Christianity 201

July 26, 2016

Deliverance Will Rise from Another Place

Although we’ve quoted and linked to articles by author and pastor Aaron Armstrong at Thinking Out Loud before, we’ve never featured his writing at Christianity 201. His blog is called Blogging Theologically and as always, you can click the link below to read this at source.

One thing we can always have confidence in

Esther is a strange book. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great book, but it’s one where you can really easily miss the point. I mean, after all, God doesn’t actually appear as a character in the book even once. He isn’t directly mentioned. But he’s all over its pages.

Esther, after all, is a book about the providential work of God. He is at work at all times for the good of those who love him, according to his purposes. So when you come to the key moment of its story—Mordecai’s challenge to Esther—it makes sense that we focus on the famous words of 4:14—“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Relief from another place

We hear this text appropriated (and sometimes misappropriated) all the time, don’t we? “We’re here for a time such as this,” the message goes. This event or that cause is why God has given us life and breath. And that is certainly true. In Esther’s case, God indeed had placed her in the position she was in to do this exact thing—to help rescue the Jewish people. But there’s more going on here. Take a look at Esther 4:14 along with verse 13 for a little extra context:

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

Every time I read this book, I find myself drawn to the first half—to Mordecai’s statement: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place

Tunnel vision and misplaced confidence

This is what I need to remind myself of constantly, because it’s a fact I keep forgetting. When difficulties arise in my life—and it can really almost anything from family tension to problems at work or even disagreements at church—I easily and quickly start fixating. I get tunnel vision and can’t always see past the problem.

So, being the sort of person I am, I try to fix the problem myself. I figure if we just do X, Y or Z, we’ll get this thing licked and life will go on. But often, the result is more problems and a lot of wasted time. While I should put my mind and abilities to work, my confidence is in the wrong person: me.

I’ve never been in a position like Mordecai, facing certain doom. But the fact that he doesn’t shut down is amazing. He does what he needs to do, but he doesn’t tell Esther, “If you don’t speak to the king, we’re all going to die!”

He has too much confidence in God for that. Instead, he says, “Deliverance will come, whether you speak or not.”

God is not hindered

And that’s still true today, isn’t it? Regardless of how bad we think things are in the west right now, God isn’t going to be thwarted. The gospel won’t to be stopped by the rise of the nones, or morally bankrupt politicians. Not even schismatic calls to abandon orthodoxy can do that!

None of these can thwart God. They can’t stop him and what he is doing. His plans are not hindered by anything.

In Mordecai’s time, God had a definite plan that he was working out through the Jewish people. He promised the Messiah would come, the one of whom all the Law and the Prophets bore witness. God was going to redeem for himself a people from among all the nations and no one would stop him.

Not a proud government official. Nor a king. Not even the devil himself.

No one.

So if there’s one thing we should be able to have confidence in, it’s that. Nothing can stop God’s plans. If nothing could stop the coming of the Messiah, he won’t be stopped from bringing his plans to completion. We will face challenges and what appear to be setbacks, but take heart. Put your confidence in the providence of God. You will never go wrong when you do.

 

April 25, 2015

Providence and the Sovereignty of God

Genesis 39:19Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me,” his anger burned. 20So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. 21But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.

Today we return to the writing of Jay Adams at The Journal of Nouthetic Studies. To help explain the first sentence below, I should point out that Jay is writing primarily to people who do Christian counseling, but given that this is Christianity 201 and not 101, I am assuming we have some readers who are involved in Christian leadership. If not, you might find yourself giving help and counsel to someone anyway, and there are some good free articles on the blog about what to do and what not to do, as well as counseling courses where you pay for materials.

Click the title to read at source (I’ve underlined one particular section):

Providential Care

In my opinion, unless a counselor is well aware of how God works for the good of His children, and is able to communicate something of those facts to counselees in times of distress, he will be a pretty sorry counselor.

I like what Chrysostom had to say about the providential care God showed for Joseph in the house of Pharaoh. He points out that Joseph was really in a far worse prison when living in Pharaoh’s household near a wild, lascivious woman than when he was jailed. He sees the imprisonment as blessed relief! Of course, he also goes through Joseph’s entire life to show how, at every turn, step by step, ordering each event, God was working out everything for His ends and Joseph’s good.

Providence, as we have previously noted, is God at work in His world doing those things in both general history and personal histories to achieve goals that, at the time when He is in the process of effecting them, may seem only puzzling or even tragic. That is because we lack the comprehensive knowledge that He possesses. Yet, all the while, nothing is actually meaningless, haphazard or unplanned. The tragic automobile accident in which one life is taken and another spared, was really no accident. It was but one element in the working out of God’s benevolent purpose to every believer that it involved.

But to believe in providence, one must also believe that God is in charge; that He is sovereign over all things and all creatures. If He were not, there could be no providential ordering of events according to a plan that was moving forward toward gracious outcomes for His own. Yet, perhaps in order to preserve some sort of unbiblical freedom for men, some foolishly deny this sovereign sway of God over His creation. In their world, man is the maverick, a loose cannon on board ship. But whenever this is postulated it turns out that man becomes more than he really is, and God less than He actually is. He turns out to be a god foreign to Scripture, and man is jacked up until he become a creature foreign to our experience.

Providence, to put it simply, is the true God doing what He pleases. And, praise Him, the thing to remember is that pleases Him to bless His people!


For those of you who would like to learn more about Jay’s approach, here’s another short article that also appeared this week. Again, you might want to click through and then look around the rest of the blog.

There are Times . . .

. . . When counselors may become so overwhelmed by a counselee’s situation that, along with Job’s wife, they want to say something like, ”Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

In such circumstances, what must they do?

Answer:  remember the many words of Scripture that make no such allowance for such bad advice (for instance, 1 Corinthians 10:13).

Now, I know that frustration because of both the counselee’s response and the problems to which he is responding badly is common. It is easy, therefore, for you (as a counselor) to conclude that you are simply “not up to it.” And, in many respects, you aren’t—you can’t seem to figure out what God would have you advise and do in a particular instance. But there are several things you can do rather than utter some sort of exasperated advice. Let me list them:

  1. You may seek further information about, or details concerning those aspects of the problem that seem fuzzy, puzzling, or unclear.
  2. You may pray and ask the counselee to pray that you will become further enlightened in the biblical advice that you don’t have at the moment.
  3. You may consult (by permission from the counselee) with another counselor—or bring him into the next counseling session.
  4. You may find a clue to where you have taken a wrong (unbiblical) turn in counseling by consulting your notes. You do take notes, don’t you?
  5. A check on past homework given—and how well it was followed—may help.
  6. More time out of session for praying, searching Scripture, and thinking about the counselee’s problem may help.
  7. Check out the fifty failure factors in the Christian Counselor’s New Testament/Proverbs to see if any of these apply.

Never hesitate (very long) to admit you are stumped. But make it clear that God isn’t—be sure he understands that the insufficiency is yours alone. But insist that there is a proper biblical answer. And it may not be the one either you or the counselee likes.

But one thing must be clear: God isn’t stumped!