Steve’s Devotional – The Ways of God
JULY 24, 2017
The Bible, said John Calvin, is God’s baby talk—God using finite words to communicate something of his infinite nature. In the Scriptures, we receive the true record of the acts, words and thoughts of God himself. But who is this God? What is he like?
The Gospel of Mark 1:1-15 gives us four pictures of God. Let’s check them out.
God’s Timing is Always Perfect
The first portrait shows us that God’s timing is always perfect. “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said” (Mark 1:14-15). Elsewhere we read, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…I thought in my heart, ‘God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed’” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 17). “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4).
God isn’t waiting just for the fun of it. He’s waiting because he has a time for every matter under heaven. That’s true in your life too. Right now, God’s timing is perfect. You may have a husband or a wife who isn’t a Christian. You may be going through tough times. You’re asking, “Why does God wait? Why is it taking him so long? Why won’t he help?” God is waiting simply because his timing is better than yours. Don’t push it. Wait on him. God’s timing is perfect. When his time has come, it will be done. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” God is sovereign over not just what we do but the time in which we do it.
My father became a Christian three months before he died of cancer. I had prayed for my father for years and years; so had my mother. Time and time again, I had cried out to God, “Why so long? Are you going to let him die in his sins? Aren’t you going to draw him to yourself?” Then, a short time before my father died, in the most beautiful conversion experience I’ve ever seen, he received Christ. Do you know what happened as a result? My father almost converted a whole hospital! I wanted to go out, grab the nurses and doctors, and say, “Come, I want you to watch a Christian man die. I want you to see how this thing really works.” It dawned on me then how perfect and right God’s timing really is. You can trust God.
God’s Preparation is Always Appropriate
The second portrait reveals that God’s preparation is always appropriate. “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’—‘a voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him”’” (Mark 1:2-3). In John 16:12, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” In other words, “You aren’t prepared yet so I’m not going to tell you until you’re ready.”
I share your questions and concerns: “What will I do if I find I have cancer?” “What if I sit down to pay bills and there isn’t enough money to make the mortgage payment?” “What if my kids turn away and never come back?” “What if I lose my job?” But remember that God will bring nothing into your life for which he has not already adequately prepared you.
A young man facing the death of his mother came to me not too long ago and said, “When my mom dies, I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand it. I’m afraid I’ll fall apart, and I can’t afford to.” What I said to him I got from the Word: “Son, when you go to face the death of your mother, God will pay the fare. You’ll find his presence. You’ll find that as you make the journey, God will prepare you.” The man told me later that God did just that—he didn’t let him down. He will prepare you too. He promised.
God’s Signs are Always Sufficient
Portrait number three shows yet another side of God: namely, his signs are always sufficient. “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:10-11). Not everyone standing around heard these words. It was a sign to bolster John and Jesus.
That’s true for the transfiguration experience as well. Jesus, when he went up on the Mount of Transfiguration, took with him three of his closest disciples—Peter, James and John. They saw the Lord gloriously transfigured before them and Moses and Elijah speaking to him, but no one else saw this sign. Indeed, if you check out the resurrection experience in the New Testament, you’ll also find that Jesus didn’t go to Herod. He showed himself to believers (Saul of Tarsus being the exception to the rule). This confirms what Luke 11:29 states: “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”
God, in his graciousness and in his love for you as a believer, will provide sufficient signs for your life so that you might grow in grace, finding your life completed in Jesus Christ at the end. God gives us signs to draw us to himself. Think about the believers you know who have told you about that amazing coincidence in their lives, that certain person who just happened to be at that place at that time to tell them about Jesus.
Not only does God give us signs to draw us to himself, he also gives us signs in order to bolster our faith as believers. God reaches down and lets us know that he is here. God’s signs are sufficient because he loves you. I’ve gone to him and said, “Father, if you’d just reach down and let me see a miracle, I’ll be faithful.” God has said, “Would you go away if I gave you no miracle?” “No,” I’ve answered, “I’m in too deep.” God always reminds me at that point, “Then you’re not in need yet.”
God’s Ways are Always Consistent
The fourth portrait unveils the fact that God’s ways are always consistent. In Isaiah 53 there’s a prophecy; in Mark 1:9 you find a fulfillment. God kept his word.
In later verses we discover that Jesus was led out into the wilderness and tempted. Let that hit you. The Son of God was really tempted. He wasn’t playing a game. He was genuinely tempted to sin. As Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”
It was necessary for Christ to be tempted because without temptation there is no purity (at least that’s true on the human level). Without purity God’s demands for a perfect sacrifice could not be met. And Jesus met every one of them! Like the fulfilled prophecy mentioned above, Jesus’ temptation and the reason for it say to me that God is a systematic theologian. He is consistent. His plan is well thought out, and he won’t fail to fulfill every part of it. So you can trust him. If God loves you today, he will love you tomorrow. You can put your faith in him.
A friend asked Martin Luther one time, “When everyone turns against you, where will you be?” Martin Luther replied, “Right where I am now, in the hands of almighty God.”
Change is constant, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Don’t ever forget that.
Time to Draw Away
Read Exodus 3:1-22, 4:1-17.
Throughout history, God has prepared his people to tackle whatever he has set before them. The examples are endless: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Daniel, Jesus, the twelve apostles and Paul, to name a few. You are no exception. Whatever you’re dealing with now and whatever lies ahead, God is actively equipping you to handle it.
But maybe you don’t feel that way. You may feel overwhelmed, angry, bitter…and ill-equipped. Go to God with those feelings without censoring a thing. God understands. Ask him how to help you deal with them. After all, he is your adequacy and strength. In fact, our strength is in our weakness because it forces us to rely on him rather than on ourselves. And when our strength is found in him, nothing can keep us down for long.