Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

God is at work always

I came across this encouraging piece the other day from 2005 by Ian Hamilton and found on the Banner website.

It is only too easy for Christians to become daunted and deeply pessimistic. The world we live in is a dark, and presently an ever-darkening, place. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is increasingly and publicly mocked and marginalized throughout society, particularly in the media. Our Government passes legislation that defies the living God. Our churches, most of them, are small and struggling. Evangelical Christianity is awash with theological and moral compromise. You might well be forgiven for thinking, 'Is it any wonder believers are daunted and deeply pessimistic?'


Do we have any reason, however, for being downbeat and discouraged? Allow me to remind you of our Lord's words in John 5:17, "My Father is always working." Always! Not occasionally. Not much of the time. But all of the time. Our God is never indolent, never merely watching the world's progress from the sidelines. He is always at work; and if he is always at work, how can we ever be daunted and discouraged? I know that some who read this letter will be going through sore trials. Others will have legacies of deep disappointments. Some will be in churches where little if any apparent progress has been seen for years. And yet, "My Father is always working."



It is true that our God's working is not always, or even often, obvious. "He hides himself so wondrously, as if there were no God: He is least seen when all the powers of ill are most abroad." Nonetheless, he is always at work, fulfilling his sure, sovereign, blessed purposes. He is never idle. His working is never frantic or uncertain, but always calm, deliberate and perfectly purposeful: "Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him" (Psalm 115:3).



If nothing else, this great truth should inspire at least two things in our lives: First, we should never lose heart. Our God is working and nothing and no one can stand against him. History, with all its dark uncertainties and apparently uncontrolled wickedness, is overseen and punctuated by the Sovereign God who works. This is not an excuse for us to sit back and smirk at our circumstances. But it is a wonderful encouragement for Christians not to lose heart, not to become daunted and disappointed. God is at work, always. Secondly, we are encouraged to live by faith and not by sight. What is faith? At heart it is trusting God for who he is, believing his word, whatever it says. Faith says, "I believe God." So, when we read, "My Father is always working," however downbeat and seemingly bleak our circumstances, we believe God's word.


I have little doubt that it often pleases the Lord to withhold the obvious evidences of his working in order to teach us the grace of faith. This truth is put starkly and remarkably in Isaiah 50:10, "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God." But faith is more than trusting reposefully in God, it is believing that God is able to accomplish whatsoever he pleases. Because our God is an ever-working God, whose power is limitless and unconquerable, there is no saying what he may well be pleased to accomplish. "You do not have because you do not ask!" God's sovereign working is not an excuse for us to sit back and drift with whatever tide comes our way. No, a thousand times no. Does the Lord himself not tell us that his Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:13). Faith lays hold of the God who always works, pleads his promises, the glory of his Son and the saving of his people.

"My Father is always working." Are these not wonderfully encouraging words? Do they not pierce our gloom and despondency? The Lord will not lose one of his own. He will present his church to himself as a spotless, perfect bride, not one missing. Take heart. The God who is for us in Christ and who rules the heavens and the earth is always working.

Ian Hamilton
Pastor Cambridge Presbyterian Church

No comments: