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The Divine Elephant

Reason Enough
for Embracing Today
Part 3
"Cooperating with God"
Delivered the weekend of January  24 & 25

            This past Tuesday at the inauguration of our new president the prayer of invocation was given by Rick Warren, one of my favorite authors.  He's the author of a book that has sold over 30 million copies, more than any other nonfiction book in history (other than the Bible): The Purpose Driven Life.
            These were the opening words of his prayer: “Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can't see exists because of you alone.  It all comes from you, it all belongs to you.  It all exists for your glory.  History is your story.”

            Those opening words were meant to lead the nation to realize that you shouldn't ignore God, that everything exists because of Him, and that it's all for His glory.  In other words Warren was saying, “Let's not ignore the Divine Elephant in the room!”

            We’re continuing our series of messages with the theme “The Divine Elephant in the Room: Reason Enough for Embracing Today.”  Today we’ll have part 3, which I've titled “Cooperating with God.”

            If God really IS, that should make all the difference in the world as to how we live our lives.  If we really believe that God exists, our lives should have an entirely different focus than it would if we believed that there is no God.

Purposeful Living
            The opening sentence of Rick Warren's best-selling book has often been quoted.  I do so here, and continue with what he wrote in the next paragraph:

            “It's not about you.

            “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness.  It's far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions.  If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God.  You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.” (The Purpose Driven Life, p.17)

            If everything that exists is the result of intelligent design, the Grand Designer is ultimately responsible for our existence.  If the Grand Designer designed us, He has a grand design for our lives!

            Rick Warren quoted the atheist Bertrand Russell: “Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless.”  He's right; if all of existence has happened by chance and random, mindless events, that — by very definition — makes life inherently meaningless.  However, if we were created on purpose by God, we were created for a purpose.  Our lives have meaning!

            In 740 BC a man couldn't ignore the Divine Elephant in the room, and it changed his life profoundly.  His name was Isaiah.  He saw God and His heaven as few people have seen it, and his experience was recorded so that we can learn from it.

            Isaiah wrote, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'  At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1-4)  If an elephant suddenly appeared in front of Isaiah it wouldn’t have shocked and overwhelmed him as much as what he was seeing at that moment!

            Isaiah's reaction to seeing God — in a more graphic way than most people will ever see Him this side of heaven — was to realize how sinful he was in comparison to his holy God.  He wrote, “‘Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'” (Isaiah 6:5)

            One of the angels — from a race of angels called seraphs, to be exact — flew to him and symbolically used a hot coal to cleanse Isaiah’s unclean lips.  Then Isaiah heard God ask, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)  Isaiah didn't hesitate; he answered, “Here am I.  Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

            One of the profound results of Isaiah’s encounter with God was that he realized that his life had a purpose.  His amazing experience prompted him to say, “Here am I.  Send me!”  For the rest of his life Isaiah was a prophet for God.

            I suspect that some people don't want to be fully convinced of God's existence, don’t want to think about it, or simply want to ignore the Divine Elephant in the room — because doing otherwise would profoundly affect their lives.  If they can put up a big enough smokescreen of questions and doubts about God, they might be able to obscure their view of the Divine Elephant!  You can't be serious about God and not have it change the entire orientation of your life.  If God IS, I should no longer be the center of the little universe that I call “my life”; God should be the center!

The Ultimate Symbiotic Relationship
            Our son Dan has a saltwater aquarium.  I enjoy sitting in front of it with him, close to the glass, watching the amazing little world he created.  His aquarium teaches me a lesson twice over about the way God should affect my life.

            Let me tell you about two relationships that are played out continually in Dan's saltwater tank.  High in the tank at the top of the rock you'll see a relationship between his clownfish (of Nemo fame) and the sea anemone.  Dan's clownfish continuously swims in and out of the waving tentacles of the anemone.  The two animals, which are very different from each other, have a wonderful relationship.  The poisonous tentacles keep any enemies of the clownfish at a safe distance as long as the clownfish stays near the anemone.  The tentacles are poisonous to virtually every sea creature except the clownfish!  In return, the waste from the clownfish provides essential nutrients for the anemone.  What a deal!

            In the aquarium's sand you'll see a relationship between the watchman goby fish and the pistol shrimp.  The shrimp burrows a tunnel into the sand for its home, and the goby fish lives there, too.  The shrimp has poor eyesight so it can't see any enemy coming.  The goby has sharp eyes, and the shrimp senses the goby's alarm at the approach of danger and zooms back into the safety of the tunnel with the goby.  The pistol shrimp provides the home, and the watchman goby provides the home security.  What a deal!

            These relationships between the clownfish and the anemone and between the pistol shrimp and the watchman goby are called symbiotic relationships.  A symbiotic relationship is the living together of two dissimilar organisms in a cooperative way which is mutually beneficial.  God wants a symbiotic relationship with us!

            If the truth be told, God doesn’t “need” anything or anyone; He’s infinitely self-sufficient.  However — and this is important to understand — He has created His universe so that He counts on us, the one creature made in His own image, to carry out His great purposes!  He didn't have to do it this way, but He did.  He could have made a universe where He does everything Himself, but He didn't.  He created us to play a part; He wants our participation and cooperation.

Cooperating with God
            This cooperative, or symbiotic, relationship existed from the very beginning, when God first put Adam and Eve into the Garden of Eden: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)  God was fully capable of keeping the garden in shape, but He put Adam and Eve in charge of that.

            The gospels record Jesus' time on Earth.  Did Jesus do all of the work of preaching and healing?  No; on one occasion He sent out His twelve disciples.  Some time later He sent out a larger group of His followers: “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was to go.” (Luke 10:1)  Jesus utilized the help of the people who wanted to be with Him.  He still does that!

            Jesus modeled a life of cooperation with His Heavenly Father.  He prayed toward the end of His earthly journey, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)  Jesus' purpose while He was on Earth was to please the Heavenly Father by serving Him, accomplishing the Father's will.

            We’re here on Earth for the same reason that Jesus was: to accomplish our Heavenly Father's will.  If God IS, His plans and purposes are far bigger and more important than any of ours.  Where they intersect with us, His plans and purposes should be ours!

            How do we do that?  First, by making a once-and-for-all decision to live for Him and not for ourselves or for anything or anyone else.  If you've never decided to put God at the center of your little universe, now would be a good time to do it.  Once we've made that decision, we ought to start every day by praying, “Lord what would you have me do today?”

            If God IS, He has a plan and purpose for everything that He's made, including us and the lives He has us living.  There's a part of His plans and purposes that only we can carry out.  Think about it: we can help God carry out His plans — a sacred symbiotic relationship!  What a purpose for living!  Like Isaiah, it ought to prompt us to say, “Here am I.  Send me!”

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