Genesis 8-11, Psalm 3
When we serve God, we form a partnership with Him. There is the component where we obediently prepare and step out in faith, then God reaches out and blesses what we do. I see many patients daily, a number of them require surgery. My job is to pray beforehand, listen to my patients, make sure that I am up to date with the data, know the surgical techniques, and then obediently move forward as I treat my patients. Before I came into a relationship with God, I did this minus the prayer. When the results were good, I thought to myself, job well done which only elevates pride and self-reliance. One day as I was growing in my relationship and fully invested in His Word, my mind realized something completely different which was absolutely humbling. I realized though I know who to operate on, how to operate, what to avoid, how to suture, etc, the actual outcome of this patient rests little on me and my efforts, but on God and His amazing ability to heal. I can bring edges together in surgery, but each stitch dissolves in a specified period of time, generally one month. If it was not for God and how He reforms muscle, nerves, blood vessels, skin, etc; how He gave us an immune system to fight infection and a system to remake our blood supply, my efforts would almost universally end poorly. It is my job to prepare, but I will never forget that I am merely a vessel which is allowed to be used by God to accomplish His purposes. The same is true in every walk of life, both components are necessary. When our pastor presents his message, he prepares by studying Scripture and applying a wealth of resources to come up with his message. Then when he gets up behind the pulpit, he steps out of the way and allows the Holy Spirit to flow through him and deliver the message that He knows is needed.
We see this clearly in the life of Noah. God gives Noah specific instructions about the building of the ark in Genesis 6:14-21. We then see Noah's response in Genesis 6:22 and 7:5, "Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did...And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him." When the rains started we see that Noah and his family obediently entered the ark in 7:13. We next see God acting supernaturally. As we see all the animals entering the ark, two by two, male and female, this is something that only God could have arranged and made happen. Then we see in 7: 16, "So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God commanded him; and the Lord shut him in." Noah obediently followed, but it was God's sovereign hand which closed the door and sealed him in. When the ark finally rested on land, we see Noah step out in action by releasing the dove in Genesis 8:11-12, "Then the dove came to him in the evening and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth, and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. So he waited yet another seven days and sent out the dove, which did not return again to him anymore." After around a year in a boat bobbing up and down with an ark filled with smelly animals, I would think that he would break down the door and run out at this point, but that is not what he does. He waits almost two more months until he hears God say in Genesis 8:15-16, "Then God spoke to Noah, saying, "Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you." Noah learned to completely trust God in all he did. Notice Noah's response after being on that boat for so long in 8:20, "Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar." With limited food and uncertainty of what he may find out of the ark, the human response would be to conserve all food supplies until he knew more of what to expect. But this is not what Noah does. The first thing he does is prepares to worship the One True God by sacrificing at the altar. When we realize all that God does in our own lives it should drive us all to a steady desire to worship Him.
Many step out in action, then when things turn out well, pridefully take the credit. Many pray before big events, then when those events turn out favorably, forget God and again take the credit. We see this frequently in professional sports where we hear prayers beforehand, then in the post-game analysis, there is no shortage of self-praise as the athletes explain how they outmaneuvered their opponents. By the way, there is no record that God actually spoke to Noah during that year on the ark. When we step out in faith, don't expect God to be a chatterbox. It is through these trials and tribulations, often in times of silence that we learn patience, obedience, and trust. We read in Romans 5:3-5, "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Though God doesn't actually need us, He chooses to fellowship with us. Though we are often inadequate, God is more than adequate. So in whatever we do, may we step out in faith and allow God to use us as He desires. May we share His gospel message to a generation in desperate need of it obediently. May we prepare, but not fear that we won't know what to say, for as we step out He will provide.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: