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Your God is Too Small

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 23, 2023 9:00 am

Your God is Too Small

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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June 23, 2023 9:00 am

Remember how frustrating it was when you were in school and the teacher was describing a big concept, but you couldn’t make heads or tails of it? Nobody likes when they can’t understand something

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Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. We want a God who is only a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of us. But the God of the Bible is something altogether different from who we are. Only that kind of God is capable of explaining life's mysteries. Only that kind of large God gives us a real sense of purpose in the world.

And only that kind of God can ignite our passions and worship. Welcome to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

I'm your host Molly Vidovich and I'm so glad that you're back with us today. Do you remember in school when the teacher would be describing some new big concept but you just couldn't wrap your mind around it? That's not a pleasant feeling, right?

That feeling of being totally lost? As humans, we don't like when we can't understand something. But today Pastor J.D. shows us that there are some things about God that we'll never be able to wrap our minds around and that's actually a good thing. Find out why as we begin a new study called Not God Enough. Pastor J.D. is headed to the book of Job with a message he titled Your God is Too Small.

Remember, if you'd like to follow along with the transcript of each message, you can always find them free of charge at jdgreer.com. Right now, let's join Pastor J.D. as he opens God's Word here on Summit Life. We are starting a new sermon series today called Not God Enough. It corresponds to a book that I have by that same title called Not God Enough, Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems. Now, here's the big idea behind Not God Enough and the reason that I spent some time on it is almost all of our spiritual problems, I believe, problems like doubt or apathy, unhappiness, insecurity, almost all of them come from a view of God that is too small. As Americans, we prefer a God who is small, a God that we can manage, predict, and control. That kind of God feels safe to us. We can understand him.

We can explain him. He doesn't embarrass us or confuse us or contradict us or make us mad, but this is simply not the God that we encounter in the Bible. The God in the Bible is the opposite of small and manageable. He is big. He's bigger than big. He's bigger than all the words we use to say big.

He defies our abilities to categorize or describe him. Most Americans, myself included, we want a God who is only a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of us, but the God of the Bible is something altogether different from who we are and here is the irony. Only that kind of God is capable of explaining life's mysteries. Only that kind of large God gives us a real sense of purpose in the world and only that kind of God can ignite our passions and worship. It's like the British philosopher Evelyn Underhill once remarked, she said, a God that is small enough to be understood is never going to be big enough to be worshiped.

So you got to choose. You're going to need to have a God that you can predict and control and understand, or you're going to have a God that is worthy of your worship and can sustain you in the midst of life's hardships. Solomon calls this the fear of God, the fear of God, recognizing his size and says that the fear of God is necessary for any proper relationship to God. Proverbs 1 7, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

What that verse means is that without a trembling awe before the majesty of God, we'll never really know God, we'll never trust him and we'll never be able to walk with him. That's the step that for many years, for many years, I tried to skip in the development of my faith. If you all have been here for any length of time, you probably know that I've, I've tried to be honest with you about the struggles with belief that I've had throughout my life.

Hard questions that, that I didn't really have great answers for. Questions like why is there so much suffering in the world? I get, I get that some pain and some suffering might be necessary and can work good in us, but what possible good could God have for something like the Holocaust? Or how does the concept of hell align with the view of a loving God?

Or how about this one, if Christianity is true, why do so few people, relatively speaking, why do so few people believe it? And why isn't God doing something more to get people saved? I mean, if God is God and he can do anything, why didn't he just send down an angel? You know, a 900 foot tall angel to stand on top of the rotunda and the Capitol and, and proclaim the gospel to everybody. That'd be more effective than, than putting his spirit on somebody like me. Why, why is it nice he not doing more?

A couple of summers ago, my family and I worked for a week among Syrian refugees overseas. And after our week there, my eight-year-old daughter looks up at me and she says, dad, if God loves these people so much, why doesn't he fix all this? I told her, I said, well, he is sweetheart. He's, he's just using us to do it. I mean, that's a standard pastor answer right there. Standard pastor answer. It's not satisfied. She pressed back.

She said, dad, no, no. I mean, why doesn't he do something about it himself? I think it's a fair question. Why not send that army of angels that we've heard so much about and why not just make the war in Syria go away? He's God.

He could do it if you wanted to. Maybe you've had some of these very same questions. Maybe you've had others. Sometimes I thought, you know, the fact that I can't understand or explain these things, maybe that means that God is not actually even there. Eventually I, I came to believe because I became genuinely convinced that there really was no other explanation for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, other than that he really was who he said he was. But y'all, even after coming to that conviction, I really struggled to develop a love for it and intimacy with God. Cause how can you feel close to a God that confuses you and bewilders you so much? I mean, y'all, I wanted to love him.

I knew other people who seemed to love him. There's a lady in our church who every single time she prays or talks about God's grace, she tears up. And I thought, why, why don't I tear up when I talk about God and his grace? Now I knew how to play the game. I knew how to like shake my head and squint my eyes and you know, kind of grunt and make spiritual sounds. I've come to see that one of my primary problems in all of this was a conception of God that was too small. Like I said, I thought of God as just a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of me. And I thought if God would just take a minute to explain himself to me, then I would readily and easily be able to understand it all. But y'all that conception of God is just not able to sustain faith. It is only by grappling with the size of God that I developed the ability really to believe. So in this first message, I want to unpack the experience of the man in the Bible who probably had more questions for God than anybody else I know of.

In fact, this man's name has become synonymous with doubt and confusion and despair. That man's name is Job. We're going to be in chapter 38.

So let me give you just a quick overview of chapters one to 37, the Cliff Notes version of it. Job 1 says, pretty much everything we know about Job. We don't know much about Job. He is said to be from us.

And so you ask, where is us? Short answer, scholars have no idea where us is. Furthermore, we don't know what time period Job lives in or even what nationality he is.

We know that he's not an Israelite because his name is not Hebrew, but we don't know where he's from. This lack of detail, scholars say, is intentional because evidently the author of Job does not want us to get fixated on the particular historical situation of Job. He wants us instead to focus on the universal questions that are raised by Job's suffering, questions that everybody asks, questions that you have asked in some form at some point in your life. All we're told in Job 1-1 is that Job is a blameless and upright man, which is a Hebrew way of saying he was a really swell guy. It means that he helped little old ladies across the street. He always ate all his vegetables. He turned in his library books on time.

He read every single word of the terms and conditions on his new iPhone update before he hit agree and had it reload. He's just a stellar fellow. Well, then right after this brief two verse introduction, we get suddenly whisked off to heaven where God is apparently having a staff meeting. And among God's staff is a particularly feisty fellow called the satan.

In Hebrew, it literally means the accuser or the prosecutor. And the satan raises a critical challenge. He says, you know, God, the only reason that people serve you is that it's in their own self-interest. They just serve you because you give them stuff.

If you let them suffer and you stop giving them stuff, they'll drop you like a bad habit. And so God says, okay, okay. All right, satan, let's take Job.

You take everything in his life from him that he loves and you'll see that he values me just for me. And so in the next two chapters, that's exactly what happens. Satan takes every single thing from Job that he loves. Interestingly, by the way, or maybe disturbingly, he doesn't take Job's wife, which is always a little confusing to me, right? You can almost see one of the demons saying, hey, you forgot to mess with Job's wife. And he's like, nope, I know exactly what I'm doing here.

That's intentional. She turns out to be pretty cranky and not much help to Job. At this point in the narrative, as you're reading this, you should be asking, you should be going, wait, what?

Why in the world would God allow this? And then we would expect the rest of the book of Job to provide an answer to that question, but that is not what we get. In chapter three, we see Job's friends enter the picture. Job's friends, there are three of them, Eliphaz the Temanite, Zophar the Naamathite, and the shortest man in the Bible, Bildad the Shoahite. Get it, Shoahite, you see? That's classic Bible trivia right there.

You want to write that down. These men, these three men try to explain Job's suffering using the very best of ancient wisdom. Y'all, for what it's worth, they seem to be halfway decent friends. They sit with Job in his misery and they try to comfort him and they cry with him. And basically what they say to Job is this, they say, look, we know that God is just. We also know that God is sovereign and everything happens for a reason. So the fact that you're suffering, Job, must mean that there's a reason that God is paying you back for something.

Job pushes back. He's like, that's just not true. I'm not telling you all that I'm perfect. I'm not telling you I've never sinned.

I'm just telling you that I'm innocent of anything that would warrant this kind of suffering. But his friends hold the line. They're like, no, listen, Job, there has to be something. I mean, Job, it's easy to get the logic of this, right? God is just and everything happens for a reason. So, Job, you got to think hard.

What is it? What have you done that's brought all this on? And this back and forth goes on for 37 chapters until finally, Job exasperated, says, listen, guys, you're wrong. And the more you talk, the worse I feel. All you're talking is not helping me at all.

It's just making things worse. Reminds me of the story of the man who gets pulled over by a, you know, a policeman. And a policeman walks up and says, sir, did you know how fast you were going? He says, no, officer, I didn't. And his wife leans over and says, yes, he did. He pointed it out right before you pulled over, pulled him over. And he says, the officer says, did you know your tail light was out? He says, oh, no, I had no idea. She said, yes, you did. You've known that for months and been complaining about it. Officer said, you're not wearing your seat belt.

Did you realize that? He said, yes, sir. I unbuckled her right as you were walking up. She said, the wife said, no, you didn't.

You never wear your seat belt. He looks at his wife and says, woman, would you shut up? And the officer says, ma'am, does he always talk to you this way? And she said, only when he's drunk, only when he's drunk. So he just stopped talking, stopped talking.

Every time you talk, things get worse. That's how Job feels about his friends. And so his friends at the end of chapter 37, exhausted of their wisdom, they leave one by one and Job sits there all by himself, still confused. The point after 37 chapters is this, the wisdom, all the wisdom of the ancients has been spent yet the mystery of suffering remains. And then finally, finally, chapter 38, God shows up and Job says, at last, I'm finally going to get some answers. But no, instead, God shows up and does not give an answer at all. He simply starts to ask Job a bunch of his own questions.

64 different questions spread across three chapters to be exact. He asked Job's things like chapter 38, Job, were you around when I shaped the earth? Job, where were you when I spread out the constellations? And where were you when I knit the stars together? Job, while we're at it, where do you think storms come from?

Can you even predict when the next storm is going to come? And then there's some even really odd random questions in there like, Job, how much do you know about the copulation patterns of goats? Or how about this one, chapter 38 verse 13, Job, do you know why ostriches are so ugly? And you're reading this and you're thinking like, okay, I get the big questions, I get the stars and the earth, but why all these little questions?

The point is to show perspective. God is saying to Job, Job, if you can't even really fathom the mystery behind natural things, are you really in a place to understand and evaluate eternal things? You see, the assumption that Job and all of his friends are working off of is that they know enough about the world to analyze and understand God's ways. But God says to them, actually, your perspective on the world is quite puny.

Mine is huge. You don't even understand simple things like constellations, creation, or ostrich ugliness. And Job, if you don't understand the mystery behind finite things like this, do you really feel like you're in a place to hold court on me and evaluate eternal purposes? You see, Job, to understand infinite justice, you're going to need to have infinite perspective and you don't even have a good grasp on finite things. This is Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. For more information about this ministry, visit us anytime at jdgreer.com. Before we get back to our teaching, I wanted to take a moment to remind you about our featured resource that we are offering our gospel partners and any of the generous listeners who give to this ministry. It's a book called Scent, Living a Life That Invites Others to Jesus by Heather and Ashley Holliman. If you're anything like me, it's not always easy to find opportunities to share the gospel.

And a lot of times I don't know where to begin or I just overthink it and then I don't do it at all. And if that's you, trust me, this book is for you. Heather Holliman and her husband, Ashley, offer practical ideas and strategies for how to share the gospel with the people that God's put in your life. So to get your copy, join our gospel partner family or give a one-time gift of $35 or more to this ministry.

Call us at 866-335-5220 or visit us online at jdgreer.com to give. Now let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Then finally, chapter 40, God says while we're at it, Job, do you really want to run the world for a day? You really want to punish every little act of injustice in every single instance? Job, do you know how many different things are happening in the world at one time?

And do you know how many different things are interconnected? When I read this, I thought of that scene in Bruce Almighty where that great theological mind, Jim Carey, is given the responsibility to play the role of God for a few days. And remember, his first crisis is trying to answer all the prayers.

Remember this? All the prayers are coming at him and he doesn't know what to do, right? Because this prayer is connected to this one over here and this person's praying that, but this person's praying the opposite. And if you answer this prayer, then it affects this person over here which changes this and he just about loses his mind. That's basically what God is saying here to Job in this chapter.

He's like, hey, this is quite a bit more complicated than you thought it was, isn't it, little man? And then the book ends. And God ends up, by the way, the last few verses restoring everything to Job.

In fact, sevenfold. Yet even after the Restoration, we never really get satisfying answers to the question of why all this happened in the first place. Neither did Job. The book ends with mystery for him. All we get from God is more questions. But these questions make five crucial points about the size of God. And this is God's answer. These questions are making five points about the size of God. This is God's answer to Job. Number one, God says to Job through these questions, my power, Job, is sovereign. In this book, we see God's absolute power over creation, over the angels, even over Satan himself. Y'all, we see that Satan does nothing.

Nothing except by permission. We can see through these questions that God has purposes in creation that go far beyond our purview. For example, chapter 38, 26, God talks about watering a land that nobody lives in, making the flowers and the plants flourish in a plant that doesn't benefit humans at all. When I read that, I was reminded of that thing that C.S. Lewis pointed out, I've told you about before, where when explorers got to the New World and they would go into these valleys that as far as they knew, no human eye had ever seen before.

And they discovered new types of flowers and plants that were just more beautiful than anything that they'd seen. C.S. Lewis said, the question you have to ask is, why did God put all this beauty in a place where nobody had seen it for thousands of years?

And C.S. Lewis's answer is the same thing as God's answer here in chapter 38, and that is that God does some things solely for himself. Not everything that exists is for the purpose of man. And so what you're seeing about Job's suffering, and this is kind of the theme of it, is that the ultimate purpose in Job's suffering is to bring glory to God.

God was demonstrating his glory to Satan and all the angels through Job's suffering, and I know that when you hear that, some of you have a hard time with that, and you say that's a hard thing to live with, that God is using my suffering for his glory. But I'm telling you, listen, that that is the secret to a happy and fulfilled life, is for you to understand that you and all the world exist first and foremost for God's glory. Because when you embrace that, you're gonna find a joy and a satisfaction that you've never known, because you were created to live for God. You weren't created to live for yourself. You weren't created to live as if everything was about you. You weren't created to be at the center. You were created for God to be at the center.

And when you get your mind around that, you'll suddenly find a freedom and a happiness that you never could get a hold of when you thought everything was all about you. So he says, number one, my power is sovereign. Number two, he tells Job, my perspective is infinite.

My perspective is infinite. The climax of God's argument comes in chapter 42, verse three, when God says to Job, who is it that dares question my judgment without the knowledge to be able to do so? In other words, Job, if you don't even understand the mystery behind natural phenomenon, like storms and stars, are you really in a place to understand the purposes of the eternal God above them? There is a problem that philosophers refer to as the problem of evil. It's probably the number one intellectual reason why people choose to quit believing in God. And it's a problem that has been expressed for literally thousands of years. The first person to actually put it in the form we have it now was a philosopher named Epicurus.

And I think it was the fifth century BC Greek philosopher. And basically the problem goes like this. If God is all loving, he would want to remove suffering. Right, okay, it makes sense. If God is all powerful, he could remove suffering. The fact that suffering exists means that God must not be all loving or all powerful. And a God who is not all loving or all powerful is by definition, not God.

So therefore the fact that suffering exists means that God doesn't exist. That's the problem of evil. And it's been repeated for thousands of years.

It gets repeated in college classrooms today. And some of you have asked some form of that question. Why is there all this purposeless evil? But I have told you that that syllogism, that problem of evil is missing a crucial premise.

And that crucial premise is this. If God is all loving and God is all powerful, then it follows that God is also all wise. And if God's wisdom is as high above our wisdom as his power must be above our power, then it should be a rational conclusion that there are certain things about God and his purposes that are going to escape our immediate ability to comprehend them at least easily. Do a thought experiment with me. If there is a God, let's say that you came in today and you're not normally a church person and you came with a friend and you don't even believe there is a God. Okay, just still go through this thought experiment with me. If there is a God, how much power must he have in order to create the universe that we live in? I mean, just think about it. Think about the number of stars, for example.

The last number I saw, astronomers say there are 3000 billion trillion stars, three with 24 zeros after it. Now, if you're like me, numbers like million and billion and trillion, they all start to sound the same after a while, right? I don't really, what does that mean? Let me, again, a little thought experiment. Let me help you get your mind around this. A million seconds ago, do you know what you were doing a million seconds ago? A million seconds ago was 11 days ago.

Can you think about what you were doing 11 days ago? All right, how about a billion seconds ago? Do you know what you were doing a billion seconds ago? When was a billion seconds ago? 31 years and eight months ago. Some of you don't know what you were doing a billion seconds ago because there was no you to speak of.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, the CD player had just come out and been released. A Rambo was saving the world from certain destruction. The Jedi had just returned for the very first time. It was a great era, but it was a long time ago. That's a billion seconds ago. How about a trillion seconds ago? When do you think a trillion seconds ago was?

Maybe a couple hundred years, what do you think? A trillion seconds ago was 29,672 BC. Now I want you to think about the fact that there are at least 3000 billion trillion stars, each one putting out roughly the same amount of energy every second as a trillion megaton atom bombs. Some of these stars are so big they defy description like Eta Carinae right here in our own Milky Way galaxy, which is 5 million times brighter than our sun. These stars they say exist in an expanse that we simply cannot comprehend. The Hubble telescope is now sending back faint infrared images of galaxies we didn't even know about.

Estimated some of them at 12 billion light years away, which means if you were to get in a spaceship and travel 186,282 miles every second in 12 billion years, you would arrive at the edge of that galaxy. All of these 3000 billion trillion stars and all this expanse is created in a single moment with a single word from God. That is God's power. God is bigger than you are, and He is more powerful than you are, and His wisdom exceeds our comprehension.

Thank God. Pastor JD, what do you mean by that phrase, not God enough? It really was a way of saying that for many people, the problem with their faith is that they have a reduced view of God. One of the things that you find in the Bible when people encounter God is He is somebody that is beyond their comprehension. Think about how much bigger, Molly, God's strength is than yours.

How much more powerful He is than yours. What this series is designed to do is to help you think about and consider just the majesty of God using Job's experience with God. What if the answer God gave you was, you can trust me, I'm good.

And the problem with how you're thinking of life is you're not allowing me room to be God enough. So I'm excited to be able to share that with our Summit Life audience. We're continuing to offer that resource along with it that I think is a great application of this is after you discover who God is, you've got to tell somebody.

This book's sent Living a Life That Invites Others to Jesus explains how you can do that, how you can become the kind of person who effectively reaches out to and shares Christ with others. You can give us a call right now to help fuel the work God is doing through this ministry around the world. Just call us at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can always give online at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Vitovich inviting you to join us again next week as Pastor JD continues our new teaching series called Not God Enough here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-23 11:27:02 / 2023-06-23 11:38:31 / 11

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