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"But God" is the Force of Life!

Luke 12:16-21

Jim Davis

I watched the Star Wars Trilogy again a couple of weeks ago. Throughout the stories Luke Skywalker is encouraged by his Jedi counselor, Obi-Wan Kenobi to get in touch with the Force. Getting in touch with the force was tantamount to getting in touch with the good which his instructor recognized as the Force behind all life forces. To get in touch with the Force was equivalent to tapping into the force that directed all life. Darth Vader was encouraging Luke Skywalker to get in touch with the dark side by getting in touch with his negative feelings, anger, hatred, bitterness, etc. The dark side was equivalent to seeking to control one’s destiny through resisting the Force.

Winston Churchill said, "The longer one lives, the more one realizes that everything depends upon chance, and the harder it is to believe that this omnipotent factor in human affairs arises simply from the blind interplay of events. Chance, Fortune, Luck, Destiny, Fate, Providence, seem to me only different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man's own contribution to his life story is continually dominated by an external superior power." (Citation: Winston Churchill in Winston S. Churchill: Thoughts and Adventures. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 12.)

Many of the ancients had modern day ideas about their gods. The reason they sought to worship them was for health, wealth and prosperity. If the god’s they worshipped were unable to fulfill their desires they looked for more powerful gods to fill their needs. They worshipped a multiplicity of gods in an effort to live as powerful lives as possible. They believed their gods were the forces directing their lives. They believed the success of their lives was a direct reflection of the action and power of the gods they worshipped.

Ray Stedman said, "If you want a wonderful experience, take your New Testament and use a concordance to look up the two little words, "but God." See how many times human resources have been brought to an utter end; despair has gripped the heart and pessimism and gloom has settled upon a people; and there is nothing that can be done. Then see how the Spirit of God writes in luminous letters, "But God," and the whole situation changes into victory." (Citation: Ray C. Stedman, Man of Faith. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 5.)

Acts 2:22-24
22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. NIV

Acts 10:27-29
27 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?" NIV

The New Testament recognizes that God is the force behind all we build in this life.

Hebrews 3:4
4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. NIV

Without God‘s force in our lives we are helpless.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. NIV

Fay Vincent indicated that the line he liked about power is Edward Bennet William's as he was dying. Someone was teasing him about all the power and influence he had in Washington. And he said, "Power? I'm about to meet real power." (Citation: Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent in Newsweek (July 20, 1992). Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 11.)

Luke 12:16-21
16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

18 "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." NIV

God is the Force behind all Life

The focus of the Old Testament is on God as the very force of all life. We often get caught up in the historical stories of the Old Testament while losing sight of God. The stories are about God. They are about what God is doing with the most unlikely people. The Old Testament is salvation history; i.e., it is about how God salvages lives. It is filled with stories about how God works in our lives. Sometimes God’s name is not even mentioned in the stories, but the Jews understood implicitly that he was there. Often the stories about what God was doing are so implicit that we may fail to see the hand of God in them, but he is there, even though he is not explicitly seen.

Israel’s God was much different from the gods those nations around them worshiped. He was the Almighty God. He ruled the heavens and the earth; there were no gods besides Jehovah. He was a God that used good times and bad times to accomplish his purposes. They saw him as the very force of all life. All the kingdoms of the world were subject to him.

Daniel 5:18-19
18 "O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. NIV

Daniel saw God ruling the kingdoms of the world for the good of the saints. It is little wonder why Daniel was able to live and survive under some of the most ruthless rulers of all time during the Babylonian captivity. It was the hand of God that made it possible.

Daniel 7:27
27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.' NIV

The psalmists reveled in the fact that God was the gravitational center of life. God was the force behind their personal lives.

Psalms 22:19-21
19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen. NIV

Psalms 59:9-10
9 O my Strength, I watch for you;
you, O God, are my fortress, 10 my loving God. NIV

Psalms 59:17
17 O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. NIV

In the preceding verses the psalmist refers to God as "O my Strength." The word "Strength" is capitalized because the word is being used as God’s name. Throughout the Psalms the writers are looking to God as the strength or force behind their lives.

Psalms 18:32
32 It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect. NIV

Psalms 21:1
O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength.
How great is his joy in the victories you give! NIV

Psalms 105:4
4 Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always. NIV

There is no doubt that the Old Testament teaches that God is the Force of Life. But is he the Force behind your life? The story about Joseph is about how God used Joseph, his family and the Pharaoh to preserve for himself a special people—the descendants of Abraham. The focus of the story is on God’s graciousness and power. It is not really about how Joseph responded, or on his brother’s behavior. The story is about what God was doing to move men and nations to accomplish his purposes. Most of the time it was done despite their understanding and without their full cooperation.

Acts 7:9-10
9 "Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. NIV

The truly greats of the Old Testament understood God was directing their lives. When Joseph understood it was God directing his life things changed because he chose to point his life in the direction of God’s purposes.

Genesis 50:19-21
19 But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. NIV

Joseph says to his brothers, Am I in the place of God? You intended me harm, but God intended it for good . . . the saving of many lives." But it doesn’t stop here! He tells his brothers, "Don’t be afraid that I am going to harm you, for if God did this to me to preserve your lives, then I must provide for you and your children" (Jim Davis paraphrase). The only logical conclusion that Joseph could reach was that he must help accomplish God’s purpose and help him save his descendants. In doing so he saved himself.

I cannot be fully prepared for a life of obedience to God through Christ until I learn that God is the force of my life. God is the force of all life whether one chooses to obedient or disobedience to his call. God is the force of life. When I get in touch with the Force of Life I will discover a destiny.

What must I do to be saved?

"Why do we call grace amazing? Grace is amazing because it works against the grain of common sense. Hard-nosed common sense will tell you that you are too wrong to meet the standards of a holy God; pardoning grace tells you that it's all right in spite of so much in you that is wrong.

Realistic common sense tells you that you are too weak, too harassed, too human to change for the better; grace gives you power to send you on the way to being a better person. Plain common sense may tell you that you are caught in a rut of fate or futility; grace promises that you can trust God to have a better tomorrow for you than the day you have made for yourself." (Citation: Lewis Smedes in How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong? Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 13.)

John 3:3-9
3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. NIV

Have you ever really struggled with the task of having to change—I am talking about real change—not superficial change. I mean change that has to do with what makes you tick. This is the kind of change Nicodemus is staring in the face. Have you ever had that kind of change staring you in the face? This kind of change only comes through God’s power.

Jesus says, "You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

"Too many times we miss so much because we live on the low level of the natural, the ordinary, the explainable. We leave no room for God to do the exceeding abundant thing above all that we can ask or think." (Citation: Vance Havner in the Vance Havner Quote Book. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 14.)

"Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends." (Citation: George Muller. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 4.)

What must I do to be saved? I used to answer this question much differently than I do now. I would tell a person to be baptized. It is an essential step. But we need a more definitive answer: to be saved you must give your life over to the power of God. Of course this is what baptism represents. It signifies that you have turned you life over to God.

Romans 5:6-8
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. NIV

The greatest weakness among Christians today is that we are trying to design human systems to do what only God can do. "When I exert too much effort of the flesh, I'm in trouble. When I stand aside and let God work, things go differently." (Citation: Bartlett Hess, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 4) Baptism is where I step aside from my own self-effort. It is where I die to self-effort. It is where I become totally dependent upon God for salvation.

1 Timothy 1:12-14
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. NIV

The reason that God reconciles us to himself through Jesus Christ is so that he can salvage what is left of our lives.

"If you will trust Christ not only for the death he died to redeem you, but also for the life He lives and waits to live through you, the very next step you take will be a step taken in the very energy and power of God Himself." (Major W. Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pg. 15.) This is what it is to be saved.

Romans 6:1-4
6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. NIV

Salvation is through the power of God.

Titus 3:4-7
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. NIV

Salvation is in Christ, but the power of salvation is only realized when Christ lives in you. There is a difference between being in Christ and Christ living in you.

Colossians 1:27
27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. NIV

Christ living in you is your only hope, for without him you can do nothing. "The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else." (Citation: Oswald Chambers in The Highest Good. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no.)

Christ can accomplish anything he wishes through you. His power is limited only by the measure of your availability. Your faith in Christ is the only thing that can set him free to go to work through.

Paul admonishes us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:16). This is not begging or pleading with God, but rather making yourself available to God in every circumstance. He wants you to expose any situation that arises to the all-sufficiency of Christ.

When we fail to turn any circumstance or situation over to the all-sufficiency of Christ we deny God’s power for that particular circumstance.

Conclusion:

A story is told of a town where all the residents are ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place, and then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible. He reads to them: "Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings, and you can fly like birds!"

All the ducks shout, "Amen!" And then they all waddle home. (Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story (Word, 2000)

Galatians 2:20-21
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" NIV

God's might to direct me, God's power to protect me, God's wisdom for learning, God's eye for discerning, God's ear for my hearing, God's Word for my clearing. (Citation: Saint Patrick, Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 5.)

 

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