Joyce Meyer - God's Sovereignty and Man's Responsibility
Psalm 37, verse 1. There's a lot of stuff going on in the world today and here's what the Bible has to say, "Fret not yourself because of evildoers". I like that it reminds me that even in the midst of times like we're living in we don't have to go around being upset all the time. Somebody say, "Amen". "Neither be envious against those who work on righteousness, (that which is not right or in right standing with God). For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb".
Now, I'm going to say a little something a little bit later about verse 2, but that's a sovereign decree from God. That the wicked, if they don't change, they will be cut down like the grass. I don't know what God's timing is, but God will come in and deal with wickedness and evil. "Trust (rely on, lean on and be confident) in the Lord and do good..." trust God and do good. What are we supposed to do in the times that we're living in? Trust God and do good. It's the simplest little formula. Not just trust God. But trust God and then take some action.
Tonight I'm going to talk about God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. You see God is sovereign, he can do anything he wants to but the thing that's so amazing is he has decided in his sovereignty that he wants to be partners with us. That he wants to not just go do everything himself but he wants to do things through us. And not only that, he's taken a very bold step and given man a free will. God wants us to use our free will to choose his will. That's the high calling on our life. He didn't want robots, he didn't want puppets. So he gave us free will. And if somebody wants to go to hell, God will protect their right to do that. I mean, it's true. And I'm sure some of you are finding out if somebody just does not want to love God, you are not going to make them love God. It's a decision that they get to make but they also get to be responsible for the decisions that they make.
So, this thing about free will, it's really exciting on one end but boy there's such a responsibility to it because if I have free will and I can make my own choices then I really can't blame God or anybody else for the messes. And boy, do we have a big problem with that, blame, blame, blame, blame, blame. And now, there is this area where when wicked people are making wrong choices, if they happen to be in some kind of authority over you then sometimes you get in the backlash of their bad decisions and you get hurt.
And we don't always understand why God doesn't do something about that. But what God really wants us to do is to trust him and then as soon as we can make our own choices, start making choices according to his word and then it doesn't take very long at all and you begin to overturn all the effects of any of the bad things that happen. But what Satan wants is for evil people to do evil things and then even good people or well meaning people get hurt by that and then he wants them to get bitter and spend their life full of hatred, wanting to get revenge. But we're smarter than that, aren't we? I said, we're smarter than that aren't we? The dumbest thing that we can do is try to deal with our own enemies.
And I can say that now, after 40 years of teaching the word, but I wasted a lot of my time being mad at people who hurt me and it just was really a total waste of time. And as long as we are trying to defend ourselves or get revenge or get people back, now listen to what I'm going to say, God can not help us. Should I say it again? As long as we are hating people, against people, mad at everybody, bitter because of the things that have happened to us, blaming life, blaming God, even blaming the devil doesn't really work because if we just sit around and blame and we don't take any responsibility then the problem never gets fixed. And so, you can spend your life hating, being bitter, trying to get revenge, but while you're doing that, God can not help you.
You say, "Well, I'm trusting God"! But, are you doing good? Are you forgiving? Are you praying for your enemies? In the midst of your pain are you being a blessing to somebody else? Come on. "Well, I'm trusting God"! But see, that's not enough. I could have walked out here tonight and said, "How many of you are trusting God"? And there would have not been one hand that wouldn't have gone up. And then if I would have said, "How many of you are doing what God has told you to do"? Okay, I'm just going to say this and get it over with. Let me just say this and get it over with. Going to church is wonderful. But it is basement level, baby entry Christianity. If that's all you've got to say for yourself as a Christian, that is sad indeed.
Yes, we need to go to church, but we need to come out of the church fired up and fueled up and ready to get out in society and represent Jesus the way he tells us to represent him. I'm so tired of hearing that. "Are you a Christian"? "Well, I go to church". So, God's word is medicine really. There's one translation, I think the Isaac Leeser translation that says, "God's word is medicine". You take it like medicine and so, anything that ails you this, if you've got some of this, trust, it fixes pretty much everything. I don't think you can have a problem that trust doesn't take care of. And so this is our prescription. It's a prescription for trust by Dr. Jesus. And the patient is whosoever. Works for whosoever. And you can take as many as needed for as long as you need it.
And look at that. Refills? You don't even got to call the doctor, they're endless. But I want to warn you, I need to warn you, there are some serious side effects. This medicine has side effects. Peace! Joy! Stability, confidence! And, oh my gosh, overall better life. So the next time you get a little upset, take a little trust. Next time you get mad at somebody, take a little trust. When you lose your job, take a little trust. When you don't get that promotion at work you wanted, take a double dose of trust. Amen? But, in order to really finish this thing off, then you gotta follow up your dose of trust with a couple good spoonfuls of do good.
See, trust in the Lord and do good. I actually think that we miss that. That wonderful thing in Psalm 37:3 can be life changing. Don't get fretful because of all the wickedness and the evil that's in the world today and worry about, "What am I going to do and what's going on and what's going to happen and what does the future hold"? And even getting all rattled up, "When is Jesus coming back"? He'll come back at the right time. And whenever the time is, we just need to be ready. Whether that's tonight or 10 years from now. I wonder sometimes if some of our preoccupation with wanting to know when Jesus is coming back is because we want to wait till a week or two before to get ready. I, you know. Just live ready. I'm ready, Lord. Come get me. Amen.
And so, we want to trust God and we want to do good. Same thing, Dr. Jesus. Patient, whosoever. Take as many for as long as you need it. Endless. Side effects! Extreme happiness! And rewards in heaven. And it's absolutely true. Psalm 37 tells us that when God's ready, he'll deal with the wicked. And our job in the meantime is not to say, "Good, God, get him"! Our job is to pray for them. And we should have pity and sympathy and compassion for people that are living in darkness and are so unbelievably deceived and lost. Verse 4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires in your heart," and it goes on and on and on.
Further down it says, verse 8, "Cease from anger, forsake wrath, fret not yourself, it tends only to evil doing". And then it goes on and on. And verse 11 says, "But in the end the meek will inherit the earth," so... We see a couple of things there that we want to pay attention to that I would say fit into the sovereignty of God. First of all, we see that there are evil people doing evil things. Well, why doesn't God stop 'em? Have you ever had anybody mistreating you and you prayed for God to stop 'em and he didn't stop 'em and you just didn't get it? Just did not get it. Well, I've gone through that too, when my father was sexually abusing me, I prayed and prayed. God didn't get me out of it. I didn't understand it. But I look back now and I realize he didn't get me out of it, but he got me through it.
You know, Daniel had to go into the lion's den but God shut the lion's mouth. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego went into the fiery furnace and not only did they go in but while they were there, doing the right thing, the furnace got turned up seven times hotter than what it normally would have been turned up. Now, that really is aggravating when you're doing what you believe is really right. And your circumstances just get worse. And so, if God's not getting me out, I can still trust him to take me through and I can believe that God knows something I don't know and that he's going to do something that would be something far beyond what I could believe.
Do you think when I was going through what I was going through as a kid that I thought that I would be standing here today on this platform telling people around the world what happened to me and how they can overcome absolutely anything? But I couldn't tell anybody that if I wouldn't have gone through that. I mean, I could tell 'em but... And you know, there's a lot of different doctrines floating around out there and I'm, you know, not everybody always likes everything you say, but I think that sometimes God will just allow us to go through something that is really, really, seems ridiculously unfair because he needs somebody to go through and come out victorious.
And it's not that you have to go through something terrible to help people. You don't. But, I'll tell you, when somebody has been through something very difficult and they come out whole and sane and healthy and well and happy and joyful, now people are like, "Well, maybe. Maybe there's hope for me". So, I have never said this before but in California this came out of my mouth when I was teaching the first part of this series and it's coming up in me again. I prayed for God to deliver me. So was it better, would it have been better for God to deliver me or to turn me into a deliverer? Okay, now look it, I'm going to tell you something. I could have ran away from it.
And here's where choice comes in. I could have said, "Forget this! I'm not going to do this God's way, I'm going to do it my way". And that's what you don't want to do. Listen to me, please don't do that. Man's mind plans his way, but God wants to direct our steps. Amen? There is work for us to do. There is action that we take. There is responsibility that we take but it has to be God directed and God inspired. It can't just be, well this is what I'm going to do to get you back. Because God has a different plan. When I want to cut you out of my life and never speak to you again and rejoice when I hear that your life is falling apart and you're in trouble. I could help you but I'm not helping you, "What did you ever do for me"?
That's man way. Boy, the flesh likes that. Yeah. "I told you". But that's not God's way. And you know what I've learned after 40 years of studying the word of God? Can I download to you what I've learned after 40 years? Are you ready? Now, here it comes. No matter what I think, God is always right. Imagine that. God is always right. And so sometimes, God lets us go through difficulty that we don't understand because he's making something that we could never believe. But you can run away from it. You can run away from God's will. I didn't have to become a submissive wife, I could still be the rebellious snot that I was.
Well, that's all I could think of. Oh, I was bad, man I was bad. "Ain't no man ever going to tell me what to do. I don't need you". Come on, you know. And then I started reading the Bible. "Ugh! Adapt yourself to your own husband... As a service to the Lord". "God, no, not that"! But see here's the thing. And I believe I'm talking to some people tonight. Here's the thing, I didn't have, I didn't have to learn and be obedient to the word. My salvation wasn't based on it. I didn't have to do that. But I wouldn't be standing here today if I wouldn't have.
So, what do you want out of life? I think the question before us tonight is what do you want out of life. You've asked God for a lot, do you want it or not? Yeah, well now some of you aren't so sure. Trust God and do good. And do good means two things to me. And they're both good. Number one, do to the best of your ability whatever you believe that God is asking you to do. Do that. Always understand that God will never ask you to do something if he doesn't give you the power and the ability to do it.
Okay, Revelation 3:7, "And to the angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Philadelphia write: these are the words of the holy one, the true one, he who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one shall open". Whoo! There's not very many days that I don't pray that over my life. "God, I ask you to open doors that nobody can shut and shut doors that nobody can open". Come on, don't spend your life trying to kick doors down. Don't look to other people and play their crazy games so they'll open doors for you. Don't let somebody else manipulate you, and control you, and get you to compromise your walk with God because you think they can open a door for you. Trust God to open doors that no man can open, 'cause I can tell ya, unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who try to build it.
Now, God's in control. He does what he pleases and he even determines whether or not we're gonna get to do what we've planned to do. You ever try to do something and it just doesn't work out? You try to do it again, it just doesn't work out? Well, you know, some of us aren't the sharpest tool in the shed but after about four or five go rounds of that, we ought to get it. "I don't think God wants me to do this". I love James 4:13 through 15. It says, "Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow we're going into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know the least thing about what may happen tomorrow.
What is the nature of your life? You are really but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that's visible for a little while and then disappears into thin air. You ought instead to say, if the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this thing or that thing" now, there's this sovereign will of God that we've talked about, and I hope for the amount of time I've had that I've made it clear that if God sovereignly declares and decrees something, nothing is gonna keep it from happening. But then there's this other whole area that gets a little bit more difficult for us to understand sometime and that's the permissive will of God.
It means that God permits things that aren't right, and it's very frustrating and hard for us to understand when we know that God could do something, but he's not and in the midst of that, we're supposed to be believing that God loves us and he's got a good plan for our lives, and that's hard when you're hurting so bad. It's easy to talk about minus the pain, but when you've got the pain, you know, there's no kind of pain worse than emotional pain. I'll take physical pain any day over a broken heart, amen? It's hard to understand, but that's where we take our medicine and we trust God and do good. We trust God and do good. We trust God and we keep doing what's right, and I'm here to tell you that every time, you'll come out on top. Every time you'll come out a winner. God's given people freewill.
Now, another thing that I believe God does sometimes, and I don't know what you'll think about this but I've experienced this in my life and well, really I mean I could go to several scriptures and prove it to ya, but I don't have time to do all that. I believe that sometimes God backs off and gives us what we want. It's not his perfect will but he's like, "Okay, if you really think that's what you want, then I'm gonna permit you to have it". And sometimes that's the only way that we ever learn that God's ways really are, after all, better than ours and that he really was right to start with.
There's some scriptures in Psalm 106 where it says, "The Israelites lusted in the wilderness and they kept making these insistent and persistent demands of God instead of just trusting him. And so, he gave them their way but he sent leanness into their souls". You know, how miserable it is to have a lean soul? The Bible uses some terminology that we may not quite grasp but it talks about the giver and it says, the person who's a generous giver will have a fat soul. Well, I can do without the fat body but I'll like a fat soul because what that means is you're well fed. You're just like everything is plump and full of life in there, you know, but I don't want a lean soul. I don't want this skinny, little, puny, little, pathetic bleh. And if you ever had that, boy, you're doing what you thought you wanted to do but inside you're like bleh.
Okay, well if you don't believe me, just go ahead and do things your way and I'll probably be back here in this building 2 years from now and we can go at it again. Just come back for another round and go ahead and have a skinny, little, lean soul. Isaiah 61:7 and 8. When I was in my middle years, trusting God for healing from my past and to bring, you know, victory to me, Isaiah 61:7 and 8 were scriptures that I just, they just meant so, so much to me. I took them as a promise from God and if you need this tonight, this will be great for you. "Instead of your former shame you shall have a twofold recompense," that word means reward, "Instead of dishonor and reproach your people shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double what they forfeited: and everlasting joy shall be theirs".
And then the first sentence of verse 8 says, "For I the Lord, love justice". God is a God of justice. So, he promises us that if we were mistreated... Now listen to me, if you were mistreated, treated unjustly, abused, misused, unloved, rejected, dishonored, disrespected, God promises that he will give you a double blessing for your former trouble.
Now boy, we get excited about that. Whoo-hoo! But now we can't just pick out the scriptures we like. That's our biggest problem, the pick and choose plan. So, we're just gonna run right over here to Mark 11 and read a little verse here. Let's just start in verse 22, "And Jesus, replying, said to them, have faith in God constantly" trust. "Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, be lifted up and thrown into the sea! And doesn't doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him".
We love to shout at our mountains. "Mountain, come down! I rebuke you"! Double blessing, double blessing, double blessing. Pour it on, God. Double blessing, double blessing. Verse 24, "For this reason I'm telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it's granted to you, and you will get it" oh yes, hallelujah, I got it, I got it, I really, really got it. I got it. I got it. Verse 25, "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go)". Thank you. So, we trust God for that double blessing, and for justice, and we do good. And to be very honest, this message is so important. It's so simple, but it's just so important. This is not just trust God.
"Well, I'm trusting God. Well, I'm trusting God". Well, are you trusting God and complaining all day? Are you trusting God and gossiping about everybody who ever hurt you? I mean, come on, this is, it's funny, but like if you take this to heart, this is why people are not getting their breakthroughs. You have to do what God asks you to do. We are partners with God. God's sovereignty, our responsibility. Man has responsibility. You know, I have an aunt in a nursing home and I pray for her, but I also go visit her. Hmm... I also pay her bills and I don't mean with her money 'cause she ran out of money 10 years ago. "Well, I'm praying. I tell ya there's a girl at the office and she can't, she has a difficult time paying her rent half the time. I'm praying for her".
Did you ever think about maybe paying her rent some month? "Well..." What a novel thought. "Well, why should I pay her rent? She's, you know, living in sin anyway. She just got that mess 'cause she deserves it". Well, what a great opportunity to show her the love of God. What a great opportunity to show somebody the unconditional love and mercy of God. There's a great deal of error in thinking that God's sovereignty means that I'm gonna sit back and do nothing but pray and God's gonna do everything. A lot of prayer involves God showing us what we can do and what we can't do, God will always do. But I believe with all of my heart, if we do not do what we can do, then God will not do what we cannot do. Did you hear me? If I say I am not gonna do what I can do, then I don't have to expect God to do. I don't know why God wants to participate with us, but the Bible says that he does.
1 Corinthians chapter 1 and verse 9, "God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to his promise, and he can be depended on): by him you were called into companionship and participation". We get to participate. We're not a spectator. We are a participator. Amen? Now, we don't get into works of the flesh. Abraham and Sarah got into works of the flesh when they concocted this brainy idea about having Ishmael. That was not what God ever told them to do. It was a totally manmade idea and it just lengthened the time they had to wait for God to do what he had promised them that he would do. So, works of the flesh is another 20-part series, but let me just simply say, works of the flesh equal frustration so anytime you start feeling frustrated, it's because you're trying to do something that God's not doing.
You know, I think there can be a real misconception. It's like, yes, we pray and we cast our care of the problem on to God and we trust him to take care of it, but we don't cast our responsibility. See like, I still, you know, I would love for my aunt to be able to have a better situation than what she has but honestly, I am doing all that I can possibly do. I mean, she's in the second best nursing home in our city. I mean, there's just nothing else that I can do. And still her clothes disappear in the laundry and somebody stole her wedding rings off her hand. You know, I mean there's stuff that goes on and I hate that, so that's where I've gotta cast my care. There's no point in me getting mad at anybody, being upset. You know, I just cast my care, trust God, pray, but then do my responsibility. Is anybody hearing me tonight? So, part of prayer is always saying, "God, if there's something you want me to do, then show me, or if there's something I'm trying to do that you don't want me to do". But we are participators with God.
When Nehemiah was building the wall that had been broken down, and a wall in those days was very important because it kept the enemies out. When he was rebuilding this wall around Jerusalem, man, the enemies came against them. I mean, everything came against them. And you know that anytime you try to do something right, the enemy's gonna come against you and especially when you're building, when you're building a life, when you're building a marriage, when you're building a ministry, when you're building a new business. When you're building, the enemy will come. And in Nehemiah 4:9 it says, "But because of them, our enemies, we made prayer to our God and we set a watch against them day and night".
So, I love that. They prayed, but they still put soldiers out there to watch for the enemy. They didn't just pray and go to sleep like, "Now, we have nothing left to do". They stayed awake and in the hour that we're living in, one of the greatest messages from God is stay awake, be alert, watch, pray, be cautious, be active at all times for that enemy of yours the devil roams around like a lion roaring in fierce hunger seeking someone that he may seize upon and devour. And we better be shouting loud and clear, "It's not gonna be me". Wake up, sleepy Christian. "I go to church". You know, I'm not gonna turn to these scriptures. You'll be familiar with them but it's amazing to me that God, who can do anything, wants our participation.
You know what? You're not in here tonight just to be at an event. God is preparing you for war. Amen? God is preparing you for war and if you don't think you're in a war, let me tell ya. In John 11, verses 32 through 41 when Jesus was gonna raise Lazarus from the dead, such interesting verses. I mean, first of all, it says that he waited long enough for Lazarus to die. And then, he waited till he was stinkin'. Come on, you know what I'm talking about. Then he shows up. "Well, you can't do nothing now. He's dead and he stinks".
Now, Jesus knows he's getting ready to raise him from the dead. Now it don't get much better than that. But he says to the people that he wanted to participate, "You roll away the stone". Now, if he's gonna raise him from the dead, why didn't he just blow the stone out of the hole? I mean, let's make a real big display...
And can I tell ya something tonight? Some of you are waiting for your miracle, but you're not rolling away the stones. Maybe it's a stone of bitterness. Maybe it's a stone of strife in your home all the time. Maybe it's a stone of rebellion toward authority. Maybe it's a stone of a judgmental, critical attitude toward people that don't agree with you. Maybe it's a stone of jealousy toward a sister you had that was skinnier than you, smarter than you. Don't have any anxiety about anything, don't fret, but in every circumstance by prayer, trust and thanksgiving, doing good. See, don't worry about anything but pray and keep giving thanks. If you're looking for God to do something for you, be thankful for everything he's already done. If we're gonna grouch about what we've got, why should God give us something else to be unhappy about?