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|The Divine Elephant
"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.
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.”
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!”
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 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.
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:
not about you.
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)
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!
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!
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
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!
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
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.
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
The Ultimate Symbiotic RelationshipCooperating with God
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?”
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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