A friend, who was experiencing serious personal problems, asked, “What’s God up to in my life now? I wonder if He is on vacation. I pray, but receive no answers.”
I sensed a little anger in his voice, and his facial expression revealed his doubts. Haven’t we all asked this question? “How can everything be so bad all at once?” However, it is not only when things seem difficult that we wonder about God’s presence in our lives. It is a question people ask when they wonder where they stand with God. Be assured of this: God wants you in a personal relationship with Him. He loves you.
If you are a person who believes God exists, and you are convinced by pure logic that a complex universe such as ours could never have happened without a creator, He rejoices. However, God is anxious to build a much closer relationship with you. He longs for the day when you will think of Him as your Father and not simply as a strong creative force that has no personal interest in you.
The Apostle Peter, in his first New Testament letter, writes about Christ loving us so much that He died for us. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (I Peter 1:18-19).
Why was it necessary for God to send His Son to die for us? Because if we were going to live in fellowship with God, someone had to take away our sins. This is what Jesus did through His sacrificial death on the cross. He died in our place. Peter describes Jesus’ death by writing, “He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (I Peter 2:24-25).
God’s grace reaches down and receives us, not because we deserve this kind of treatment, for we are by nature sinful and unclean. He pursues this because this Creator wants to be our Father and live with us both now and for all eternity. Becoming a recipient of God’s grace is the starting point of this great relationship with God. So if you are not a Christian and you are wondering what God is up to in your life, you now have the answer. He is seeking to create faith in your life so that you will receive Christ as Savior and Lord.
However, it does not stop here. He wants to see you mature in that faith and become a joy to Him, your Heavenly Father. This is a work that He will be doing in all of his children until we get to Heaven. He wants us not only to be recipients of His grace, but dispensers of His love also.
When Peter wrote his first letter to the Jewish Christians in Asia Minor, they were suffering great persecution. This persecution was not as much of a physical nature. The enemies were the false prophets who attacked the Christians’ faith and said the Law of God (Ten Commandments) had no effect on their lifestyle. Christ had set them free from the Law. Therefore, they should enjoy their freedom and not be bound by any law. Some carried this philosophy so far that it became “live as you please.”
Addressing this heresy, Peter tells us his second letter that this teaching is not correct. In fact, when Christ has been received in faith, the Christian will long to become more Christ like in his or her living. God is not done with us. What is He up to in the life of the Christian? He seeks to have us grow in our faith and love for the Lord Jesus. It is summarized quite well in the Gospel hymn Living for Jesus.
“Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free
This is the pathway of blessing for me.
“O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee
For Thou in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me.
I own no other Master; my heart shall be Thy throne.
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ for Thee alone.”
To be more specific about the kind of life the Christian should live, Peter writes, “Make every effort to add to your life goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:5-8). Let’s just consider three of these attributes.
First, there is knowledge.
What is God up to in our lives as Christians? He has been working to make us wise enough that our thinking is dominated by God’s teaching. For example, if a friend should say, “I am in love with a woman and would like to live with her without taking on the responsibilities of marriage,” how would you feel about this kind of relationship?
Filled with the knowledge of God’s Word on the subject, you would answer, “It really does not matter what I think or say. It is what God says in His Word. There He clearly teaches that sexual relations are limited to the married state.” Then you could take your friend to specific passages in the Bible and show him where God forbids such a relationship.”
Take another example. It is Sunday morning and you are placing your money in the envelope to be given to the Lord. You ask how much you should give to the Lord. If your mind and soul are saturated with the teachings of II Corinthians 8 and 9, there would be sufficient knowledge to answer that question. He would remind you that your offering is a gift to Him. He would remind you that God loves a cheerful giver, so do not give begrudgingly. He would tell you that the amount you are placing in the offering plate could help you understand whether you are growing in your relationship with God, since the more you trust God, the greater the gift will be. These are examples of Biblical knowledge.
Second, we find self-control.
Peter goes on to talk about becoming more Christ like by being more self-controlled. Letting our tempers get out of control is quite easy for some of us. I remember as a young boy getting into fights with my friends. I would come home with a bloody nose, and he would have a black eye. How funny it was that just a few hours later we were the best of friends.
That temper sometimes stays with us right on into adult life. We do not run around punching people in the nose, but we fight with words. Some words we utter can hurt a lot more than a couple of blows to the jaw.
Surprising, that verbal attack is long remembered. I cannot remember all the physical blows I received and gave in my childhood. However, today I remember well those cutting remarks that I received from adults. Some of them will never leave me.
What makes it even worse is to know that I was not only the recipient of these cruel words, I was also the dispenser of them. Without a doubt, there are people who recall some unkind words I said to them. It is with this kind of fragile nature and short fuse that we have to ask God to help us with this whole matter of self-control.
Third, there is godliness.
Charles Swindall has written a book entitled, A Man of Grace and Grit Ð St. Paul. In this book Swindall writes, “The deeper life is a subject greatly admired, but rarely experienced. In fact, it is seldom discussed, although most people would consider it of highest importance. We sing of its virtues, but we do not embrace them. We long for its sequencing water, but rarely dip into its well. We know the benefits it affords, but our frenzied lifestyles crowd out their significance. Unless we are compelled by the Lord Himself to accept the ingredients of the hidden life, either through a lengthy period of illness or some cataclysmic event, depth of character remains a distant dream.” This is the author’s plea for more godliness in the lives of Christians.
I thought of this one evening as I listened to an emotional appeal for the citizens of our community to pass a recommendation that would allow a casino to operate in our area. This gentleman told us how many millions of dollars would be received each year, and a good share of this amount would be returned to the community. We could then use this money for property tax relief, benevolence, and capital improvements. “How better off our city would be with the gambling revenue!”
What bothered me most is that this gentleman truly believes, according to his presentation, that the good life is very much dependent on money. I agree that money is necessary to purchase some of the good things of life. However, it is not true that the more money you have, the happier you will be, because you have more conveniences or things.
I love my town the way it is. We have good churches, an excellent school system, three fine hospitals, art facilities, a new performing arts center, parks, recreational facilities, and profitable industries that pay the workers well. All of this has come without a casino, which is known for bringing many problems into a community. Is it not a part of godliness to ponder what the Lord’s will would be on an issue like this and then follow Him?
How can God continue His work in us? Such gifts as knowledge, self-control, and godliness will come only as we spend time with God in His Word and prayer.
What is God up to? He is working to make us more Christ like each day. His desire is that we might be the recipients of His love and dispensers of His grace.