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About this series
Facing The Future with Confidence
In this information age, it seems the more we know, the less we are really sure of! Experts tell us our families are disintegrating, our global economy is tenuous, and random violence is on the rise. Is it possible to live confidently in such confusing times? What does God's Word have to say about our future and our fears? Learn how you can face tomorrow and each day that follows with confidence and strength.More from this series
Now, I don’t know where you’re at in your life, but it was a long journey – and one that I’m still on – to understand God’s goodness. I believe some of us, I had a dad who was an ex-Marine and remember the years in the seventies, and especially the eighties, and early nineties, when everybody dumped on their parents? And any problem you ever had was because of your parents, and, “They should have done this,” and, “they should have done that.”
Well, all those people who dumped on their parents now have kids growing up and realize that’s not a good way to go. Because what we don’t do is talk about all the great things our parents developed in us. But since no one’s parent was Jesus, that means they’re fallible people, and they don’t do everything right.
A lot of my work ethic, and my over-achievement, and focus on goals, and “make things happen,” man, that’s my dad pushing me, and having confidence, and believing in me. But he wasn’t a believer when we grew up. And so, when I would achieve something, my dad thought, I want to bring out the best. You know that, “Be all you can be”? Long before the Marines were saying that, my dad lived it. And so, the bar was here, and if you achieved that, then he would raise the bar. “Oh, okay. Well, then, you achieved that.” And then, he’d raise the bar.
Well, some of you have been around the block long enough that, when you bust it, achieve it, bust it, achieve it, bust it, achieve it, and the bar keeps going up – what do you do? You just get discouraged. He didn’t mean to do that, at all.
And so, somehow, I transferred that to my relationship with God. And I probably lived a good portion of my early Christian life – and still struggle – with this idea that, no matter how hard I try, how long I pray, how much I serve, how generous I am with my money – I always feel like God’s arms are crossed, and His toe is tapping, and He’s saying, “Well, Chip, that was pretty good, but…” And you know what that is? That is very bad theology.
- W. Tozer, in a little book that’s transformed my life – The Knowledge of the Holy – writes about God’s goodness. Let me define His goodness: “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, and cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.
“He is tenderhearted. He’s quick of sympathy. And His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, and frank, and friendly. And, by His nature, He is inclined to bestow blessedness, and He takes Holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.” Is that the God that you serve?
Did you realize, this morning, before you were awakened, you were sleeping in bed, and the Triune God of heaven could look down on you sleeping – and you weren’t doing anything – and there was a smile on His face? And They’re thinking, in the Triunity of the Godhead, How could we bless him today? How could we bless her today? How could we bring joy into her life, or his life?
You see, God is good to you not because you’re good. God is good to you because He’s good. And we don’t get that.
In fact, Tozer goes on to write – I love this – “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed, if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky, and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power, and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.” Wouldn’t you breathe just a little better if you felt like, God is for me; He’s not down on me, that, when something good happens to you, it’s His holy pleasure?
He delights when He sees relationships connect, when He sees the smile of your heart with one of your kids, when He sees an answer to prayer, when He blesses you financially – it’s the God of heaven. It’s goodness. It’s grace, His love for you. When you begin to praise God that He’s like that, you will start to believe that He’s like that. And when you start to believe that He’s like that, it will change how you think.
And so, David praises God for His goodness, and then, he shifts: Not only is God good, but He’s also sovereign. He goes, “All You have created will praise You, O Lord.” He identifies His creatorship. He goes, “Your saints will extol You.”
And then, next, as we walk through this, watch very, very carefully because an interesting thing happens. David is a king, right? It’s a different day, but when the king walks in, what do people do? They bow down.
And a king has a kingdom. What’s a kingdom? If you’re the king, anything inside your kingdom you’re the boss of, you control. You have the power, the authority to say, “This is how it’s going to happen here, under my rule. All a kingdom is – it identifies the rule of the person in power.
Now, listen carefully, as David now exalts. He’s thought through these specific acts of how God has delivered, and intervened, and now, he’s going to praise Him not just for His goodness, but that He’s absolutely in control of everything, every situation that comes into his life. As I read, listen for the concept of “kingdom,” or “dominion,” or “rule,” or “sovereignty.”
Verse 11: “They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and they will speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and Your rule” – or dominion – “endures through all generations.” Do you know what “sovereignty” means? It means God is in control.
Jot in your notes, in the corner, Romans 8:28 and 29 – we quote that at different times. But God is in control. What do we say? “And we know that God works all things together for the good, for” – everybody? No. What? “…to them that love God, who are called according to His purposes.”
Listen very carefully. Nothing that enters your life comes to you unless it is ordained by God or allowed by God. And even the evil, and the difficult, and the fallen nature of what’s happening in the world, or your world, God promises – because He is bigger, and more powerful, and sovereign – He will use it for your good.
And your good, however, is not necessarily to be upwardly mobile, and to be a little, happy camper, skipping up and down, everything going great. See, that’s the American gospel: If God’s really good He’ll make my life work out, my way, on my terms, to make me happy so I can be fulfilled. That is not biblical Christianity. Verse 29 is biblical Christianity: He will work all things together for your good, who are called according to His purposes, in order that He may conform you, and conform me, to the image of His Son. God is about making you like Jesus.
He’ll use your finances. He’ll use a health problem. He’ll use a broken relationship. He’ll use a wayward child. He’ll use the health situation of one of your parents. He will use a personality defect. He’ll use a boss who is unreasonable, or an employee who’s making you crazy. He’ll use all things together, for your good, to make you, and to make me, a daughter, or a son, that progressively exudes – not because we’re trying, or faking it – but progressively exudes love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and gentleness, and goodness, and self-control, and the very life of Christ. And does the world need more of those kinds of people populating it?
But see, the way God gets us there isn’t the way we always sign up for. And what he does is he praises God. What would happen if you actually believed that God’s really in control? I’m thinking to myself, Lord, You don’t understand! I’ve got a wife, and four kids, and I’m the breadwinner! And I’ve got to be back! And there’s a pastorate! I am so important! You know, there’s a coup, but You can suspend this coup for Chip, can’t You? Forget all these generals and military people – You’ve got to get me on a plane now, because I am so important! I wasn’t thinking that way, and then, God brought this passage to my mind: Chip, who’s in control of governments? “You are.”
Who cares about your wife and children more than you? “You do.” Now, Chip, I can get you on a plane if I want to, and I can change the airline schedule, and you should pray and ask Me that. But I’m sovereignly in control of this country, this world, and the universe, and I’ll get you home when you need to be home. What I would like for you to do is trust Me, and give thanks, and cooperate with what I might want to do in you, or even through you, or in your wife, or even through them, regardless of your circumstances. Do you get it? Now, in that one, that was wonderful: We got a last-minute deal, and we got on that plane, got out of the country before they shut things down. But that lesson has stayed with me. And so, then, you begin to praise Him: You’re in control. I don’t understand it, but thank You that Your ultimate purposes will be fulfilled in my heart, and in my family, and in my job, as I align and depend on You.
Do you get it? Do you see how praise is an antidote for doubt? Your view of God, as you praise Him for who He really is begins to get accurate, and expands. He is good. He’s for you. Second, He’s in control. Nothing enters your life that He doesn’t either allow or ordain. And third, you can depend on Him.
He goes on to say – what? He is faithful. Look at the text. Verse 13: “The Lord is faithful to” – what? Some of His promises? Seventy-two percent of His promises? “The Lord is faithful to all His promises, and He’s loving toward all He has made.”
Quick question: Who made you?
Look at what the verse says: He is loving toward all He’s made.” What if you praised Him for that? What if you said, “You are so good, and You are so in control. In Your sovereignty I’m bulletproof. I need to obey, and I need to submit. And Your sovereignty produces productivity, not passivity. I want to align with Your purposes in my life. But You’re loving toward all that You’ve made, and every, single promise in this book – I can go to the bank on it. You’re faithful. You’ll never let me down.
“The Lord upholds” – who? – “all those who fall down.” Who does He lift up? “All who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at proper time. You open Your hand, and You satisfy the desires of every living thing.” God is faithful.
I remember when my kids were younger, and I’d hear them talk on the phone, and they’d be planning to meet someone. In Santa Cruz, everyone goes out for coffee. They just go out for a coffee, or they go out to surf. And so, I’d hear one of my kids on the phone: “Aw man! Aw man!” I’d say, “What happened?” “He flaked on me.” I said, “What’s that mean?” “Well, we were supposed to meet, and we were supposed to surf, but he didn’t show up.” Or, “We were all going to meet for coffee, and so-and-so didn’t show up. He flaked on me.”
Anybody ever flake on you? Any employer ever flake on a promise? Any friend? Any mate? Any one of your kids ever flake on you? How’d it make you feel? Can I tell you something? God will never flake on you.
Any situation you’re in, and you think, I don’t have the resources, here’s a promise: He just said, one hundred percent of the time. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” One hundred percent of the time, for every believer, that’s true. You’re wondering how you’re going to make it, with what’s happening in the economy. What? “My grace is sufficient for you.” And what do we know? The end of Philippians 4: “He will provide all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” Whatever you need, He’ll provide.
You’re under pressure in the relationship – His grace is sufficient. His power is perfected – what? – in your weakness. God will never flake. He’ll be faithful. He’s for you. He’s good. And every promise in this book, for you, as a believer – you can count on it. And you can count on the God who will come through, and He is in control, and He’s not doing it to put you through some Marine boot camp. He’s doing it because He loves you, and He wants your best. And He’s for you. And He wants to reveal His love to you.
We were in that hospital, and this passage came to my mind. And my buddy’s lying there, and, he’s in bad shape. And it says here that, first, He’s a restorer: He upholds those who fall down. Then, it says, He’s a provider: They look to Him; He provides their food. And then, it says, He satisfies the desire of every living thing: He’s a life-giver. And I remember getting with a group of basketball players, and we locked arms around our buddy, Glenn, before they put him in the back of this pickup truck, and we decided to go the short route, and I asked God to spare my friend’s life. “He satisfies the desire of every living thing.” God could be sovereign, and take his life, and still be a good God.
Are you beginning to see how God works? The truth of God’s Word, in your experience, He will bring to your mind, so it is the basis of your trust, so you can pray it in faith so, the Spirit of God makes the written Word alive in your experience.
And you meet and experience Him in the same way Jehoshaphat did. That’s how the Christian life works. A changed life is God’s ultimate goal: The word of God, by the Spirit of God, as people live in community, taking steps of faith, and dependency. He wants to show up, supernaturally, in your life, and meet your need, today, as He does, or has done, for every Bible character in Scripture.
And what God’s looking for is a regular group of people, who would do what in their time of doubt? Praise Him: Oh God, I’m going to list what You’ve done. God, I’m going to choose to do it, when I don’t feel like it. Oh God, You are good, even though I don’t feel like it, and circumstances don’t look like it. God, You’re sovereign, even though I don’t know how You’re going to make lemonade out of this group of lemons I just got. God, You’re faithful, even though I’m scared to death that, if You don’t come through, I can’t make it!
And then finally, he’s going to say He is righteous: “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He’s made. The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who” – what? – “fear Him; He hears their cry and He saves them. The Lord watches over all who love Him, but all the wicked He’ll destroy.”
It says, “The Lord is righteous.” When we think of “righteousness,” we often think of that as His “holiness.” That is not the word, here. It’s true that God is holy. This word has the idea that He’s just, or He’s fair, and He’s “loving toward all He has made.” Have you noticed that’s repeated? We must need to hear that, huh? “He is loving toward all He has made.”
Now, notice that He is not fair, or loving, toward all people, at all times. There are three specific conditions about experiencing the justice of God.
Condition number one: “The Lord is near to those who call upon Him.” In other words, He wants to answer your prayer. What’s the condition? What does it say? “To those who call upon Him in truth.” The moment, the second, the millisecond you get absolutely honest with God, and get real, and don’t try and manipulate Him, and don’t go into denial, and don’t play religious games – the moment you call to God, in absolute honesty, and truth – bang! – He’ll meet you.
And when you play games, and manipulate, and try and cut deals, you know what? Talk all you want in that bedroom, talk all you want on that walk, but His ears are closed to those who are not honest and open with Him. We have gotten this idea that…God does not answer all prayers equally. He doesn’t. Don’t look at me like, “What?” No, He doesn’t. What does it say? James 5? “The effective prayer of a” – what kind of person? – “righteous man.”
The second condition is not only honesty, but, notice: humility. He says, “He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him, and He hears their cries, and saves them.” God answers prayer, and He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him, who understand life is about Him, life is about God, those who have reverential awe.
To fear God means, I’m going to do relationships His way. I’m going to be a man, or a woman, of the Book. I’m going to be a person whose life, and priorities, revolve around the Scripture, and prayer, and integrity, and loving God, and loving others. That’s what it means to fear God. It means the whole world, and the whole Christian community, can go that direction, but if God says “this direction,” I’m going this direction.
When you walk in the fear of the Lord, He delights to fulfill your desires. But He does not fill the desires of everyone. God is a God of grace, but there are clear conditions to Him allowing you, and allowing me, to experience His grace.
Finally, we’re to love Him: “The Lord watches over all who love Him, but the wicked He will destroy.” Remember that Revelation passage, where people lose their first love? Where, just going to church, or “religiosity,” or are going through the motions, or God becomes number two, or number three, or number four in the pecking order.
You know what? He is a jealous God. He doesn’t want to be even in your top five. He’s number one. Number one, the only One. He wants to be the center of your heart, your life, your affection, your dreams, your agenda. And that means that, daily and weekly, we – what? Surrender ourselves before Him, as a living sacrifice.
And that means, also, that, unless you’re different than all the rest of us in the room, your heart will gravitate, and get sucked in, and pulled into multiple things, and you’ll find yourself, daily, saying, Lord, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Those aren’t the kinds of thoughts that honor You. God, I’m sorry. I’ve gotten connected in this relationship in an unhealthy way. Lord, I’m sorry. I’ve gotten stuck on this stuff, and, for a while there, I thought life was about my car, and my money, and my retirement, and what people thought, and impressing others. Oh God, I’m sorry.
And the moment you come like that, what’s He do? He just eagerly runs to forgive, and to cleanse. When you doubt – and there’s certainly good reason to doubt, in our day, David says, biblical praise is the antidote to doubt.
Step number one: choose to do it, whether you feel like it or not. Step number two: itemize, if you will, verbalize, specific acts of God in your life. Step number three: use those acts to move you from His acts, to His ways. And then, focus on at least these four: His goodness, and His sovereignty, and His faithfulness, and His righteousness. And worship and adore Him.
And then, finally, coming together, saying, God, not just as an individual, but as Your body, I want to worship You
Look at verse 21. Isn’t that what David does? David says, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let” – in fact this isn’t a little soft, it’s a command: “Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.”
I just have one quick question for you: Could an all-powerful God, who takes holy pleasure in making you happy, who is completely sovereign, in control, and faithful to you, who is righteous, and just, and fair, and who is all-knowing, and who delights over you, and you’re the object of His affection – do you think He could take that issue and do you think He could handle it this week for you? Think He could? Do you think He could give you the grace to hang on in a relationship? Do you think He could give you the grace to not have your heart beating so hard or wake up in the middle of the night, when you think about how things are going overseas, or with your finances?
Do you think He could give you the power, and the grace, to draw near to Him and say, You know what? I can’t change the biopsy report. I can’t make one of my kids turn back to the Lord. I can’t get my aging parents to trust Christ before they die. But I can draw near to the One who can, and I can entrust those things to You, O God, because You’re good. No one gets a raw deal. You’re sovereign. You’re in control. And You are faithful to Your Word. And I’m Your son, or, I’m Your daughter, and no one gets a raw deal with the great God of the universe. And so, I come to You in truth, and I humble myself before You.
And You satisfy the desires of every living thing who walks in the fear of the Lord. And I want to be a worshipper. I just want to be a Regular Joe, or, a Regular Mary – who gets up every day, and I want You to be the object of my affection. I’d like to get to know You, deeper, and deeper, and better, and better.
And as I do, then those problems that seem to overwhelm my life get to be what they are: an issue that God wants to use to change me, to make me more like His Son, and see who He really is.”