What God Ordains

A few years ago, I participated in an author signing event. Peggy joined me for the day, mingling with the crowd and casually sending people my way. At some point, I noticed her sitting and conversing with another author—admittedly a more interesting one. Sue Thomas had become profoundly deaf at 18 months, yet through persevering parents and continual speech therapy, Sue learned to speak well. After graduating from college, she joined the FBI as a fingerprint examiner, but when the Bureau discovered Sue’s lip-reading expertise, they assigned her to an undercover surveillance team pursuing high-profile crime cases. Sue became the inspiration for the television series: Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye. On our way home, Peggy shared a pearl of wisdom she gained from this woman of great faith. Sometime after suffering a stroke, Sue had been invited to speak to a group. When her concerned assistant questioned whether she was strong enough to endure the event, Sue replied, “What God ordains He will sustain.” She accepted the invitation and kept the appointment.

It is easy and normal to consider the enormity of God’s call through the lens of our natural limitations. When God commissioned Moses to demand that Pharaoh release the Israelites, Moses objected, citing his ineloquence. Answered God, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”1 What God ordains He will sustain. When the angel of the Lord called Gideon to go and save Israel from their oppressors, he also objected, for his clan was the weakest in their tribe, and he was the “least” in his family. “I will be with you,” replied the Lord, “and you will strike down all the Midianites.”2 What God ordains He will sustain. Still today, God sends us, His people, into intimidating circumstances—“like sheep among wolves”3—with the message of life in Christ and in humble service in His name. When tempted to balk at our commission and to reason why not to go forward in faith, we must remember this: What God ordains He will sustain.

In Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee’s timeless teaching on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the twentieth-century Chinese church planter wrote, “The greatness of [the Lord’s] demands upon us only shows how confident he is that the resources he has put within us are fully enough to meet them. God does not command what he will not perform, but we must throw ourselves back on him for the performance.”4 Yes, God calls us to adventures beyond our ability, for they exist fully within His. Are you up to it today?

Father, You desire to work Kingdom wonders through Your Kingdom people. Inspire us to stand in Your strength and to remember that what You ordain You will sustain. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Exodus 4:11
2 Judges 6:16
3 Matthew 10:16
4 Nee, W. (1977). Sit, Walk, Stand (Repkg). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Entertainment, 29.


Our Identity: With/In

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 1 John 4:15

As we explore “our identity in Christ” and what it means for us as believers, I can think of nothing more definitive than this: Christ is our life. This is a mysterious truth so vital that Paul consistently taught it to the early churches, writing to the Colossians, “[Christ] is your life,”1 and scribing to the Galatians, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”2 These bold truth claims jolt us like smelling salts from stupor to clarity, yet how can it be that Christ is my life? Prepositions show relationship, so let’s consider two of them: with and in.

With Christ. Paul assured the Philippians that we are “united with Christ,”3 and to the Corinthian church he wrote, “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him4 (some theologians call this, “the mystic union”). Being one spirit with Christ, we can boldly proclaim with Paul, “If we have been united with [Christ] in a death like his [through baptism], we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”5 Through faith, we are spiritually one with Him who will never die again.

In Christ. Yet our relationship with Christ is still more profound: we live in Jesus, and He lives in us. Jesus passionately interceded to His Father on behalf of all who would believe in Him, including us today, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me. . . . I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”6 This is identity; this is how we, like Paul, can know and say Christ is my life and He lives in me.

So, now what? We do well to receive, contemplate and savor what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him, yet we also live this day as new people with practical purpose and eternal effectiveness. Jesus told His followers, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. . . . By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”7 So we go in full confidence of who we are, offering ourselves to Him who lives in us and loves through us. There will be fruit.

Father, thank You for sending us Your Son and giving us new life in Him. Flow through us, that our lives would bring healing to others and glory to You. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Colossians 3:4, emphasis added
2 Galatians 2:20, emphasis added
3 Philippians 2:1, emphasis added
4 1 Corinthians 6:17, emphasis added
5 Romans 6:4-5, emphasis added
6 John 17:22, 26, emphasis added
7 John 15:5, 8 ESV, emphasis added


Whose World Is This, Anyway?

As a young boy, I would join other Sunday School children in singing, “This Is My Father’s World,” and though I’d been taught God was to us a heavenly Father, for all the world as we sang those lyrics I’d also think of my dad in the exaggerated dimensions that come naturally to five-year-olds. This was my Father’s world, and in a sense, it was my father’s world as well; at least he was to me the strongest part of it. And now, given the events in the U.S. over the past several days—deception and dissension, malfeasance and mistrust, retribution and revenge—I return to my childhood wonder and consider again, Whose world is this, anyway?

In dire times like these, we cry out from deep within to the God we know is greater than us. Humankind spins out of control—our own doing—and we beg our Maker to come and fix our world for us, much as we might call a contractor to hasten to our home to keep a problem from becoming a disaster or a disaster from resulting in destruction. Only God is wise, powerful and good enough to remedy what our worldly self-will has wrought, and somehow we all know this. How many times have we beseeched Him, and how many times has He rescued us when only He could do so?

In all of this, we easily lose sight of one immovable premise: This is our Father’s world. Wrote David, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”1 God created everything through His pre-incarnate Son: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”2 And God reigns over that which He owns: “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.”3 In short, God owns the place, and He cares for it infinitely more than we do.

Then it is God who calls us to avail ourselves to Him, so that He would work His will in His world through us. We cry out to Him, yes, for He is wisdom amid our folly and His strength overpowers our own, but may we also hear Him and give ourselves entirely to Him today, for as the world pleads for help, God responds through us, His people.

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”4—Jesus the Son, to God the Father

Father, this is Your world, not ours; You love it more than we do. Forgive us our sins, overcome our fear, and establish us in Your path. Strengthen us to do as You call us to do here among the people You love. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Psalm 24:1-2
2 John 1:3
3 1 Chronicles 29:11
4 John 17:18