Sunday, April 30, 2017

You Are Mine

But now thus says Yahweh, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

The Gospel is filled with many beautiful truths, truths that we are to embrace and relish and enjoy. The bit of Scripture that I just read points to one of those beautiful truths. The God who runs this universe says to you, His people, ‘You are mine.’ This morning we’re going to take a look at that short but powerful phrase so that you can understand it better and thus enjoy it more.

This is how we’re going to proceed. I’m going to unpack who it is that says those words to us. I’m going to look at a few of the ways that this God relates to us. And then we’ll see how that applies to life.

So, first, this God is our Father. And as our Father He cherishes us. He protects us. He provides for us. And He never leaves us. His comforting presence is always near. All that is supposed to fit into that word ‘Father’ describes how He cares for us. And He does this because we are His.

He is our Rescuer. It’s really good that He is our Rescuer because we are people who are in great need of rescue. Our God has rescued us from the penalties of our sin. And He has rescued us from the power of our sin. But it’s not as if all of our sin problems are in the past. There is still much sin that is present in us. And so, He is still busy rescuing us from it, from its penalties, from its power and from its presence. He continues to be our Rescuer. And as we take the time to reflect on who we are now and compare that with who we used to be, we can see the change. We can see how He has continued to rescue us from our sin. And He does this because we are His.

And then, He is our Guide. This world is a scary place. There are dangers everywhere. It is in this context that we are continually confronted with decisions to make, sometimes very significant decisions that need to be made rather carefully. Add to that the simple fact that there is so much about this scary and dangerous world that we just don’t understand. How can we make good decisions in a situation like that? God is our Guide. He is the one who points out the next step and tells us, ‘Go ahead. Take the step. It will be okay.’ And as we listen to Him, as we take that step and then the next step that He points out and the next, we find that He guides us well. And He does this because we are His.

Now, there is certainly enough here for me to take and apply to your lives in a multitude of helpful ways. But to describe God only as Father, Rescuer and Guide just might be very misleading. And it can be misleading because it leaves out a piece of the picture that really is quite critical. These three labels are only part of the truth that you need to hold to. And, as has been said by others, when part of the truth is presented as the whole truth it becomes a lie.

So, what more needs to be said? There is much about God that isn’t included in these three labels. And this is why the Scriptures give us lots of other labels to describe this God. But here’s one label that describes who He is that really needs to be included. He is our Master. This is one aspect of who He is that we need to be sure to remember, especially these days. He is our Master. As a result, He calls the shots. And let me be clear. It’s not just that He runs this universe. That’s true but rather vague and too big to be useful. The point that I want to make here is that He runs our lives. He is the one who has final say about how we are to live.

Consider.  According to the way that nice, religious people think, God is someone who fits into the story of their lives. So, there’s family, friends, job, hobbies - and God. He has His role in their story, along with all the other characters who also have a role to play in the story of their lives. But these nice, religious people don’t get it. They don’t grasp what it means that God is their Master. So, for one thing, He doesn’t fit into their story. No, that’s backward. It’s they who fit into His story. We are all characters in a play, God’s play. And He is the star and the director of this play. So, He is Master not just of the universe as that large, vague something. He is Master of each one of our lives. He directs our lives. He gets to tell us how to live. And He does this because we are His.

So, God is our Father, our Rescuer, our Guide and our Master. And He is all of this to us because we are His.

Now, we’re ready for some application. I want to take all of that and apply it to a certain kind of situation. This kind of situation is far from rare. Actually, it’s the kind of situation that happens quite often. I want to take all of that and apply it to those times when life isn’t working the way that you expected it to work. Sometimes, it’s not a huge problem, like those times when what you were hoping to accomplish on some morning just doesn’t happen. The plan isn’t working. Not the end of the world, but still disappointing and requiring some adjustments. There are, however, those other times when it’s not just some little planning issues that can be adjusted. Sometimes, it has to do with some very large parts of life. Sometimes, it’s large hopes and dreams that have been destroyed. Let me give you the church word for all of this: suffering. There are times when you suffer because something in life has gone wrong. That has happened in your past, and you can be quite sure that it will happen in your future. Quite sure. So, I want to take what I’ve said about who God is and apply it to that kind of situation.

Let me start with a question. What do you tell yourself when that sort of thing happens? What do you tell yourself when it all goes wrong and life hurts? What do you tell yourself when you are suffering? I raise this question because what is key to your response to what has happened is how you interpret it. It’s all about what labels you apply to your suffering.

If you’re going to do a good job dealing with life when it has gone wrong, you need to believe God when He says, ‘You are mine’. That is, you need to remind yourself, ‘I am His.’ This is the most basic fact about who you are, especially when it comes to dealing with your suffering. ‘I am His.’ Once you remind yourself of this fact, you work your way through what it means. You work through who this God is to you.

So, you remind yourself, ‘He is my Master.’ You tell yourself this to remind yourself that He runs your life. You remind yourself that creation is a stage for the dramatic production He is directing. And He is the star of the play, not you. You have been called to be one of the supporting cast. You exist to make Him, the star, look good. And if your role in His play includes experiencing disappointments and worse, if it includes suffering, you accept that because He runs your life. He is your Master.

Then, you move on. You remind yourself that He is your Guide. And that means that it is He who has led you into that hard situation. He is the one who has told you, ‘Go ahead. Take the step. It will be okay.’ You are suffering because of His guidance. But even as He has led you into that hard situation, He is the one who will lead you through it and out the other side. It’s here that you remind yourself that He has guided you well over the years. You tell yourself this even as life is hurting. You tell yourself this because life is hurting. This will give you hope.

Then, you remind yourself that He is your Rescuer. Time after time after time He has rescued you from some sin that was tripping you up, some sin that was twisting your soul into something ugly, some sin that was so insulting to your God. And you remind yourself that He isn’t finished being your Rescuer. He has guided you into this situation so that He could do more rescuing. He wants you free of all that twisted sin. And again, when you label the situation in this way, it will give you hope.

And then, you remind yourself that He is your Father. And as your Father, He cherishes you. He protects you. He provides for you. And He never leaves you. His comforting presence is always near.  None of that has changed because you are in that situation. None of that has changed because you are suffering. This also will give you hope.

So, you see, when you find yourself in those situations, you can respond well if you remind yourself that this God is still your Master, your Guide, your Rescuer and your Father. You are still His. But please bear in mind that the only way that you will be able to do this remembering in the hard times is if you do this remembering in the good times. This remembering is to be a habit of life, good times and bad, living out the fact that you are His. And that is something to pray about. We cannot live well apart from prayer.

Now, doing this remembering does not mean that being in these situations won’t hurt. Suffering can hurt a great deal. And it’s quite all right to say so. It’s quite all right to tell your God that it hurts a lot, if it does. Read the Psalms. Some of those psalmists were brutally honest when it came to telling God exactly how much life hurt. You can do that, too. But bear in mind that your God can also give peace, His great peace, to those who hurt, even in the midst of their hurting. Something else to pray for. Again, read the Psalms.

Now, all of this will work but only if there is one more ingredient. And that ingredient is faith. But, alas, ‘faith’ has also become a church word that we use but don’t understand very well. So, let’s translate it. All of this will work but only if you can honestly say to your God, ‘I trust You. Life hurts right now - boy, does it hurt - but I trust You. I trust You as my Master, as my Guide, as my Rescuer and as my Father. I trust you because I am Yours.’

As you do that, the most important goal of that situation, the most important goal of your suffering will be achieved. You will make your God look as good as He actually is. The star of the show will shine. Whether your plans will work out, whether your disappointment will be removed, whether your pain will stop, all of that is of secondary importance. We are here to make the star of the show look good. That is the first priority. Nothing else is as important as that. Nothing!

But let me tell you something about what happens later. Living like this, living well, has consequences. In the age to come, in the after party, the star of the show will have a speech to make. This is a speech that He will make before all of creation. And in this speech, He will acknowledge you as a hard-working member of His supporting cast. He will talk about what you suffered to make Him shine. Imagine hearing God say to you as the rest of creation looks on, ‘You did a good job.’ Or to translate that back into church words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. As far as I am concerned, hearing that will make it all worthwhile.

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