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About this series
The Real God
How He Longs for You to See Him
There is a deep sense of unease in our rapidly changing world. Popular culture says that love means self-satisfaction and that status and appearance are what count. Social media reinforces that It’s all about me. This ultimately self-destructive perspective has thoroughly infiltrated the Church as confusion replaces conviction. At the root of our problems lies a distorted view of God. We’ve created a god in our minds that comforts our emotions but is powerless to deliver us from evil or transform our lives – because our creation is actually an idol based on who we think God is, not who He says He is. The way back to truth and hope starts with knowing God as He declares Himself to be. The Real God is an in-depth study of seven attributes of God – His goodness, sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, justice, love, and faithfulness. You’ll see and understand Him in a whole new light. It will revolutionize the way you think about God, others, and yourself. Are you ready for a new adventure? Join Chip on this journey to discover the real God.More from this series
I’m going to ask you to go to a little bit different place with me, all right?
Put your pencil down, I want you to lean back, and I want you to, in your mind, think of the most difficult, stressful area of your life.
Okay? I want you to think of an area of your life that not only is difficult and hard and maybe it’s a relationship or maybe it’s work or maybe it’s a health issue that you can’t get resolved or maybe it’s an aging parent or maybe it’s something with one of your kids. But I want you to think about something that is not only difficult for you, but it’s difficult to understand.
I mean, something that, in your heart of hearts, you wouldn’t want to say this but if you could reverently say it to God, you would say, “God, I’m walking with You the best that I can and I know Your will is good and I know You’ll never give me more than I can take, but these circumstances sure don’t feel like You’re a good God. These feelings and these struggles and this barrier, whatever it is, I don’t understand why a good, loving God, I know I don’t have to, but I just don’t understand why a good and loving God would have this situation in my life.”
Okay? So just reflect for a minute. Let me give you just a minute to bring the picture into your mind and for some it will come very quickly.
What is it – put it another way, that if God could remove it in an instant, that’s what you would want Him to remove.
Have you got it? Feel free to keep your eyes closed and lean back and think of this perplexing, difficult, maybe even very stressful issue that you can’t get unraveled. And as you do, I’d like you to listen to some words.
“To believe actively that our Heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good and our everlasting well-being brings to the soul a veritable benediction. Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. This is a tragic waste of truth and it never gives rest to your heart.
“There is a better way. It is to repudiate our own wisdom and to take instead the infinite wisdom of God. Our insistence upon seeing ahead is natural enough, but it is a real hindrance to our spiritual progress. God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and He stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him.”
Before you open your eyes, let me repeat that. I want you to think of the situation. I want you to think of that you can’t understand, why has God allowed it, and I want you to listen one more time. “God has charged Himself with the full responsibility for our eternal happiness and He stands ready,” that means this moment, “He stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him.”
That’s a quote by A.W. Tozer on the wisdom of God. And I will never forget the circumstances that led to me learning what the wisdom of God is all about. A classical definition of the wisdom of God is that God brings about the best possible results for the most possible people in the best possible way. That’s the idea. He is going to bring the best results by the best means for the most people for the longest time. And that sounds like a nice theological definition and great. The wisdom of God.
I’ll share an experience where that truth saved my life. I was in seminary at the time and I had a conviction that my wife – I had two small kids that were twins, that were about six years old and then I had an eighteen-month-old little boy, so we had three kids, and my conviction was my wife should be home and be able to nurture our children.
And so, I was going to seminary full-time and I was working full-time. A straight commission job, it’s the only thing I could do to make enough money, just to make it through. And I went three years straight through.
And so, I was up about four thirty or five every day and went to a donut shop and studied Greek for about two or three hours, went to a carpool, went to classes and every moment I wasn’t in a class I was reading a book or studying or doing something. I caught the carpool, came home, played with my family for about an hour and a half, went to work from about six thirty until eleven at night, got up at four, four thirty, did the same thing for three years.
And on the side we did a little ministry because you had to have an outlet and the good news was the ministry started to just multiply and flourish. The bad news, it was just more and more stress.
Then it was a straight commission job and the company I was working for went through some major problems and so my income disappeared. I had been going on about four hours to five hours sleep for three years straight, I’m working full-time, I’m going to school full-time, my wife has two small children and a toddler, I am dead broke, I do not have money to pay my bills, the stress is over the level I have ever experienced in my life.
I am discouraged, depressed, completely out of it. And I am sitting in a seminary class thinking, Okay, I almost went King James in my mind: Is this how Thou treats Thy servants?
I was a school teacher, I was a basketball coach, I liked what I did, God said He wanted me to go to seminary, I went to seminary, I have done it for three years, I’ve taken all this Greek and all this Hebrew and I’m working full-time, and now I don’t have any money, I have my rent due, we haven’t bought meat or groceries in fifteen days. We have taken the seven dollars that we put with the little co-op, and we have been eating fruits and vegetables for fifteen days and my wife has been baking bread from the whole-wheat flour that she has left.
I can’t pay my bills, and I am just to where I’m thinking, This is what it looks like to get rewarded when you “sell out” for God? I want to be in Your service, I want to learn Your Word, and I am ready to cash in. At least Christian service, I thought, I know enough now, I can never leave the Lord, but this being a pastor and preparing for ministry…
And I was sitting in a classroom, a theology class, and just sort of staring. And it was a class, one of those, in a room much like this with a couple hundred students and it was a big class. And it was a very famous professor and have you ever been in one of those zones where…
And I looked up and someone tapped me on the shoulder and it was the professor and the class was empty and I didn’t hear anybody leave. And I wasn’t asleep, I was just so numb, and I was sitting there thinking, I think I’m going to quit seminary. I can’t do this.
And the seminary professor was one in theology, he was a very thin man and had wire-rimmed glasses and he tapped me on the shoulder and he gave me a little comment. Just very discerning, said, “Chip, whatever you do, don’t make any major decisions in the next forty-eight hours. Go home and get a good night’s sleep, take a day off, eat a good meal, and I’ll see you Monday.”
And I just remember, often he would say things in class, and I wouldn’t even write them down. But he said them in such a way that I just remembered them. And I sat there in this stupor trying to decide whether to quit school, cash it all in, and out of the blue comes this definition of God’s wisdom.
God brings about the best possible ends, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. And that definition was rattling in my brain and I just thought to myself, Okay, what if I believed that? What if I, just hypothetically, God, I’m not saying I do, but just hypothetically, because I don’t really want to give up my anger and my resentment and my depression and my pity party, but in case I wanted to, what if I believed that, just for a couple of seconds? What if I believed that You do bring about the best possible ends and the way You do it is by the best possible means?
And people, I’m telling you, I’m sure there was sin in my life, I just didn’t know of any. Man, I’m getting up, I’m meeting with God, I’m reading the Bible, I’m studying the languages, I’m involved in ministry, I’m loving my wife. I mean, as far as I know, there is nothing between me and God. So it’s not a sin issue.
And then I began to think, Well, if I believed it, I’m not saying I do, but if I believed it, it would mean that if You are good and gracious and sovereign, it would mean that these present circumstances were allowed by a good God, who is in absolute control of the universe, and that if there was an easier or kinder or gentler way to produce, in me and through me, what You wanted to produce, it would be different circumstances.
But if I believe, hypothetically of course, that You are all wise, then the fact that the company shut down, I don’t have a job, I don’t have any money, I’m absolutely exhausted, I’m discouraged, depressed, and I don’t see how I’m going to make it through tomorrow, let alone today, that this actually could be from the hand of a good, sovereign God that knows all things actual and possible, and therefore what needs to happen in me, from Your eternal, all-wise, loving, and good perspective is exactly the circumstances that I’m living with.
But here’s the problem, it’s hard to trust in the wisdom of God if you don’t know what it is. If someone would have said, “What is the wisdom of God?” to me, probably, before I went to seminary, I would say, “It means He’s real smart! I mean, He must be the smartest guy, right?” But wisdom is not smartness, wisdom is not IQ, wisdom is something quite different than what we think.
And so, in our time, here’s what I want to do. I want to define what the wisdom of God is, I want to reveal how God has shown us His wisdom, and then I want to look at: how do we respond to that wisdom so that, here’s the goal, you can rest and you can trust in the wisdom of God in the very area that you were thinking about? So that’s the game plan.
Let’s define the wisdom of God. It is an attribute of God whereby He produces the best possible results by the best possible means. That’s by Berkhof, he’s a German theologian. That’s just a classical, theological definition of the wisdom of God.
Webster says it’s the quality of being wise, it’s the power of judging rightly, it’s following the soundest course of action based on knowledge, experience, and understanding.
Now, this is interesting, catch this. The root words to wisdom have the idea of the ability to see and to know. In other words, wisdom is life-savvy. It’s not IQ, it’s not intelligence, it’s not what you do on a test. Wisdom is understanding how life works and then living your life in a way that cooperates with how God has designed life to work, to bring about the best possible results in relationships and in decisions and in parenting and in marriage and in singleness and all that God has for us.
But it involves the people that you go to for wise counsel, they have two abilities. One, they can see, either by experience or knowledge of the Scriptures or insight or a giftedness, they can see some things you can’t see. And second, they have knowledge and they take that knowledge and they take what they can see and they help you make good decisions. That’s what wisdom is all about.
So the wisest person on the face of the earth is someone who can – what? See everything! From beginning to end! Who knows everything, who has all power. In fact, Dr. Ryrie at Dallas Seminary, I love his definition of the omniscience of God. God knows all things actual and possible. Short, brief, and unbelievably accurate.
God not only knows all things, He knows all things actual and all things that are even possible. And you say, “Where do you get that?” Don’t you remember the little passage when Jesus was being attacked by the Pharisees and people were rejecting Him?
And He said, “I am telling you, if Sodom and Gomorrah would have heard the message that you just heard, they would have repented!” Wait a second, you mean, You know how people would have responded, hypothetically, in another timeframe, hundreds of years earlier? Yes! He’s God.
God knows all things actual and all things possible. He sees all things, He has all power, He is eternal, He is outside of time, He lives in the current now. He knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. And so, since He sees all things and knows all things, He is all-wise and can give us the greatest and best direction.
In fact, the Scripture says it, 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Or my favorite passage on the wisdom of God is Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His paths beyond tracing or finding out.”
God’s wisdom, what He orchestrates, here’s what you’ve got to understand, how things appear, so often in your life, how things so often appear in history, God has a silver thread, He is doing things that we can’t see, and you don’t see God’s wisdom until you see it over here.
So much of life is like that. So much of what He is doing in your life, it just, Joseph is thinking, This doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good, this doesn’t look good. And then you turn it over and – what? He has woven a man into a position of the second highest power in the known world to accomplish a goal and a task. But he didn’t see the wisdom of God.
All he saw were the knots and the strings on the back of the tapestry as God was weaving his life through a series of circumstances, none of which he would have chosen, all of which he needed, not only personally but for the purposes God would fulfill.
Notice, I like, it says, “In the Holy Scriptures wisdom, when used of God and good men, always carries the strong moral connotation. It is conceived as being pure, loving, and good.”
“Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means.” I’m back to quoting Tozer, can you tell? Wisdom is the ability to devise, not good, perfect ends and to achieve those ends – how? By perfect means. What if God is perfectly orchestrating a perfect end for your life? And what if, even in this, knotty, yicky circumstances that seem so unbearable, they are actually His perfect means to accomplish His perfect end in you?
Would that change your perspective in how you deal with life? He goes on to say, “It sees the end from the beginning so there can be no need for guess or conjecture. Wisdom sees everything in focus, each in proper relationship to all, and is thus able to work toward predestined goals, with flawless precision.”
Let me give you an illustration that has helped me so much. This is a picture and then we will look at how God has revealed His wisdom. Are you ready for this picture? It’s a dramatic picture.
Try and really let the color of your mind and the cinemascope just begin to really gravitate into this picture. I want you to imagine there is a railroad track coming right across here and there is a nice little hill that goes up and on it is a small house where the railroad track man lives.
And you come across the tracks and there is some gravel and you go up and then there are some steps. And over here is a little booth. And the railroad track man’s job is he has a lever and the trains come and his job is to push the lever at the right time so that the tracks slide over so that some trains go off to the north and some trains will go off to the south.
And as they come through, he gets radio wires and he hears what is going to happen. But it’s in old fashioned times so he must flick the switch to change the tracks. That’s his job.
And so, he lives on the little hill and he has a cute little wife and they have a beautiful little four-and-a-half-year-old. And so, he is over doing his job. And his little boy is running down the hill, “Papa! Papa! Papa! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” Can you visualize it? And he is coming down the hill. And he sees his daddy doing his job and often he would bring daddy his lunch and they would have good times together.
And as he runs and comes across, he trips on the track. And as he trips on the track, his little, tiny foot gets wedged underneath the track. And as you and I would look down about five hundred yards, there is a train coming at a very high speed.
There is not enough time for Daddy to come down from his post and pull his little boy off that track. He now has a decision to make about what is wisest, what is best, what should he do?
And he has option number one, is that as the train is coming down the track, he could switch it. But if he switches it, because the track that it’s on, it would jolt that track and probably four hundred to five hundred people would go to their death; it’s coming at a very high speed.
Or he could leave it as it is and as it is, he will watch a freight train filled with passengers go right over the top of his son. If he asked you, “What is the wisest thing to do?” what would you tell him?
I didn’t say the moral thing to do. I didn’t say what he wanted to do. I didn’t even say the sacrificial thing to do. What is the wisest thing to do in this situation? And I would suggest that we, as Christians, most of us would come up with an answer like this if we were given this in a small group, and we would discuss it together and come up with the noble and righteous answer that the wisest thing to do, though painful and sacrificial, of this father will get to experience something like God the Father must have experienced, and he should not kill the four hundred and fifty or five hundred people, but he should watch his son die.
Now, that may be the most loving and sacrificial and noble thing to do. I didn’t say that. I said, “What is the wisest thing to do?” There’s a difference. Because wisdom has to do with what? The best possible results for the most possible people for the longest possible time, right?
And you say to yourself, Well, this is it. Five hundred people versus one? Let the kid die! Wait a second! What if the kid is the next Billy Graham? If he is the next Billy Graham, would it be better for five hundred people to die in a train wreck and possibly millions of people to spend eternity in heaven? Which would be the wisest? Which would be the greatest benefit, long-term?
Or what if this little boy has, in his DNA, he will find the cure to HIV? Would it be better for five hundred to live or to have a million people or millions of people or to stop a plague that is going worldwide? Or, stop, stop, stop! Maybe that’s not right! What if there is a person on the train and they have the cure for cancer? And they will discover it two years from now. Or what if the next Billy Graham is on that train?
Do you see how complicated it gets? See, all of a sudden, wait a second, we’re not talking about a train and five hundred or one. Unless you know all things, actual and possible, unless you can see the beginning from the end, every one of our lives is like a huge boulder that is dropped into a pond and there are ripples and you make a decision today and that affects children and grandchildren and friends and workers and everyone is making all these decisions and they are happening with all these people all over the world and in colliding, these ripples of your decisions and my decisions and corporations’ decisions and military decisions, who in the world can know all things actual?
The only person that can make a wise decision about what should happen in this situation is someone who knows everything, someone who sees everything, both now and on into the future and in eternity, and only that person can see and know to make the wisest decision.
And my suggestion is we don’t have a clue of what the wisest thing is to do. Now, think of that. Think of the logic you have just gone through. And now think of some things where we say, “How could God let that plane go down? How could God let that seven-year-old boy die of cancer at his age? I don’t understand how God could…”
You see, God is a good God, there is limited evil, He does work all things according to His will for the good of those who are called and who love Him. And He knows the beginning from the end and He knows the implications of every decision of every relationship of every human being for all eternity in an omnipresent, present now, with all the implications. And He is all-wise.
And His decisions and His decrees and His will is orchestrated for people, not just in view of His sovereignty, not just in view of His power, not just in view of His love and compassion, or in His goodness and desire to bless, but it’s filtered through His wisdom, which means He brings about the best possible ends by the best possible means for the most possible people, for the longest possible time.
Tozer summarizes by saying this, “All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise,” isn’t that great? “and they are as good as they are pure. Not only could His acts not be done better a better way to do them could not be imagined.”
Can I suggest something? That’s true in your life. If you’re in blatant sin, and I certainly have had times where I have been. There are consequences to our sin and we often blame God for them.
But if you’re not in blatant sin and as far as you know you’re walking with God, you’re trying to be the man, the woman that He wants you to be, and you have certain things in your life that you are saying, “God, I don’t understand! This isn’t fair! This is hard! Please take it away! I’m praying, I’m praying, I’m praying!” and nothing changes, could it be, could it be that the all-wise God of the universe is actually drawing you toward a perfect end by means of perfect methodology to produce in you and through you, beyond and better, what you could ever dream?
See, that’s how you rest in the wisdom of God. But when you come to understand, this isn’t something, this is not a concept. This is God. The God that you pray to, this is what He is like.
Well, let’s talk about, Well, how has He revealed His wisdom? If this is true, this could change your life. How has God revealed His wisdom to us? One, through creation. Psalm 19 verses 1 through 7. Listen to how God has revealed that He is wise.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which like a bridegroom, coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion, rejoicing to run its course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other. Nothing is hidden from its heat.”
The creation! The ecosystem! Take an electron microscope and look at the smallest things you can find and you will see an amazing order and wisdom and balance. And then take a telescope and blast it into all of the universe and we see – what? These planets that are in these amazing orders and gravitational pulls and balance one another.
You could take our earth and just tilt it one degree or a portion of a degree and some people would freeze to death and the other people would burn to death. The oxygen of the plants, the carbon dioxide of the people. We, as humans, we mess with the environment just a little bit and, man, it just starts going crazy!
God, in His wisdom, bringing the best possible results. Why do birds fly certain places, certain times? Why do they mate the way they mate? Why do they have certain boundaries? Why is there this balance of certain animals that eat other animals and others that don’t eat other animals and so much grass and how God orchestrates weather and patterns and animals? His creation!