Today on Insight for Living from Chuck Swindoll. When you watch the evening news on television or check your favorite website for an update, it's natural to feel discouraged. Between the economic uncertainty, the political bluster, and the looming threat of terrorism, sometimes it feels like the world is spinning out of control.
Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues the series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. In this study, we'll be reminded that even in the chaos, God is sovereign through everything, and it's imperative that we take our cues from Him. Unless God is the major pursuit of our lives, all other pursuits are dead-end streets. They won't work. They won't satisfy. They won't result in fulfillment.
They won't do for us what we think they're going to do. The major pursuit in existence is knowing God. And I happen to be so old-fashioned as to believe that when I really begin to come to know God, then and only then am I equipped to know myself.
In fact, the book seems to be full of such counsel. If tears had been ink, I think Jeremiah would have written more than all the other prophets put together. Here is a man of God who spoke way ahead of his times. He found himself surrounded by a polluted stream of depravity among a people who knew better, who had been instructed for centuries to know and walk with their God, and they had deliberately, they had willfully turned away from the word of God, and they had gone into their own pursuits.
The result was predictable. They had begun to destroy themselves. They were a weak nation, soon to be destroyed by a greater power. He writes in chapter 9 of his journal, if you please, O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.
Now this scene he paints is not a pretty one, but it's realistic. Prophets paint not pretty pictures, but real pictures. He says my people are slain. They're a pack of wimps. They were once known as strong for their God. Now they are weak, emaciated, and about to be destroyed. They're slain people.
If you want to know what he really would like to do, verse 2, O that I head in the desert awayfarers lodging place. Why? He names a few of the symptoms.
Not the disease yet, just the symptoms. Because they are adulterers. Because they are an assembly of treacherous men. Because they bend their tongue like they bend their bow. Lies, not truth, prevail in the land.
And because they're going from bad to worse in today's terms, that's the way it would read. I'd like to just get away. I'd like to get out from the middle of this mess. Everywhere I turn, I seek for truth and I hear lies. I look for faithfulness and I find unfaithfulness. I look for people who are gentle and kind and encouraging and I find treachery and murder and assault and rape. I look in vain to find the things that are to mark the people of God.
Now the disease. They do not know me, declares the Lord. Now that is a very simple answer but it is profound.
It is profound. Look at verse 23. The same Lord speaking, let not a wise man boast of his wisdom. Let not the mighty man boast of his might. Let not a rich man boast of his riches. Now wait right there. Just pause. You want to know what people pursue when their eyes are on themselves? You've got it. Verse 23, I ask you, is that relevant or what?
Does that sound like today's world? And you won't find a thing in verse 23 about the living God. You get to verse 24, he still speaks as he says, let him who boasts boast about this, that he understands and he knows me.
Now there's the cure. It is understanding and knowing the living God. I want to talk for a few minutes about why it is important to know God. Psalm 19 says, the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament his handiwork. You look up into the starry skies and you realize if you make any kind of study of those stars that didn't just fall into place.
The rising of the tide and the lowering of the tide, dropping of seed in the ground and the growing of plants, the climates, the wind, the weather, the torrential things that sweep over this earth, those things just don't happen. They are so obviously from the hand of the living God that you have to train yourself not to think that way. In fact, I personally believe you have to teach a child not to believe in God.
The most natural thing in the world in the heart of a child is to believe that someone outside himself arranged things. As soon as he's able to count his fingers, he realizes I've got five. Five fingers that didn't just happen to grow on the end of my arm. Why do I have five fingers? You have to instruct the child it wasn't God because normally the child will say that came from someone else.
My mom has five fingers and she got hers from the same one that I got mine and my world, the plants, the flowers, the wind, the weather. You have to instruct an individual not to believe in a divine source. That's why Romans says we're without excuse. We have so instructed ourselves. The heavens announce and parade, display the glory of God.
But there's more. There's a special revelation in history as well as in his book. And I want to capitalize on four or five reasons it's important to know God. I'm going to set aside all homiletical concern. These things don't rhyme.
They don't fit in a nice little meter. They are simply five reasons why it's important to know God. And once you've gotten a hold of them, I'm going to trust the Lord to turn your direction back toward him.
Here's the first reason. Knowing God gives me the desire to be like him. That's right here in verse 23 or verse 24. Knowing God gives me the desire to be like him. Let him who boasts boast of this that he understands and knows me. That I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on earth. For I delight in these things declares the Lord. Interesting isn't it that when the Lord talks about himself, he tells you his attributes, his character traits. Loving kindness, justice, righteousness. Over in Peter we read that the Lord is holy.
In fact, we even read the command, you be holy as I am holy. The most natural thing in the world is to become like our parents. Even when we don't want to become like our parents, isn't it amazing? I've heard people say, when I grow up, I'm not going to be like my father. And when they grow up, they are like their father. I am not going to be like my mother and they are just like their mother. Why? Because you know them.
You've been around them. That's the way it is with the father, our God. The more I get to know my God, the more I am equipped to be like him. I discover he's holy. I want to be holy. I discover he's good.
I want to be better. I discover he's strong. I want to be secure. I discover he's in control. I don't want to panic my way through life.
I don't want to ricochet from one event to another. I want to calmly move through life. I want to be like my father.
And in order to be like him, I need to know what he is like. Now there's a flip side to that. And it's the second reason it's important to know God. Knowing God reveals the truth about myself. Turn from Jeremiah back one book to Isaiah chapter 6. It's a great section of scripture. Knowing God reveals the truth about myself.
This is a familiar scene. The king has died. I take it that Isaiah was close to Uzziah the king. He was grieving over his death. And as a result, he went to the place of worship. The same year, perhaps the same, near the same time that Uzziah had died. And while in worship, he observed the living God.
Look at it. In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of his road filling the temple. Seraphim stood above him, each having six wings. With two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
I'm smiling because when I was a little boy, the only Bible I used was the King James Bible, the original text of those years. And I remember reading with twine, and I mispronounced it with twine. And I read with twine he covered his face, and with twine he covered his feet, and twine he flew. He had twine all over the place.
And I thought, how could he fly if he was bound up with twine? Here is a sixth winged creature, if I may, fluttering the throne of heaven, giving praise to God. And he's saying, holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. And one is standing saying it, and another answers in an antiphonal voice, and another praises, and another responds, and this group praises, and this group responds, and the whole throne is filled with his glory.
And having seen the Lord high and lifted up, verse five, he saw himself. I said, woe is me. I am ruined.
I'm finished. I'm a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips. I don't know if it bothers you for me to say this, but I think Isaiah struggled with profanity. And I think he was surrounded by a profane speaking people. And when he saw the holiness of God in all of his splendor, he gripped his lips and thought, how could I be his spokesman with these unclean lips?
And he saw himself. When you study the Lord God, you discover he's holy and you're unholy. That doesn't hurt you to know that.
That helps you. You discover he's perfect and you're imperfect. You find that he's strong, but you're weak. You discover that he's patient and you're impatient.
He's impartial and you're prejudiced. He's in control and your life is marked by fear and worry. And something occurs in that contrast that causes his character to overshadow your need. And the knowledge of the holy one equips you to change. I don't know how it works. I just know it does. Do you change by spending time with people?
Very little. Only a few people can impact you sufficiently to result in your changing for the good. Most people will tell you you're so far ahead of others that you don't have anything to work on, nothing to worry about.
Trust me, God won't leave you with that information. He'll help you see yourself, and every time you turn to his word, you'll see another flaw, another need, another strain that needs to be addressed. Now, you'll be told today that puts you down.
Don't believe it. That tells you the truth. It's the truth that sets you free. When you see yourself as you really are, then you're equipped to lean on him to make you like he is. And not until.
Not until. Knowing God enables me to interpret my world. Daniel chapter 4. Turn there, please. Way over in the Minor Prophets, or almost to the Minor Prophets, Daniel. Locate the end of Daniel 4, and you'll come to a remarkable story.
Remarkable. The man's name is Nebuchadnezzar, the king. Nebuchadnezzar has now lived for a while in a room full of mirrors. He's proud of himself.
He's watching out for himself. He's strutting around the kingdom with his thumbs under his suspenders, saying, how great I am. How wonderful I am. Look at this kingdom I built.
How magnificent a person I am. Everybody together, say it again and again. Nebuchadnezzar.
Let's all say it together. And suddenly he lost his mind. Verse 33. Immediately, the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled, and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle. And his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagle's feathers and his nails like bird claws.
It means just what it says. This once great man is reduced to a beast and he's living in the field day and night, claws like an eagle and long hair and animal-like existence. I can't explain this next statement.
I can only tell you it's fact. For some people it takes insanity to come to an end of themselves and to find God. That's the way it was with Nebuchadnezzar. Not all breakdowns are the end of a person's life.
Sometime they're the beginning. And in this horrible breakdown in Nebuchadnezzar's life, he switched in his mind. The next passage you're going to read, 34 and 35 into 36, will amaze you.
Same man. At the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me and I, what, blessed the Most High. He used to bless himself. I praised and honored God who lives forever. He used to praise and honor himself. For God's dominion is an everlasting dominion. His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And now that great 35th verse, one of my favorites.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. And God does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off God's hand or say to him, what hast thou done?
At that time my reason returned to me. It's a 35th verse that interests me. Once Nebuchadnezzar saw God and came to know and began to understand God, his whole perspective changed. He saw the earth as under God's control.
God, if you please, is calling the shots, not this king. I remember in an internship years ago, back in 1961, coming across Daniel 4. I made that summer a study of Daniel, the book of Daniel, and I'll never forget wrestling with the sovereignty of God. I battled with that.
I hadn't been taught that. I'd been taught to reject it, to resist it, to turn it off as heresy. And now I had to face it.
And you know what? I embraced it. And I began to experience a peace like you can't believe. A calm swept over me. In fact, I said to the pastor of the church where I was an intern, I gotta tell you Ray, that the thing that's changed my life this summer has been the discovery of Daniel 4.35.
And he grinned from ear to ear and he said, that is wonderful. When you get ahold of the knowledge of God and begin to see that he is in charge, you won't panic every time you read the paper. You won't give up hope because there's an earthquake somewhere. You won't live in the fear of an earthquake here.
You'll in fact be able to sort of sing your way through the business section, editorial page. Why? Because you know the God who is in control of all things. People have this weird idea that God is sort of sitting on the edge of heaven going, oh!
How am I going to handle this? Help! That's not the God of the scriptures. That isn't the living God. He may be invisible but he's in touch.
You may not be able to see him but he is in control and that includes you. That includes your circumstance. That includes what you just lost.
That includes what you just gained. That's all of life. He does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and no puny weakling can shake his fist and say to God, what are you doing? Even if you did, it wouldn't do any good.
If he ever answered us, it would probably shock us. I'm doing what I please is the answer. I'm doing what glorifies me and you can't see the end. I do. You can't understand it. You see it as tragedy and horror and terror.
I tell you, I have a perfect plan and it's running its course right on schedule. I tell you, that calms me. It makes me feel comfortable. Chapter 11 of Daniel is the fourth reason. Knowing God makes me stronger and more secure. Goodness knows we need this.
Daniel 11 32. I wish we had the time to develop all of these contexts. I just have to say, trust me. I'm giving you in right context the thoughts, but time doesn't allow us to develop each one.
You with me so far? Knowing God gives me a desire to be like him. Knowing God reveals me as I really am. Knowing God enables me to interpret my world correctly.
Fourth, knowing God makes me stronger and more secure. Chapter 11 verse 32 is in a tough scene. It's a scene of conflict and warfare. There's a battle going on between good and evil. And right in the middle of verse 32, Daniel inserts, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.
We'll be spending more time on that fourth point from Chuck Swindoll. Knowing God makes me stronger and more secure. This is Insight for Living. Today's program features message number five in a comprehensive 22-part series called Growing Strong in the Christian Life.
If you'd like to learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. A long time ago, Chuck made a statement in a message that's been quoted over and over again. In fact, it's possible you might have seen these words in a frame. He said, I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react. The words that preceded Chuck's comment and the wisdom that followed is sometimes overlooked. But now I'm pleased to say it's incorporated in a brand new book and it's available today. Just like the quote, the book is titled Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react. Every piece of wisdom in Chuck's book is firmly rooted in the truth of the Bible. To purchase a copy right now, call us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888 or go online to insight.org slash store. Chuck's personal mission on these programs is to help you align your attitude with the truth of scripture. And these daily visits are made possible, of course, because people just like you give voluntary donations. And we're especially grateful for our regular monthly givers. We call them monthly companions of grace. Through your gifts, you're providing a constant source of reliable Bible teaching for people who have come to rely on Chuck's daily presence. To provide for someone else what was once provided to you, we invite you to become a monthly companion of grace right now by calling us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888 or you can sign up online at insight.org slash monthly companion. Take it from Chuck Swindoll, there's nothing quite like the beauty of the great frontier. Wide open skies, pristine glaciers with various shades of blue and turquoise mingled within them, towering pine trees and all manner of wildlife. I'll tell you, Alaska is truly a masterpiece of God's creation. I've been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things, but honestly, nothing compares to the beauty in Alaska.
God is awesome. Come with us on the Inside for Living Ministries cruise to Alaska, July 1st through July 8th, 1923. When I'm in Alaska, I feel like I'm in an amazing painting created by God. Let yourself get lost in the majestic beauty. Spend quality time with those you love. Allow God to refresh your soul as you reflect on His word and His goodness in your life. To learn more, go to insight.org slash events or call this number 1-888-447-0444.
The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer. Next time, Chuck Swindoll continues to describe our major pursuit in life, knowing God. So be sure to join us then on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Knowing God, Life's Major Pursuit, was copyrighted in 1985, 1986, 1987, 2005, and 2011, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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