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We Have a Big God

How big is your God? One significant contributing factor to widespread discouragement, anger, despair, and even what is classified as “depression” is a small God. This means that instead of responding to our problems, trials, and difficulties as he commands us to do, we respond with fear, unbelief, and resulting worry or anxiety. Ungodly men say that we have no control over these responses, for they believe we are nothing more than machines. Sadness, fear, and anger are chemical responses to external stimuli or internal misfires. Their remedies are in other chemicals or therapies that never address the fact that sadness and discouragement are the Lord’s ways of driving us to deal with our sins or respond in faith to our afflictions or to walk more obediently.

               I would like to try to unwrap this a little and then apply to our outlook and attitudes about our earthly lives. First, we are responsible for the way we respond to our circumstances and relationship challenges. If someone spreads a rumor about you or is disrespectful, do you respond by returning evil for evil? If so, this is sinful on your part, even if they “deserve” it. The Lord commands us to forgive and do good to those who injure us. If we choose to make a different response, then we have sinned and can expect to feel guilty and frustrated, with ourselves and with them. If this cycle of sin and sinful responses continues, many other emotional psychoses kick in, which are the Lord’s alarm bells not that we need therapy but that we need to repent.

Similarly, when we are sad or fretful, the Lord commands us, yes, commands, to turn to him and trust in him. He commands us to “hope in God,” even while we lack hope and do not want to hope in him (Ps. 42:5). Our emotional responses to our circumstances are also our responsibility. Feelings are not like kites, floating here and there, without rhyme or reason. Hope is something we are commanded to “put on,” like a helmet (Eph. 6:17; 1 Thess. 5:8). This is because hope is found by trusting God, not by desperately searching for something or someone in which to hope. If we hope in God, he will not disappoint us or fail to help and encourage us in his own time and way. Thus, one way we combat “being sad” is hoping in God – make a long and careful list of all the ways he is faithful, all his promises, all he has done for his people over centuries (church history), and ultimately all the ways Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, has kept his promises. A big God with many promises and a track record of keeping them nurtures good hope in those who trust in him.

               Second, the path of good feelings is not found by seeking good feelings but by developing a godly life. After using his foot washing love as a model for the kind of love we are to show to one another, our Lord adds: “If you know these things, you will be blessed (or happy) if you do them” (John 13:17). Most invert this statement: “If you know these things, you will do them if you are blessed (or happy).” “Happy” is a legitimate translation of the Greek makarios, although we should subtract American ideas of “what makes me happy.” It is not light or trite joy Jesus is promising, but a deep and satisfying joy – in the way of obedience.

               Psalm 1 and Psalm 119 teach this same truth. The Lord blesses obedience with happiness – not the happiness of getting what I want, when I want it, which is the reason that many Christians never stray too far down the road of intentional obedience against their own feelings and wishes and comfort. We make the gate of obedience how we feel about obeying, and finding this gate too narrow, we do not enter as much as we should. Then, we are surprised that we are not blessed or happy. The solution is direct and plain. Make obeying God your intentional pursuit, and he will take care of your emotional state – and your mental, volitional, and intellectual states also – he will take care of you.

               But this assumes that we have a big God. Satan is doing all he can today to convince Christians that we have a small God --- that the Holy Spirit is not powerful enough to preserve our children from the ridiculous evil being promoted as the new social virtue. Really? How big is our view of God the Spirit, who indwells believers? We are told he is greater than the one who is in the world. Do we believe this? Or, under the scorching winds of unbelief and leper colony media and mesmerizing gadgets, has our God grown so small that we can no longer trust him? I pray not. The God of the Bible is not a placebo, a slogan, or wishful thinking. He is the God who made all things, who upholds all life every moment, and who laughs at his enemies. He is huge, colossal, so big that we could never know him comfortably at all were it not for his covenant of grace established by his incarnate Son. Now, he is close, but even close Jesus Christ is so uncomfortably large – storm calmer, healer, Redeemer, Shepherd, King, Suffering Servant, “bring you into the valley of death so I can walk with you there and show you the sufficiency of my grace.” But, so near, accessible, is our great High Priest, who “ever lives to make intercession for us.” Big Christ, joyful heart. Walk on the path of obedience, whatever the cost, and he walks with you, and will give you his joy (John 15:9-11). Nothing makes a human being happier than living in obedient harmony with his Father through faith in Jesus Christ, the only Mediator.

               And, when the Lord of All is with us, then we can smile at his enemies, not fear them. We have many trials, but we do not lose hope. We are “troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8). Very strange it is to be a Christian. How can we be the one but not the other? The next line tells us the glorious way: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:9).

               Immerse yourself in this connection between yourself and the dying and living Jesus. As we learn to die to ourselves, to obey when we do not feel like obeying, to hope when we want to give into despair, we shall learn more of the power of our Savior’s life in us. We are bound to his death and sufferings. We are also bound to his life and his living. He lives in us. We live by the faith of him (Gal. 2:20). Nothing casts us more fully upon our life in Christ and gives us more joy than when we die to ourselves and live unto him.

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