If God is Real - Then Why is He Hidden?
The Back Door:
Where is God today. Can you see him, can you touch him, will he speak to you, can you ask him a question, will he answer. Some say God is with us, but if he is why did he let that horrible thing happen to you? If he would just reveal himself .. stand where I could see him then I would know for sure - but as it stands many ask - Why is God hidden, why does he seem silent, is he really there? Does he really care about me?
I would like to tell you about a young man named Richard. I read about Richard in a book called "Disappointed with God" by Yancey. The story was longer but let me summarize it for you
Richards story - Ref: Yanceys, "Disappointed with God" .... pg 21-24
Richard was a young college student who had grown up around the church but had never really participated in religion himself. His parents sent him to a Christian University and there he became a Christian and learned to pray. In school he met people who said things like "God told me" or "I spoke with God" . He often said these things too but made them up to fit in. You see, God never actually spoke out loud to him. Things went OK for a year but then suddenly things went bad. First despite all prayers His parents got divorced. Then Richard lost his job. It seems that his employer let him go to hire someone else , probably a relative. This caused Richard series financial problems and he would soon have to leave school. To make matters worse his girlfriend who had played a key role in guiding him in Christianity dumped him and then cut off all contact. Richard grew depressed and lonely and whenever he prayed he felt like God never heard him. The final straw for Richard came on day in Chapel when news came about the crash of a plane carrying a load of missionaries .. all killed. One of the kids commented on how he had survived a plane crash earlier in his youth. The chapel leader then prayed thanking God for protecting the one student and then asking God to be with the families of those who were recently killed. At this Richard broke .. he just could not understand why God should get credit for protecting the survivor and yet not be blamed for letting the others die. In desperation he cried . I dont believe God is even out there and left the assembly. A friend of his heard his cry and followed him to try and help him.
If you were that friend how would you help Richard ?...... or do you feel the same?
I think that Richard like many of us find it hard to see God working for us individually because we do not understand Gods general plan for mankind and all of creation. So I would like to take you on a little journey this evening to view Gods plan for the ages. As we go I want you to learn about some key concepts that I think help us to understand Gods plan.
While teaching a 4th grade boys Sunday school class a few years ago, I had the occasion to teach on Noah and the Great Flood. During this class one young student asked a very basic but extremely thought provoking question. He asked why God had gone to all the trouble of creating man if he knew in advance most humans would reject him and he would destroy them. Anyway you look at it this was a big question from a small boy. It raised a good point which is - Couldnt God just have made beings that would honor him?
The Birds Eye View
To answer the boys question and to help Richard we need to see more of Gods big picture. To do this, we have to change the way we normally look at scripture. . We must take a birds eye view of the Bible and see the larger picture. So I would like to look at the whole of Biblical revelation as if it were one story. A story told in pieces in Sunday School but never taught to me as a whole. Let me share a short "birds eye" view of it with you.
In the beginning (Gen 3) we see Adam, Eve & God all interacting together in the Garden of Eden. God says it was good and Proverbs 8 shows us the joy and delight Jesus had as he participated in the creation. And this is not all we see. Is someone else is there. Yes you are right, Satan (the deceiver), he is there too. Now why is this? Isaiah 14 tells us that Lucifer fell before creation. So why put him in with the latest created beings. Isn't he going to mess up the works?
Well he soon does and before long we see God toss Adam and Eve out of the garden and add a whole bunch of "difficulty" to their lives. In addition God now institutes a strange new concept, the concept of sacrificing an innocent animal (one with blood) in order to be forgiven for sin & to keep God from punishing one who sins against Him. Now does God recognize the role Satan had in this? Of course He does. God curses the snake for lending itself to Satan and Satan is dumped out of the garden too. Right into the world where he can continue to bother Adam and Eve and their offspring. In the next few chapters of Genesis he does a pretty good job. As we watch, we see Cain and Abel come to bring sacrifices to God. Abels offering of a lamb is acceptable but God rejects Cain's offering despite it being an offering of the best he had. God explains to Cain that his best is unacceptable and that only the sacrifice of an innocent animal will suffice. Cain of course is angered by the rejection and kills Abel over the issue. Things get worse and by the time Noah comes on the scene in Gen 6 most humans are like Cain, extremely wicked.
In Genesis 9 we see God no longer delighting in mankind but grieved that He had created such sinful men. After sadly destroying much of the world we see him "try again" with Noah and his family. Noah and his family become the first "remnant" of humanity that God uses to begin building mankind over again. And this time the world is an even tougher place to live in, man even has to start eating animals. (Gen 9:3). Well hopefully the flood got Satan too. No you say ! .. he survived. Yes, you are right, he did.
Genesis chapter 12 marks another change in the way God deals with mankind. Prior to Gen 12, God seems to be 'present', explaining His concerns directly to men of the world. But after chapter 12, God seems to pull back. He starts a new nation, withdraws from mankind in general and in a way begins again with another "remnant" of mankind. The nation of Israel. Again and again he tells men what he wants, he now sends messengers called prophets, who are usually ignored. Throughout the Old Testament we see God consistently put up with the wickedness of this new nation and sends prophet after prophet to convince them to change.. God finally loses his patience and punishes them. They continue to ignore Him and in the end He destroys them but once again "preserves a remnant" who honor Him and starts over.
Finally in Matthew we see God finally sending Jesus, not another prophet but His only Son. The one through who was at his side during creation (John 1:3).The one for whom creation was for (Col 1:15) He comes to explain what God wants from us and to be punished for all men's wickedness. The concept of sacrifice God introduced thousands of years before now has it's fulfillment. Now men will see why God instituted it, to point the way to Christ. ... or will they? Well certainly Satan will stay away when Jesus is around won't he? ..... No, we see that the deceiver even tries to deceive Jesus. (Matt 4:5-10)
In Matthew 13 Jesus starts speaking in parables. He explains how things are from his perspective. He speaks of seeds and fields of crops, and of an enemy who is sowing weeds. . In Matt 13:24 he predicts a final "weeding out" of those who do not follow him by his Angels. He goes on to explain the nature of the kingdom of God. Something that grows from a small seed, yet become the largest of trees that can support the life of many creatures.
After 3 years ministry, we see Jesus crucified for our sins. He completes the purpose he came for. He becomes the Christ. He fulfills the meaning of his name. His blood cancels our debt. We can be forgiven. God can look upon us once more with favor. And if that were not enough, Jesus is raised and lives once more. He beats death and returns to heaven to prepare a place for those who believe and gives us a hope for eternity. Certainly now Satan will be of no more trouble. .... Or will he?
Soon after his resurrection, Jesus leaves this world, The whole of the new testament is written. Beside the stories of Christ's life in the gospels a series of letters are written to the churches of the time. A lot of what's written urges people not be "polluted" by this world and not to be "deceived" by false teaching. Yes, you are correct, Satan is still a problem. A tremendous amount of Paul's writing is done to "build" up the church and expand "kingdom" of God (remember that tree?).
Well finally the Bible ends. The book of Revelation tells us of a coming battle, massive destruction, and the return of the Lord. Here Christ quickly sees to the "defeat & binding" of the deceiver and at last Satan is tossed into the Abyss. Once again Christ dwells with men on earth. (Rev 20:2) Then as we watch Jesus and the saints start to reign. God is once again present and not hidden from man, longevity is restored, for a thousand years Jesus reigns on earth., righteousness abounds. Everyone now knows who is boss, .... or do they? Three verses later in Rev 20:7, when you would least expect it, we see the deceiver, Satan, loosed from the Abyss and once again allowed to operate on earth. Why?, we ask, hasn't he made enough trouble? Once again he collects a following , once again they attack God's people and once again they are destroyed. Satan is then thrown in to the lake of fire. (Rev 20:10). Old things now pass away and God creates a new heaven and new earth. The curse of death is lifted and eternity begins. Jesus declares Himself the Alpha and the Omega. Creation has been restored to Him as it was in the beginning.
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Well, now that you've heard the story, did you see anything new. If you did, take a minute and write it down. When I finished the story, I saw this ;
1. I saw a God create beings of free choice who he loved being with. despite knowing they would reject him en-masse. It seems He had a purpose for them.
Concept 1: God really values People
2. That purpose seems to require a certain kind of people .. people who choose to seek God, obey God and place their trust in him freely and "sight unseen"
3. I saw that this purpose appears to be accomplished through people. For some reason, God has chosen to work through agents. The great tree in Matt 13 that grows from the mustard seed includes as limbs and braches redeemed men and women.
4. I also saw that purpose requires a difficult world - a place in which to grow and "prove" people. Apparently without difficulty the desired people will not seek God. To grow they need a place where they would find reasons to love life and reasons to hate it. A place where effort is needed to survive. A testing ground? .. no, more like a "proving" ground.
Concept 2 - God allows difficulty in this world and uses it to refine people
5. And I further saw that the growing and proving of people requires an alternative to God -God allows Satan and his forces to operate here on earth. They are used to draw out the kind of people that are not desired for the purpose. A filter for the toughest impurities, those who masquerade as pure. A magnet to separate what looks the same on the outside but what is entirely different inside.
6. The purpose also seems to require people to have free will - freedom to choose to follow God, ignore God or even follow Satan. Free to choose to love God or something else. Think for a second .. How did it feel when you first found out that someone you loved actually loved you - you and not someone else? Why is the greatest commandment in Matt 22 to Love the Lord your God?
7. And then finally I saw the purpose itself. The person of Jesus Christ and his pre-eminence in history and scripture, - all things made by him and made for him. He is the purpose you were made for and God has been an unbelievably patient in the growing, refining, testing, and sorting of redeeming people for Christ . Patient in carrying out a plan which despite the passage of thousands of years has not yet been completed. Romans 11:25 tells us that Christs return is waiting until enough are grown & refined for the purpose He made them for.
Concept 3 - Everything is for Jesus Christ!
Well, how would you answer the 4th grade boy? ..... The only answer I could give was the following, "The few who would come to love Him were worth the many who would not, and it would take the many who would not, to grow the few who would." (See Rom 9:22-23)
But if this is so then why is God hidden from us?
Concept 4 : God has Hidden Himself to encourage Seeking
To answer this we need to remember the change that occurs in Genesis 12 . Here we find God pulling back. Prior to Gen 12 God is always around "walking" and talking with men, but by Exodus God is in the cloud on Mount Moriah, by Judges he is speaking through prophets, in Mathew He comes as a baby and when he returns to heaven 33 years later only the whispering voice of the Holy Spirit is left. Yes God has hidden himself. We find this concept of quietness in a nutshell in 1 Kings 19:11-12 .. let me read it.
Well Ok but why? A thoughtful look at Noah answers this question. How many people sought God and followed his ways during the time before the flood when God walked with man? Yep you are right - just 8! How many do so now despite only the quite presence of the Holy Spirit - Yes millions! You see the quietness of God is also part of the plan. It exists to encourage "Seeking". Eph 2:10 tells us that God has a very specific plan for you .... but you must first seek Him .. Read Acts 17:25 / John 20:29
Concept 5 : At any time, God is dealing with the general and the specific
As we conclude this evening I want you to understand one more concept. An that is that finding Gods specific plan for your life can be difficult and frustrating if you do not first understand His general plan for mankind. You see At any time, God is dealing with the general and the specific. In Israel time he was often punishing the nation while protecting the believing individual in the midst of it all. You see we always tend to think everything that happens around us is about us. A close look at the book of Job shows that Job went through all sorts of trouble, yet in the end what was happening to him had very little to do with Him and a lot to do with what was going on in Heaven. We always spend a lot of time wondering how God is working to benefit us but we need to consider Gods work refine us as well as others around us, our church, our nation and the world. We also need to remember that God is carrying out his plan in heaven and the spiritual realms which we cannot even see. Now with this in mind you can begin to understand.
So with this in mind what will you do with your life. Some of you have plans, very specific plans for your life. Others of you have no idea of what your lifes purpose might be and a few of you might even consider your lives worthless. - Lets turn to James 4:13-15 and read it
All our plans are foolish God says - You want to do things your way like the song by Frank Sinatra .. " I did it my way " .. (do you know who inspired that song ? Nope, wrong guess, it wasnt a girl, it was Satan . Remember, Satans first sin, the one that started the whole spiritual battle was Satans simple statement that "I will".
Do you want the best life you can have. Do you want a purpose that has eternal value. Do you want God to guide you through this fallen screwed up world? then follow Matt 6:25-33 and SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM .. seek Gods will for your life. Admit you need God, Believe that Jesus is the only way to come to Him, and Commit to do things His way no matter what! Then learn to trust Him, learn to use his strength, learn to Love Him. And remember that even when things are bad, when trouble comes perhaps as part of Gods broader plan He will not let you go, he will preserve those who trust in Him and You will not be the first exception. (see Psalm 91:14 & Phil 1:6)
There is a song by Arron & Jeffrey that illustrate how Christ has been the key to every book in the Bible. Let him be the key to your life ... lets listen to the song "He is!".