Author and theologian A.W. Tozer said, What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. What we think about God, and how we think about God is important. it shapes us and it shapes all of our relationships. What we think about God shapes our relationship with God, it shapes our relationships with the church, and our relationships with one another in the world.
For the past 4 weeks we have been remembering, and learning, some deeper insights into the character of God so that our thinking about God will lead us to good decisions today and into the future. When we know that God is powerful we want to call on him in prayer. When we know God is present we want to lean into God for support. When we know God is loving, we are able to find security and peace, and when we know God is holy, we want to put God first in our lives.
There is one more quality and characteristic of God that we want to address and that is that no matter what we may feel – God is active. In fact, God is more active in our lives and in our world than we can possibly imagine. Too often, when we feel isolated, alone, and unloved, we begin to think that God is simply not at work in our lives or in the world. And it is in those moments we often think that we have to make decisions by ourselves and we fail to turn to God or trust God. This is what King Asa did.
King Asa is the poster child of, what was I thinking. He knew God was powerful, and present, and loving, and holy during his life, but he slowly began to doubt all of this and made a decision to trust the power of this world instead of the power of God. Asa didn’t think God was active in the world, he thought God was not seeing or hearing their needs, so he aligned himself with a nation and a king that was active, and that decision cost him everything. We cannot forget that God is active. When things aren’t going the way we think they should – God is still at work. When we are struggling through difficult health situations – God is active. When we are wrestling with financial hardships – God is active. When our families are going through hard times – God is active. When our jobs are unpleasant and we don’t think we can take another day – God is active. When our United Methodist denomination is divided and things seem chaotic – God is active. God is active, and God’s movement in our lives is real, and if we can trust God’s activity, and follow the movement of God’s hand – we can find all the fullness and power of life God has for us. We may not get all that we want – but we will find the power and presence and love and holiness of God – which brings us life.
A few weeks ago I mentioned the struggle I went through my freshman year of college. I was feeling incredibly insecure at MSU and I tried to power up and fit into the fraternity scene, but I couldn’t keep up that image – it wasn’t me. So then I powered down and was ready to quit college and return home. I was feeling completely lost and alone, helpless and unloved. It was a difficult few weeks, but here is the lesson I learned – God was more active in my life during that time then I could have possibly imagined.
I mentioned that at one point I called my parents saying I wanted to return home and my Mom answered the phone and said, no. Well that is not all my Mom said or did. At church she shared my situation with the mom of a good friend I graduated with, and this mom shared what was going on with her daughter, my friend, Cindy. Cindy then wrote me a letter of encouragement and in that letter she said that when her sister had been a student at MSU many years earlier, she had been involved in a Christian Fellowship called Inter-Varsity and I should check it out. Cindy said it might be similar to our church youth group that had sustained me through high school.
Now here is what you need to know, I got that letter from Cindy immediately after I had walked through an orientation and information center for campus groups. I had seen a huge sign for Inter-Varsity and totally ignored it because I assumed it had something to do with sports, but I remembered seeing it. So I went back to the sign and found the people who were connected to the group and asked about it. They told me the first meeting was that night and they invited me to come. At the time I really didn’t think much about all of this, but looking back, God had been active, more active than I had known or seen, and God’s activity gave hope, and direction and in time helped me make some good decisions.
God timed a conversation of my mom’s, a letter from a friend, a walk across campus, my eyes seeing the banner, and the day of the letter’s arrival and the first IV meeting being held on the same day. God was at work in providing me a group that not only welcomed me, loved me, and helped me my freshman year, but a group that forever changed my life by helping me go deeper in my faith. I didn’t see it, and wouldn’t have believed it in that moment, but God was more active than I could have possibly imaged. And this was not a onetime incident.
A few years later I went to Yellowstone National Park to serve with a Christian Ministry, and the plan was for me to work in the Lake area of the park, but when I got there my job had been transferred to Grant Village and serve there. I thought I had to work in Lake to be part of the ministry so I contacted them and they said, no problem go to Grant Village. So I went to Grant Village and I can’t explain to you the power of the ministry team God had assembled there. We clicked in a way that was powerful and I know that God was active in moving me to that exact location.
Fast forward about 10 years and I was appointed to Second Avenue UMC in Altoona and I really thought this was not going to go well. This was a much different neighborhood than I had ever lived in and I wasn’t sure this was what God wanted, but God was more active than I could have imagined. God was at work raising up people in the church, and planting seeds in the children of the neighborhood that all came together for a season of new beginnings and growth that amazed us all. The children were ready to hear about God’s love. They were ready to flock into the church to hear about Jesus and the church was ready to welcome them. God was active in bringing it all together.
God is always at work and if we can open our eyes and hearts, and expect God to be at work, then we can experience the fullness of life and faith that God has for us. Where we really see this concept at work is in the life of Jesus. In Jesus, God was constantly at work and everywhere Jesus went, he brought life. Those who were open and willing to see the hand of God could see the power and love that God brought, but those who refused to see God at work missed it completely. A great example of this found in John 5:1-10.
For 38 years this man had laid as an invalid. He had given up any hope of getting into the waters and finding healing. God was simply not active in his life – God was silent and inactive, or so he thought. Jesus came to him and asked if he wants to get well. It’s an odd question, but maybe Jesus said it with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face because he knew what he was going to do. Anyway, the man doesn’t have to go into the stirred up or living waters of the pool because the one who is the living water had come to him. In Jesus, God was at work and this man was willing to embrace it. He got up and walked.
But now notice the religious leaders, they don’t look at the man who for 38 years had been begging and now was walking – they are looking at him carrying a mat. All they see is a man breaking the Sabbath law. They are so focused on the breaking of the law that they can’t see the activity of God, so they miss God in their midst. They miss the life Jesus has to offer. There are many stories of Jesus just like this, where Jesus brings God’s activity to the people, he brings in the kingdom of God in all its fullness to the people, and many miss it completely because they are not willing to look and listen for what God is doing.
If we are going to see God as active in our lives and in our world, we have to look for and listen for the movement of God. We have to be aware that God is moving and be ready to embrace and be part of that movement. If God is always active, and always at work, why do we so often miss it? It’s because we are looking in the wrong direction. I want you to take this awareness test. VIDEO
The activity of God is like the houses and the landscape changing all around us, but we are so fixed on the car, our lives are so filled with problems and details that we think we need to figure out, that we don’t even notice. To see and hear how God is at work we need to ask God for open eyes and ears. Here is a prayer we can pray,
God, what are you doing right here, right now? Help me see, help me hear, so I can be part of what You are doing.
It was the people who took the time to look at Jesus, and what he was doing, and really listen to what he was saying that found healing, wholeness and new life. God is active – are we listening. God is moving – are we seeing through open eyes of faith.
Not only does God want us to see what he is doing, God wants us to join Him in His work. I never cease to be amazed at this concept. God wants me to join Him in His work. God doesn’t need me. God doesn’t want me to help because I am good at what He is doing, I’m not. I don’t bring anything of real value to the table in comparison to God, but God still wants me because God loves me. God is patient with me in life and in ministry because God loves me and wants me working with Him. Amazing.
It makes me think of all those times our parents or grandparents invite us to work with them when we were children. Maybe it is in the kitchen, or in the garden, or under the hood of a car, but when parents invite their children to work with them it’s not because our children are good at the work, and it’s not always because we want to teach them, or that they want to learn. We invite children to work with us because of love. We want to spend time with them. We want to walk with them in life.
Relationships are important, and our relationship with God is important. God invites us to be part of his activity because he wants to know us and for us to know him. That’s it. God is active and wants us to work with him so that we can know him more, and love him more, and find the fullness of his life and love in our lives.
As we look at the world and see division, hurt and pain, the truth is that God is more active than we can imagine and he invites us to see how and where he is working and he invites us to join him. When we do, we will find power, love, and the fullness of life. And when we see God at work we can join God and be part of God’s kingdom in profound and life giving ways.
If you have ever had an experience where you have been able to see or hear the activity God, and it has made a difference in your life, then I want to invite you to tell that story to someone. The world needs to hear that God is not dead, God is not uninterested in our world, God is not silent, and God is not inactive. God is alive and at work. Reflect on your life and find those moments where you can see the hand of God at work and tell your story. Our stories not only give Glory to God but it can be an encouragement to others, and our stories will also remind others that God IS Active, more active than we can possibly imagine. Knowing God is at work, and working with God, can help us make good choices, focus on the right things, and never have to look back on some poor decision we made and have to say, what was I thinking?
What Was I Thinking? God IS Active.
1. When have you felt that God was silent, or inactive?
2. Read John 5:1-15. Identify all the ways we can see the activity of God at work in this story of Jesus. What other stories of God’s activity in Jesus come to your mind?
3. Why do you think the religious leaders missed seeing God at work? What were they focused on? What were they worried about?
4. In what ways are you like those religious leaders? What are the things that take our eyes off Jesus and blind us to the activity of God in our world?
5. A simple prayer for this week: God, what are you doing right here, right now? Help me see, and help me hear, so I can be part of what You are doing. AMEN
6. Identify one way you can see God moving in the world. How can you join God in this activity? Who can you invited to join you?
7. Tell your story. Share a story with your small group, family, or a friend about a time you were able to see the activity of God in your life.
8. Remind yourself this week that:
- God is powerful – so we can pray.
- God is present – so we can lean in for support.
- God is loving – so we can find security and peace.
- God is holy – so we can make Him first in our lives.
- God is active – so we can join in God’s work.