God is Awake

Sarah Albrecht

When we respond to our fears by trying to take on the attributes of God – like, for example, omniscience and omnipresence – we will be plagued by restlessness. We think we are taking control by thinking about all the possible precautions against robbers (and there is no harm in being responsible in locking our house – so long as our trust and hope is in the Lord and not in a deadbolt) breaking in or by staying awake and looking in every place. Yet, in reality, instead of controlling the situation, we become controlled and enslaved by fear.

Omnipresence and omniscience aren’t the only attributes of God that we are tempted to take on.

We try to control situations by demanding perfect justice when we are wronged. We refuse to believe that the Holy Spirit can and is working in the hearts of men. We sacrifice relationships because people do not meet our expectations.

We try to be self-sufficient – planning for ever possible circumstance or by refusing help when we really need it. We judge people who can’t get it together. We miss out on being blessed by God through others.

We try to be perfect and good and never sin on our own accord. Instead, we become self-righteous. We are controlled by what others think of us and keeping up the image of perfection rather than trusting in Christ for our salvation. We know deep down that we are fakes. We worry that God knows this and is out to get us.

When we try to be God, we will always fail. We will quickly grow weary, and our souls will not be at peace. We feel the burden of the ultimate sin of pride when we think that we can do God’s job better than He can.

The Bible says, in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

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A Sea of Glass

Revelation 4:2-6a

[2] At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. [3] And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. [4] Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. [5] From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, [6] and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

By the time the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, most of the other apostles had been martyred.  In Revelation 2, Jesus tells the church of Smyrna that some of them would be thrown into prison and others would lose their lives.  In Revelation 3, Jesus encourages the church of Philadelphia to not fear the synagogues that would persecute them.  The people of God are afraid.

So in the vision revealed to John, what does he see?  In verse 2, the first thing John sees in heaven is a throne and One seated on it.  My wife and I are expecting our third child soon.  We anticipate chaos.  This world is often chaotic, but we can know that there is a King and He is on the throne.

This King created all things and is sovereign over all things.  He is not just King inside the church or the spiritual parts of our lives.  He is the King of everything that exists and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  He is sovereign over every molecule.

A Romanian pastor was jailed and beaten and he said this to his captors:

My God is teaching me a lesson. I do not know what it is. Maybe he wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do—and you will not go one inch further—because you are only an instrument of my God.

We may not always understand what God is doing, but we know that He is King and He can and He will ultimately work all things for our good.  Our God will conquer the chaos.

In verse 6, John sees a sea of water so still and peaceful it looks like glass.  In the Bible, the sea is usually a scene of chaos.  Paul gets shipwrecked, Jonah gets swallowed by a fish, and the Egyptian army is drowned in the sea.  Water is chaos, but Jesus comes on the scene calms the storm.

We serve a sovereign King.  This does not mean we will avoid suffering, but we can rest assured that the waters will be stilled, that the King is seated on His throne.

Not Only to Others

[24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

[26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

– John 20:24-28

Even after many of the disciples have seen the risen Jesus, they are hiding. They are afraid to be arrested and killed the way Jesus was. Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.”

Then he singles out Thomas. Is Jesus yelling at Thomas for his lack of faith? Is He shaming him by repeating his request? I doubt it. Nearly all the other disciples did not believe before they saw the resurrected Christ either.

Jesus is reaching out to his disciple who has been crushed, who is on the brink of despair. He tells him, “Thomas I hear you. I know you. Your faith wavers, but I am the Good Shepherd, and I  leave none of my sheep behind. My grace is for you.”

Next, Jesus tells Thomas, “Do not disbelieve but believe.” Jesus is not asking for general belief. This is not about whether Thomas believes that God exists or that He created the world. Plenty of people believe that. This is not about belief in self or even the strength of  one’s faith. Jesus knows Thomas’s faith is not strong enough. Jesus wants Thomas to believe that He is the Son of God and that he can have eternal life in His name.

Faith is not general. It is specific and personal. The Heidelberg Catechism defines faith as follows:

True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.

Do you know that the grace of God is for you? You who are sinful and weak, you who go astray – Jesus died and rose for you! The peace of God is for you!

The High Masts of Suffering

Michael Horton

For those who are tied to the high masts of suffering, there is often a fear that is greater than the fear of death. It is the fear of life. It is the fear of the next morning, and the morning after that. In the face of deep despair, the temptation is great to either turn away from God because the suffering is somehow credited to his wrath toward personal sins, or to turn toward him because one knows that he or she is at peace with God.

The Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.