The God Who Can Help - Psalm 46:1-11; Psalm 91:1-16
Do you ever feel that life is out of control? Do you ever want to throw up your hands and conclude that you are helpless? I suspect every one of us has felt that way at one time or another. And at these times the most important question of life is: "Is there anyone who can help us?"
As we study the character and qualities of God we are quickly confronted with the claim that God is in control. His power is supreme. He can help. And He will help. We refer to this trait as God's omnipotence.
In Psalm 91 we read "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (91:1,2)
In Psalm 46 we read, "The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (46:11)
Isaiah says, "The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. [Isaiah 40:28-31]
These verses all affirm that God is Almighty and that He is willing and able to help us.
THE OBJECTIONS TO GOD'S OMNIPOTENCE
As soon as we begin to talk about the omnipotence of God objections arise. The first objection comes from the skeptic.
The Skeptics Objection
It is possible that you have had someone say to you: If God is all-powerful, can God make a rock too big for Him to lift? There are many variations to this question but they all present the same dilemma. If God can't make a rock too big for Him to lift then it proves that God is not all-powerful because there is something He cannot do. If God can create a rock that is too big for Him to lift it proves that He is not all-powerful because He can't lift the rock.
But this is what is called a false dilemma. The question is based on a false premise. These people assume that God's omnipotence means that God can do anything. But such thinking is not what the Bible affirms. The Bible tells us that there are many things God can't do. He can't lie, change, sin, cease to exist, or be subject to anyone. The reason God can't do these things is that they are contrary to His nature. God will never act in a way that is contrary to who He is.
So, the teaching about God's omnipotence really is teaching that no one can thwart God's purposes. God can do what He sets out to do. He has the power to implement His will. There is no power superior to His. So, can God create a rock He cannot move? No, God cannot create something that is bigger than He is. . . there is no such thing.
The Objection of the Sufferer
The second group of people are not asking questions because of their stubbornness. They ask because of their pain. They ask questions like: "If God is all-powerful, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why are there tragedies at schools? Why do planes crash? Why do tornados destroy homes? Why are Christians persecuted throughout the world?" In other words, if God is all-powerful, why doesn't He stop the hurt and pain? The dilemma is an old one, "Either God is good but cannot do anything which means He is not all-powerful; or God is all-powerful and doesn't do anything because He is not good.
Due to time restraints let me point to two issues. First, if God were to eliminate every painful event He would also eliminate our freedom. To be free means to make choices and if those choices are going to mean anything we must live with the consequences of those choices. For God to allow us freedom He must also allow the painful consequences. Some of the things that bring pain we do to ourselves.
Second, we must always remember that God's definition of good is that which moves us toward godliness and holiness. Sometimes difficult circumstances will do that . . . so God allows them. We believe that anything pleasurable is good. But that is wrong. It is that belief that causes us to overeat, overspend, engage in immoral behavior and much more. Sometimes the painful is ultimately good.
Now, do I have any notion that I have answered all these questions? No. I have questions too. But I am learning to trust God more than I trust my ability to figure things out. I would encourage you to trust that God is not indifferent. He is not powerless. He does care.
THE EVIDENCE OF GOD'S POWER
The Bible does not just declare God's power . . . it produces evidence of God's power. Let me give three quick illustrations.
As we look at the world in which we live we draw one of three conclusions:
it has always existed . . . It is the belief that the creation is eternal. But even the scientist will tell you that the world as we know it had a beginning.
it was self-created . . . in other words, the world brought itself into existence. But this is a nonsense idea. Nothing comes from nothing. For something to create itself it would have to exist before it is. It must be and not be at the same time!
it was created by something or someone that is eternal. [Sproul, ONE HOLY PASSION p. 130]
These are the only three options. The first two are seen to be impossible. The world in which we live was made by an Eternal something or someone. The Bible tells us that this someone was God. Paul writes,
For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
Paul contends that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the world did not come into being by itself. So, whoever or whatever brought this world into existence certainly must have tremendous power and an eternal nature. Knowing this, we should also know that whoever this God is . . . .we should worship Him.
The second evidence of God's power are the miracles that were recorded.
The miracles that led the Hebrews to get free of Egypt
The manna in the wilderness
Daniel in the Lions Den
Shadrach, Meschah, Abednego in the fiery furnace
The scores of physical healings recorded in the Bible
The material miracles (feeding of 5000, walking on water, casting out demons)
Raising of Lazarus
But no miracle comes close to Christ's resurrection. There were no machines to resuscitate Him, no drugs to inject, no person to serve as a channel of the miracle . . just the power of God giving life back to a body that was beaten, tortured and lifeless.
The third evidence of God's power is seen every time a rebellious individual becomes a child of God. Again and again we have witnessed the transformation of someone's life. A drunk gets his life back. A rebel finds life. A person who is beaten up by life finds new strength. A person plagued by failure finds forgiveness and a new beginning. The transformation that has taken place in people's lives is something that only God could bring to pass.
THE IMPLICATIONS OF GOD'S OMNIPOTENCE
So, if God is all-powerful (and He is), what difference should that make in the way we live?
First, we should respect God.
Growing up in Chicago one of the lessons I learned quickly was to respect those who were more powerful than I (which was most people). If you didn't respect those people it could cost you!
Now I'm not saying that we should respect God because He is a bully. But I am saying that we should respect God for His power. It is not coincidence that the Bible tells us that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The Almighty God deserves respect.
It is the height of foolishness to treat God with disrespect. Who do we think we are messing with? Do we think we can outsmart Him? Do we really think that we can run from Him? Are we foolish enough to think that we can fight God and win? If we understand God's omnipotence we will show respect for God by:
the way we talk about Him . . . we will eliminate the frivolous talk and using His name in vain
we will give attention to His commands . . .and treat them as words worth obeying.
we will show respect in the honor we pay Him through our worship. Our focus in our worship will not be whether or not we "enjoy it" but whether or not we have honored God.
The Almighty God should be honored in our living.
Second, we should turn to and point others to God FIRST
Since God is all-powerful, He is our greatest resource. You would think that we would always turn to the Lord first. But that isn't what we do. We consult Doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, psychologists and psychiatrists, social workers, authors, and even psychics (which is like consulting the Devil) BEFORE we turn to the Lord. Why is that? There are several possibilities:
we don't really believe that God can . . . or wants to help
we believe that God's resources are limited and we don't want to "use them up"
we are too stubborn to admit we need help.
That's why this study is so important to us. As we ponder the character and attributes of God, hopefully we will turn to Him with a new and greater confidence. Let me ask you right now . . . have you asked God for help? Have you brought to Him the things that most occupy your heart? Maybe it is your finances, or your health, or your family, or perhaps it is the decisions you need to make for the future. Maybe you have a problem with another person that haunts you. If you're like me, you have probably exhausted yourself trying to come up with a solution. Have you asked God for help?
Perhaps you have a friend who has come to you with a problem. You want to help. You've read books. You've spent hour after hour trying to help. But have you pointed your friend to the Almighty? Have you sought the Lord in prayer for this person? If not, what are you waiting for?
Third, we should never give up on God.
Do you remember the great words of Isaiah? "those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength." Other versions have "they that WAIT upon the Lord will renew their strength." I know that sometimes it seems that God is not answering our prayers. We feel like we need His help and we need it NOW. Waiting on the Lord means trusting Him. It means believing that God WILL give the strength. Bill Hybels writes,
I almost become amused when someone says to me, "I have a friend I need to reconcile with, but I just don't have the strength." I want to say, "Reconciliation is never easy, but act as a reconciling person would act. Call that person on the phone, and see if God doesn't help you find the words to say."
Others may tell me, "I'm not a generous person." Why not begin acting like a generous person and see what God does along the way?
Are you self-centered? When those self-absorbing thoughts start flooding your mind, tell yourself, Wait a minute. How would a selfless person act right now? I'm going to demonstrate my faith and see if God doesn't help me to act that way.
God's omnipotence means that you can learn to change the orientation of your mind instead of collapsing into your weakness. If God can fashion the mountains, if God can keep the sun in its orbit, if God can split the seas and dry the ground beneath it so an entire nation can cross, do you doubt that He can transform your character. [THE GOD YOU'RE LOOKING FOR p. 56]
Fourth, Believers should live with Confidence
Do you wonder if you are going to "make it" to Heaven? Do you fear death because of your uncertainty of your eternal destiny? The Bible tells us that if we trust Him we WILL be saved. It is not a matter of our goodness . . . it is a matter of God's promise. Listen to what Jesus said,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” [John 6:37-40]
In John 10, Jesus again says,
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” [John 10:28-30]
Once we admit our failures and sin and ask Christ to save us; once we turn to Him and put our confidence in His ability rather than our own, we no longer need to fret about Heaven. The Bible says that our ultimate salvation is not dependent on our strength . . . but His. Once we have placed ourselves in His strong hands . . . He will not allow anything to take us from Him. Consequently, we can live life with confidence and joyful anticipation.
Finally, we should never feel it is impossible to change.
It is quite possible that as you sit in the congregation today you feel that there are some people in your life who are beyond hope. They are so hardened, so obstinate, so damaged that they will never be able to change. Some of you may even feel that you fall into that category. But what is impossible for men is not impossible with God. God can change any situation . . . and He can redeem any heart. All throughout the Bible we see God bringing great change into the lives of those who are steeped in sin.
the harlot Rahab
the murderer Moses
the resistant prophet, Jonah
the wicked people of Ninevah
the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar
the adulterous David
the persecutor named Saul (better known as Paul)
If you were to take a few minutes to select a random group of people in this congregation you would certainly find some who not long ago looked like they would never turn to the Lord. When they entered the sanctuary for the first time most of them looked up at the ceiling and wondered if the roof would cave in. They were disinterested. They were hard. They were determined. . . And now they praise His name. Now they would tell you that they don't know how God changed them . . . they just praise God that He has.
God can change people. He can transform the resistant spouse. He can turn the wayward child. He can melt the hardest heart. And He can change you. If you will admit your need for forgiveness and a new beginning and if you will dare to give the broken pieces of your life to Him . . . He will transform you. It is not too late! If you don't believe me . . . ask some of those sitting around you.
The bottom line question is this: will you trust His power? This question is the key questions. When all the talking is done this is the heart of the issue. Will you trust the Almighty God? To do so is wisdom. To trust anything else is foolishness.