8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I came across a story recently about a man who was driving his truck on a narrow mountain road. To his right was a cliff that dropped nearly 500 feet to a canyon below. As the driver rounded a curve, he suddenly lost control of the vehicle. It plunged over the side and bounced down the mountain bursting into flames at the bottom. As good fortune would have it, the man was ejected when his truck went over the edge and he managed to grab onto a bush that grew near the top. So there he was, frantically holding on to a small branch, precariously dangling over this deep abyss. After trying unsuccessfully to pull himself up to safety, he called out in desperation, “Is anybody there?” Almost instantly the thundering voice of the Lord echoed across the mountain. “Yes, I am here,” he said. “What do you want?” The man pleaded, “Please save me! I can’t hold on much longer!” Again the voice of the Lord spoke: “All right. I will save you. But first you must let loose of the limb and trust me to catch you. Just release your grip and I assure you I will be there to carry you to safety.” The man nervously looked over his shoulder at the burning truck in the canyon below, and then he called out, “Is anybody else there?”
Have you ever found yourself in a similar predicament, my friends, where you were in deep distress and called out to God for help, only to sense him saying to you, “Just trust me,” which only made you want to cry out, “Is anybody else there?” As we noted in my sermon 2 weeks ago, it’s not unusual at all to find ourselves in these types of situations where God seems distant from us and his ways don’t make much sense to us at all. We’re calling those situations “Life in the Coffeepot” in this brand new series of sermons that I started 2 weeks ago. And today we want to begin our examination of 10 key ways in which we can cope with life in the coffeepot.
To begin with, we need to recognize that God is never obligated to explain himself and his ways, even though we might desperately want him to. And here we get into that whole area of expectations that we talked about 2 Sundays ago. If you were here, then hopefully you can remember how I talked about the unrealistic expectations that many people have when they become a Christian. They feel that all of a sudden their problems will disappear and their lives will become a beautiful bed of roses. And yet nowhere in the Bible does God promise us anything like that. In a very similar way some people have the false expectation that God will always explain himself and make clear his reasons for allowing us to go through the coffeepot. In fact some people believe that he owes us that much.
And if you have ever felt that way, then you need to listen very carefully to what God actually says to us in his Word about this subject. In Proverbs 25:2 Solomon writes: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.” Deuteronomy 29:29 says: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God.” Ecclesiastes 11:5 proclaims, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” And if all those passages are not enough, listen once again to our text for today from Isaiah 55 where God himself says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Clearly the Bible teaches that we finite human beings lack the capacity to grasp the infinite mind of God and to understand the ways in which he acts in our lives. So we must be content to recognize that unless he chooses to explain himself, which he sometimes does but which he often times does not, his purposes and his reasons for doing what he does and allowing what he allows to happen to us are beyond our understanding. What this means in practical terms is that many of our questions, especially those that begin with the word why, will have to remain unanswered for the time being.
Now I realize that may not bring you much comfort, especially when you find yourself in the midst of the coffeepot, but let me share with you a Scripture passage that can give you comfort at a time like that. It’s found in 1 Corinthians 13:12 where the Apostle Paul addresses this very issue of our unanswered questions. He says, “Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me.” So the time is coming when all of our questions will be answered and all of God’s ways will become crystal clear to us. Until that time comes, however, we must learn to be content with only a partial understanding of this life and everything that happens to us here.
And that leads right in to the second point I want to make this morning. As we strive to accept God’s ways without fully understanding them, we need to also recognize that if we know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, God is on our side and he has proven this to us over and over again. One thing I appreciate so much about the Lord’s Prayer is the way in which Jesus instructs us to address God. Notice, he does not tell us to come before him and say, “O Thou Powerful Potentate of Heaven and Earth,” or “O Thou Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Sovereign Ruler of the Universe.” Rather, Jesus tells us to simply call God “Father.” In the Aramaic tongue that Jesus spoke the term for father was abba. In fact, that term is used several times in the New Testament, but what exactly does it mean?
In one of his books, author Max Lucado tells of a time that he went to the Holy Land. He took his older daughter with him and he said that as they were walking behind a Jewish family one day, the little girl got separated from her parents. And he said pretty soon he could hear this frightened child crying out, “Abba, Abba!” She was calling for her father, using the tenderest term in the Jewish language that could best be rendered in English as daddy.
How comforting it is to know that Jesus instructs us to address our Lord and Maker in the same tender way. So that is one way whereby we can know that God is on our side. A second way is by noting that he has already taken care of our greatest problem in life. Now what would you say is your greatest problem in life? If you’re a farmer, you might say it’s the overabundance of moisture that has played havoc with your farming this year. If your name appears on our prayer list in the bulletin or newsletter, you might feel your greatest problem in life is your health, or maybe I should say your lack of health. It could be you would say that your greatest problem in life right now is your marriage which is rapidly going downhill or your job with which you are terribly dissatisfied or your finances which, if they don’t improve soon, might end up forcing you to file for bankruptcy.
Now I don’t mean to minimize any of those difficulties, but I can assure you that none of them comes close to being your greatest problem in life from God’s perspective. Rather, as I’m sure you’ve heard me say many times, our greatest problem in life is what? It’s sin, for if nothing is ever done about our sin problem, if we don’t get that problem taken care of, then to put it bluntly, this life is as good as it’s ever going to get, which can be a very depressing thought.
But God loved us too much to let this world with all of its trials and tribulations, all of its heartaches and hurts to be as good as its ever going to get. So he did something about it. Listen to how the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” And sure enough, when we die and leave behind this earthly vale of tears, if our faith is resting in Jesus, then God will most certainly and most graciously and most generously give us all things. And by that term “all things,” I believe Paul has in mind the very best that God has to offer in eternity. Like he says in 1 Corinthians 2:9:“”No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
That takes us to the third point I want to make today and that is we need to recognize that when we find ourselves in the coffeepot, God is still sovereign, which means he is still in control; he’s still on the throne; and he is working behind the scenes to accomplish his good will and purpose. Perhaps the most frequently quoted promise in Scripture reminds us of this truth. It’s Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
And perhaps no other story in Scripture illustrates this truth for us as well as the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. Joseph was one of 12 brothers and it just so happened that he was the favorite son of his father, Jacob. And Jacob did not hide that reality. This in turn created an atmosphere of jealousy among the other brothers, so one day they decided to rid their household of Joseph once and for all. Though most of the brothers wanted to actually kill him, they finally opted to sell him into slavery. He ended up in the land of Egypt where he was bought by one of the Pharaoh’s officials whose name was Potiphar. But the Bible tells us God was with Joseph and blessed his labors. In fact, so much so that soon he was promoted to the chief slave in Potiphar’s household and things were looking up for him. But then Potiphar’s wife, who had eyes for Joseph, tried to seduce him. When he resisted her advances and fled from her presence, she took it personally and told her husband that Joseph had tried to seduce and rape her. So poor Joseph was placed in prison. But again, God was with him and working behind the scenes. He allowed Joseph to find favor in the eyes of the prison keeper and soon Joseph was placed in charge of all the other prisoners. But still he was in prison, not a very pleasant place to spend the rest of his life.
Yet again, God was working behind the scenes. And when the Pharaoh had some dreams that nobody else in the land could interpret, God gave Joseph the ability to do so. As a result, Joseph was instantly promoted from chief prisoner to the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. To make a long story short, the day came when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food because of a severe famine in the world at that time that Joseph through Pharaoh’s dreams had predicted. So picture the scene. There they stood before Joseph who recognized them but whom they did not recognize. What would you have done if you had been in Joseph’s sandals? He could have gotten even. He could have gained what many would call sweet revenge. But he didn’t. Instead, after a series of tests that he put his brothers through, he revealed himself to them and forgave them. But still they did not trust him. After what they did to him years before, they felt that sooner or later he would exact his revenge. And when Joseph found out about this fear, he told them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
So remember that when you find yourself in the coffeepot, my friends. God is behind the scenes, working his mighty wonders and bringing good out of even the worst of circumstances. He did it with Joseph, but most importantly he did it with Jesus at the cross where his tragic death resulted in the triumphant means of salvation for all who would place their faith and trust in him. Let’s pray:
Abba Father, what a privilege it is to be able to address you, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, as our Daddy. Bring that tender title to our attention whenever we find ourselves in the coffeepot of life. And help us to apply what we have learned here today – to recognize that you are not obligated to explain yourself and your ways to us, that even though we get a hazy, blurred picture of things on this earth, in heaven all our questions will be answered and everything will become crystal clear to us. We thank you, Lord, that you are on our side and that you have so graciously taken care of our greatest problem in life through your son Jesus Christ. Please call that to our attention whenever we are having difficulty understanding your ways. And finally, Father, we give thanks to you that you are a God who continually works behind the scenes and that you specialize in bringing good out of the bad. Help us to believe that; help us to see that; help us to experience that whenever we find ourselves in the midst of the coffeepot. For we ask it in Jesus’ name.