Summary: It is funny how we think God should work. For some reason we seem to think that since God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present Creator of the universe – and anything else in existence – that he should do everything on a grand scale.
Hard Work and Providence
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
June 5, 2005
I am going to tell you one of my favorite stories this morning because it illustrates perfectly how many of us think about the relationship between what we do and what God does. Many of you have probably heard me tell this story before, but that’s okay – it is one of those stories that remains profound every time you hear it.
It seems that there was this man in Texas – a very devout man. One year when the rains were heavy, the waters of the Lampasas River got well above flood stage. As the flood waters crept up the man’s sidewalk he began to pray, “O God, deliver me from the flood. Your Word tells me that when the waters rise, they will not reach the one who trusts in you. Preserve me, Lord from this deluge.”
About the time he said “amen” there was a knock at the door. He opened it to find a rather excited young man. “Dude, the water’s rising. I saw the lights on and thought I should check if you needed a ride. My monster truck is in the driveway.”
Calmly, the devout man said, “Thank you, no. The Lord will deliver me.” With a shrug of his shoulders the young man said, “Suit yourself,” and ran back to his truck. The devout man watched the truck ford through the water and head off toward higher ground. And the water kept coming.
Steadily the devout man was driven to the second floor. As he prayed and waited for God to deliver him, a deputy sheriff in a john boat came floating by, looking for people stranded by the water. He asked if the devout man needed a lift. “No thanks,” said the man “I will wait on the Lord.” As the boat sped off the devout man began to get excited. He could only imagine the spectacular way in which God was going to deliver him. And the water kept coming.
Finally, he was driven on top of his roof. As he was crying out to God to part the waters and let him walk safely to dry land, a National Guard helicopter swooped down with a ladder. “Climb up!” blared the loudspeaker. But the devout man just shook his head and pointed to the sky. With all his might he shouted, “I will wait for the Lord to deliver me!” And the water kept coming.
As the waters reached his ankles, he began to cry out fervently. Suddenly a huge wave swept him away. When he opened his eyes, he stood before the judgment seat of God. Angrily, he stamped his feet, “God, why didn’t you deliver me?”
Calmly, God replied, “My child, I tried three times with a truck, a boat and a helicopter. But you wanted to pretend you were Moses and kept waiting for the water to part!”
It is funny how we think God should work. For some reason we seem to think that since God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present Creator of the universe – and anything else in existence – that he should do everything on a grand scale. Fireworks and wonders ought to accompany everything he does. It is like we expect trumpets to announce God’s gracious intervention every single time. We don’t seem to make room for the power of God and the ability of man to cooperate in the accomplishment of God’s will and eternal plan.
Over the past few weeks we have been slogging through Ecclesiastes. I say slogging because it has not been easy reading. Solomon has had some hard things to say about life in general. If we were to title this journal of life below the sun it would probably be “The Trouble with Living.” That seems to be the theme – at least for the first eight or nine chapters.
Solomon has told us basically that life under the sun is unfair. Whether you obey all the rules, live a good life, and treat the jerks of the world kindly or happen to be one the jerks, we all end up in the same place – the grave. You can work dawn to dusk every day, scrimp and save all your life, build wealth, gain influence and power – become a big fish in a little pond – and one day as you are smiling over what all your hard work has won for you … you die. Somebody else gets to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Solomon observed that the good die young while the wicked seem to go on and on. The fool is given authority while the wise are made servants. All the things we are taught to pursue – taught will bring us happiness – actually only bring us more anxiety. With greater wealth comes more worries. With greater power comes more enemies. With greater sensual pleasure comes greater risk of disease. And no matter what appetite we try to satisfy we only end up whetting it for more. Nothing satisfies. We are left wondering if any good can come from life.