“When we don’t know everything, we have to trust one thing: God is for us.” Romans 8:32
We will all experience dark times when we do not feel God close; when we feel like our way may not be ordered by God; or when the questions are more numerous than the answers. God has woven into the fabric of faith times when we are ignorant about what He is doing, or what we are doing, or what we should do next. And, it may surprise us, that ignorance is not wrong because faith demands a level of ignorance. When we don’t know everything, we have to trust one thing: God is for us. (Romans 8:32) We may feel like he has forgotten us, we may feel like we are out of his will, we may even feel that there is no way out, but our feelings are wrong. We have to take our stand upon not what we feel, but upon what God has promised in His Word.
Several years ago I was traveling between the Philippines and a Bible school in Patagonia, Argentina. I had been away from Barbara for almost three weeks and missed her really badly. While I was away we had missed celebrating together an important anniversary. I was tired from the ministry and tired from the trip. Our missionary friend, Gilbert Contreras, was escorting me late at night to the isolated school. As we traveled in the darkness of night, I was a little depressed, even feeling a little sorry for myself. I had some Elijah thoughts like: Are lives really being changed? Am I really doing what God wants? Is God really in this?
Then, suddenly I heard a loud noise behind us. I turned to my left and saw what appeared to be a jet flying low, with sparks of green and yellow pouring out of the back of its fuselage. I turned to my right and watched it until it disappeared. And, then wondered: “What is a jet doing in this isolated spot of Patagonia?” Then it hit me. It wasn’t a jet. It was a meteor!
I asked our driver to stop the car. I got out into the pitch black night and as I did, I looked up and saw in the midst of the darkness, thousands and thousands, even millions of shining stars. It was breathtaking. As I looked up, a passage I had recently memorized, came to me.
To whom would you compare me, or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts and calls each one by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you complain Jacob? Why do you say, Israel? “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause disregarded by my God?” Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired and weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men will stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:25-31)
What I will say next will bother some of you. That’s OK. I understand. But, what came to my mind in that moment was something like this: “Wow! God sent a meteor down from the skies to get my attention. He wanted me to see and hear his spectacular and quiet affirmation of His calling upon my life.” The meteor was used to get my attention off myself. The starry host directed me to the words of God. And the words took my focus off the earth and lifted them into the heavens. God was speaking to me and reminding me of his greatness and his personal interest in my life and what he was doing through me.
Isaiah was writing God’s word of promise to his rebellious people. Rather than cutting them off and deserting them, he was speaking to encourage them while they were in exile. They were suffering, not because they were doing God’s will, but because they had rebelled against him. In their darkness, they had turned away from looking up to God to looking down at dead idols and false prophets. Instead of acknowledging their sin and repenting, they blamed God for their troubles and took refuge in lies and falsehoods.
Isaiah reminded the exiled nation that although she was unfaithful to God, he was ever faithful to her. First, he points the exiles to his incomparable greatness by asking this question. “To whom would you compare me, or who is my equal?” Likewise, he challenges us to get a perspective. Think! Get your eyes off yourself and your troubles and look up at your God. No one, no power, no enemy, and no god is like him. He is infinite in his perfections.
When we are facing what seems to be insurmountable, we should focus upon what God has done. Those millions of stars that are fixed in the heavens were purposefully placed there by our God; and they remain because he holds them in place by his word. (Hebrews 1:3) And not only that, he calls them all, everyone of them, by name! He is aware of, and involved with, each star. The inference here is almost too wonderful for words. God has created me. He has placed me. He holds me in place. He calls me by name! I am not just another cog in a machine called the universe. I am His son and His servant. He is for me and never, ever, loses sight of me.
Whenever I become discouraged or engulfed in self-pity, it is because I have taken my eyes off of God’s greatness and focused upon my weakness. When I find myself complaining and questioning God’s care of me, it is because I have forgotten who he is and what he has done. So, he confronts me with these questions: “Why do complain?” “Why do you say?” Think about what you are thinking! Listen to what you are saying. Do you think your ways are hidden from God? Does he not see everything and work every detail of his creation at every moment? Do you think he now doesn’t care about you after he has already done so much for you? In the words of Paul: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not along with him give us all things?’ (Romans 8:30) If he has already given the very best, won’t he give us the rest?
He is the everlasting God. He is eternal and unchanging. He is the creator of every tree, every cloud, every storm, every germ and every person. He does all this and never sweats, breathes hard or becomes fatigued in the slightest. There is no atom that evades his view or mystery that he does not understand fully, without any smidgeon of confusion.
It is He, this infinitely powerful and wise God, who has taken the initiative to create us, call us and equip us for mission. He continues to give “strength to the weary” and it is he who “increases the power of the weak.” We are all in the same boat. We remain dependent upon him, not only for our daily bread and breath, but for our strength and survival. Whether you are young or old, strong or weak, missionary or secretary, your faith will be challenged. The secret to victory in those times is where you place your hope.
In the Hebrew, the word for “wait” is the same word for “hope.” When we are going through tough times that are stretched out, we have a choice. We can seek our help from idols and false gods, we can contemplate quitting or settling for security, or we can look up and trust in God’s greatness and goodness. If we wait for him, if we hope in him, we will soar as on eagle’s wings. We will run and not grow weary. We will walk and not faint. That is God’s promise to his struggling servants.
In Malawi, we have opportunity to see the skies without the interference of city lights. Often we lose all power and discover what complete darkness looks like. If we venture out into the yard, we can become a little anxious at what might come against us out of the darkness. We can also choose to lift our eyes and look at the heavens. When we do that we see a display of God’s handiwork that I can only describe as spectacular! The whole sky is lit up with brilliant stars, placed there and held there and known there by the same God who stationed me in Ntcheu, Malawi.
Here are some of the lessons we can learn from this passage?
1_) God continues to be faithful toward me even when I am not faithful to Him. He is for me.
2_) My hope in trouble is not dependent upon my character or my acts, but upon His. He is gracious.
3_) When my life seems the darkest, God’s glory shines the brightest. He is glorious.
4_) Following Jesus into the unknown can be done without fear of loss or failure. He is sovereign.
The truth is that we don’t know how our acts of faith will turn out. There is a risk in faith. But, the promises of God are too great and awesome to pull back or hesitate. God’s Word declares that he is for us. The essence of faith is this: “that he rewards those who seek him.” Nothing that we do out of faith and a desire to bring glory to God will go unrewarded. Nothing! We simply cannot out give God. The one who rules the universe rules our lives. He will bring joy and peace and blessings to us because we dare to trust him with our lives.