alike are also known to God. The poor decisions and the right choices; none of these things are hid from God. Notice these two compelling verses, "O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee." (Psalm 69:5) "For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings." (Job 34:21) Clearly God knows the totality of our circumstances.
2. Our lives have the potential of glorifying God.
Why was Lazarus chosen to get sick, die, and be raised from the dead? Why were Martha and Mary chosen to witness and be involved in the events surrounding Lazarus' death and raising? Why did Jesus speak these very words in the presence of the disciples concerning the reason for Lazarus' death? The answer is ..."but for the glory of God..." What a privilege it is then to be allowed to glorify God.
3. God loves us.
In case we had doubts about God's goodness toward us we are given verse 5 as an affirmation concerning this present situation with Lazarus. "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Mary and Martha obviously understood this according to verse 3 and we come to understand this also by the Holy Spirit's commentary in verse 5. It is as if the Holy Spirit could here us thinking, "Well if you loved Lazarus, why would you let him suffer and die?" Littered throughout the pages of Scripture we are constantly reaffirmed that God loves us. In fact, He loves us so much that he perfectly demonstrated that love on the cross. (Romans 5:8) This means He loves us even when we cannot see the end and explain the why. This means He loves us even when we cannot explain our current situation or struggles. God assures us by stating and demonstrating over and over again 'I love you.'
These first three truths ought to do much for us in traversing difficult times, not in making our problems go away, but rather giving us some heavenly perspective. But how do we traverse the difficulty? How do we keep going when life is difficult? We understand God loves us, we understand God knows our present circumstances and we also understand we are to glorify God in our lives, but now what? This last truth will help.
4. We are participating in God's unfolding drama of redemption.
Purpose goes a long way when it comes to our actions. Borrowing a title from W. Graham Scroggie's book entitled The Unfolding Drama of Redemption, our vision of God should help us understand that we are participating in His unfolding drama of redemption. In other words, there are so many effects of our participation that we cannot possibly fully understand the end of all of our actions (I dare say we do not in our present earthly tabernacle have the capacity or ability to see the end from the beginning as God does). Let me demonstrate what I am referring to by using this event as an example. Is it possible for anyone to calculate how many people were positively affected by Lazarus' death and raising? We can say for certain that for thousands of years people have been affected by this event simply because it is recorded in God's Word. But even if that were not the case, how many generations of people were affected by this singular event? Think about those present, and then also those who were told by those present. The answer is that none of us have the understanding to know how widespread God is glorified by Lazarus' death and raising. As we study God's Word we would come to the same conclusion about any number of saints that have through the ages gone through challenging times. (Stephen's stoning, Paul's near death experiences, Daniel's night with the lions, Noah's testimony to his children building the Ark and the list could go on...) The same holds true for you and I. How many will be affected by our glorifying of God? And even a more pressing question is this, am I wasting opportunities to glorify God because I have the wrong vision of God and my circumstances? Let our prayers be this then, "God I do not understand this, but I pray you will give me the help to glorify you by it!"
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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