When God Conceals A Matter

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Friends Magazine Hong Kong
By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
April 2013 Edition

 

Sixteenth Century English Bible commentator Matthew Henry was quoted as saying, “God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for Himself the knowledge of them, that He may train us up in a dependence upon Himself and a continued readiness for every event.”

Five centuries later, we still second guess God concerning the future, question His wisdom, depend not upon Him, and hesitate during life’s shifting moments.  Clearly, we are yet to learn the lessons Henry thought we ought to learn.

* * * * *

There was a man who perfectly fit Henry’s bill when it came to trusting God, particularly at a time when he was kept in the dark concerning his future and that of his entire household.

From the onset of Abraham’s calling by God, he walked in total obedience to Him. With nothing but the weight of His instruction, Abraham went out, “even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).  Without the benefit of a map or a compass at the very least, tangible tokens he could hold onto when the going got tough so to speak, he uprooted himself and his family from their familiar surroundings and moved to a new land (Genesis 12).  He didn’t ask God for the rationale of His command, or the strategies he ought to use to negotiate foreign terrains and navigate strange territories; he simply went out to accomplish his mission. He merely did as he was told.

Abraham’s act of obedience is undoubtedly astounding, but it is not quite unique. Before and after him, people who also heard and believed the voice of God were likewise enabled to do as they were told.

Noah built an arc at a time when flood was still unknown to men. “Faith led Noah to listen when God warned him about the things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family. Through faith Noah condemned the world and received God’s approval that comes through faith” (Hebrews 11:7, GWT).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to obey God’s command to have no other gods besides Him (Deuteronomy 5:7) and opted to be hurled instead into the blazing furnace, heated seven times, despite not knowing whether God will rescue them or not. “If our God, whom we honor, can save us from a blazing furnace and from your power, he will, Your Majesty. But if he doesn’t, you should know, Your Majesty, we’ll never honor your gods or worship the gold statue that you set up” (Daniel 3:17-18, GWT).

Betrothed Mary, at the risk of being shamed and stoned to death for becoming the mother of a prophesied Son through the Holy Spirit, responded to the angel of the LORD, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV).

* * * * *

Albeit their stories crossed over various generations, a singular truth tied them all together into the beautiful narrative from where we continue to draw inspiration to this date – that of absolutely taking God at His word.

When God calls us and commands us to do something, there is no fitting response other than obedience. After all, it is our obedience that merits His approval.  It’s not the result of obedience, because even that is exclusively up to Him.

Singer Joni Erickson Tada once said, “It is a glorious thing to know that your Father God makes no mistakes in directing or permitting that which crosses the path of your life. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. It is our glory to trust Him, no matter what.”

Just as we simply sit still and trust the engineer when our train goes through a dark tunnel, let us also learn absolute dependence on God when He chooses to conceal a matter to us. Our Father God makes no mistakes; even His obscure acts can be trusted.

SHALOM! SHALOM!

 

WHEN LIFE HITS YOU HARD

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Friends Magazine Hong Kong
By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
August 2011 Edition

 

 

Unpaid bills. Failed relationship. Unsuccessful project. Impossible employer. Deteriorating health. Rebellious child. Cheating spouse.

 

When life hits you hard, don’t let it knock you down.

 

John Piper worded it for us clearly, “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

 

Life, in other words, is essentially good lumped with the bad – with the bad intended only to bring out the good in us. Hence, when the bad turns up and comes along, we should remember that everything happens for a reason. It is in our dire times that we must purposefully choose to trust steadily in the faithfulness of the God who promised that He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

In the midst of life’s difficulties, we are not left alone and helpless. God has a standing invitation to us: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:27-30, MSG).

 

It is most comforting that at our most trying times, the preceding Bible verses point us to the fact that (1) God cares, (2) God is available to us, and (3) God is in control.

 

 

God cares. We all know this in good times, of course. It is when we hit rock bottom that we question if He really does.

 

This is why we have the likes of Joseph, Daniel, his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the Bible. Because these giants of faith trusted in God and in His goodness even in the midst of their lives’ worst possible situation.

 

Joseph, though he kept his integrity and feared the Living God, was imprisoned for a charge he did not commit. Yet he went with it, his faith unfazed by the unjustness of his situation. God saw him through the process, granted him favor in the eyes of men, and made him the second most powerful person in the kingdom.

 

Daniel, for keeping his loyalty to God, was thrown in the hungry lions’ den. Yet nothing was said about him questioning God and His reasons for allowing him to go through what he went through. It was only when God revealed the mystery of His wisdom that He made known: His higher purpose was for the king himself to acknowledge no other God, but the God of Daniel alone.

 

Shadrach,Meshach, and Abednego, in the same fashion, went through the furnace heated seven times over for not bowing down to idols. Yet they did not go through it just by themselves, because God went with them.

 

Let me underscore, these people were not spared from prison, dungeon, and furnace; they went through every possible hardship and fear and pain, but it didn’t mean God abandoned them or didn’t care for them. On the contrary, when all the pieces of the puzzle ultimately fell into place, it was revealed how God went with them each and every single step of their difficult process.

 

This brings me to my next point: God is available to us.

 

We can always turn to God for help; He has given us the invitation to come (Matthew 11:27). He has also called on us to call unto Him. “Let your cry come to me, and I will give you an answer, and let you see great things and secret things of which you had no knowledge” (Jeremiah 33:3, Bible in Basic English). The problem, really, is that we take our independence too seriously that we think we can live separately from God.

 

Clearly, we go through life alone because we choose to, not because we have to. The thing is, we can’t tackle life even with our best and greatest strength, wisdom, money, power, influence, and fame all built into one tall “Tower of Babel.” Apart from the LORD, even our best efforts will come tumbling down – sooner than later.

 

Ultimately, therefore, God is in control.

 

To the believer whose life fully depends on God, this is a fountain of joy and assurance. But to him who wrestles against the LORD, this is a fair warning.

 

God has sworn in His Word, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10).

 

Only a fool will work against the will of this God who “… stretches out His heavens over empty space. He hangs the earth on nothing whatsoever” (Job 26:7).

 

When life hits you hard, draw near to God, call unto Him, and trust His plans and purposes. Remember that He cares for you, He is available to you, and He is in control of your situation.

Write Your Best Life Story in 2012

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Friends Magazine Hong Kong
By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
January 2012 Edition

 

To a writer, nothing is more intimidating than a blank sheet of paper … or a flickering cursor on the screen of a new blank document. It’s daunting to start right.
In a way, we are all writers with new stories to tell at the beginning of a new year. We are given a clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning – and it all depends on what we write on the blank sheet of paper that we’ve been given that spells the difference for most of us.
What do we do with this gift of a new year? The Bible teaches us three practical steps to take in order to get ourselves aligned with God’s desires for us.
First, replace fear with faith. It’s a given: Anything new is daunting and anything uncertain is scary. It’s human nature to doubt.  Take the disciple Thomas for example. Yet when we let go of fear and begin to live a life of faith, walking by it and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we are empowered to do things that are even beyond our capability. Jesus Himself has said, “Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23).
We must remember that whichever controls us of the two, masters us. It’s just impossible for faith and fear to go together. Hence we cannot live in faith, trusting God for every detail of our lives, while we live in fear of what’s to come. It’s just out of sync.
When God told Abram to leave his native land (relatives and family included) to go to a “land that I will show you” (instruction can’t go vaguer than that), it was faith that made Abram obey (Genesis 12).
As a reward, Genesis 24:1 tells us that, “Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.”  And fast-forward to generations after him, Galatians 3:9 commends him still: “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
Second, replace worry with worship. The person who said that, “worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere” is wise.  And Luke 12:25 probes: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” The answer to this, of course, is none.
Simple math will tell us that if we give an hour of our lives to worry, anxious about “what ifs” in the future, we waste sixty minutes of our earth time. And for us to appreciate the importance of an hour, let’s imagine ourselves missing our train because of a five-minute delay at the ticket counter.
Just as fear and faith can’t go together, so are worry and worship. Worry is a response to fear; worship is the response of faith. It is impossible to worship the LORD for His goodness, while our thoughts are wrapped around the worries that come with new things. If we truly trust God, we will worship Him unconditionally. [Philippians 4:6-7]
Third, replace hopelessness with happiness. Hopelessness is not in the vocabulary of someone who has complete faith in God and worships Him for who He is. Because a person who truly trusts in the LORD and rests in the guarantee of His sovereignty, naturally remains in the attitude of faith and worship.
Bible scholars believe that the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in a cold and dark dungeon, nothing better than a sewer, when he wrote the words: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).  What kept him rejoicing even in the midst of an impossible situation?  Paul knew his God.
At this early, deal with the fact that 2012 will be full of new challenges, even trials and tests. There is no other way for our lives to be enriched and our faith to be strengthened. Our crowns are determined by the battles we won.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
So don’t be cowed by fear. If you truly trust in the LORD and fully believe in Him, nothing in this world will move you. Respond in worship to Him, rejoicing at all times. Write your life’s best story this 2012!
God bless you more marvelously!