Updated: Jun 24, 2020
It takes some work to celebrate properly. I’m pro celebration and think we often overlook the value add of a good celebration. It is important to mark milestones and pause to acknowledge an appropriate “yay!” But even celebrating requires work and planning. A few years ago, we wanted to have a graduation celebration for one of our sons. We thought, “Pig-Pickin!” Now I had been around and involved in numerous “pig-pickins,” but never in charge. I knew, but didn’t know…I was low on confidence. This was a big deal and I didn’t want to mess it up! So, I reached out for help. I called my Dad. The process started off a little sketchy. We took his truck to go collect the pig. We got there and the pig wasn’t there. You must understand that you do not microwave a pig. It takes time…hours! To eat on time, you must start on time…no pig. The man suggested we could go meet the truck. The pig was on the way…
Fast forward, we back up to another truck in a parking lot and transfer what from a distance could be confused for a body wrapped in a cloth. I’m not confident but concerned about how this how celebration is starting out. But it got better. We made it home without further incident, got things up and running and ended up with a successful celebration!
While celebrations are fun and we should celebrate often, sometimes we just want to get to the end of the day or the week! Sometimes life seems so disjointed we wonder if God is there, if He is working, or if He even cares! This is a confidence issue. Can you have confidence in God? If so, why? If you have your Bible or electronic device meet me at Romans 11. We are going to look at the last 4 verses of the chapter.
Romans is a letter written by a guy named Paul to the believers living in Rome. So far, he has said…
We are in a mess because of our sin. Sin ruins.
Our works and our religious efforts do not clean up the mess.
Jesus is the only way out and reliance on Him is required for rescue.
Faith in Jesus brings hope.
Belief in Christ results in life.
Faith in Jesus frees from sin—SIN IS NOT MY MASTER!
In Jesus, there is no condemnation.
In Jesus, we cannot be separated from the love of God.
In Jesus, God is working all things together for our good.
God is sovereign (in complete control).
We are responsible to respond. We must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that Jesus has risen. Additionally we are to invite others to do the same.
No one is beyond God’s reach, no matter how distant they look right now!
God is sovereign, God is faithful, and God is in control.
All of that is mind-blowing. How do you even begin to respond to all this information? Let’s look at how Paul responds and from his response we will find three characteristics of God that will give us confidence in God. Paul concludes chapters 9-11 with a doxology. A doxology is praise to God. He exhibits wonder at the mystery of God ways and is inviting his readers to join him in praising this marvelous, amazing God.[i]
God Is All-Powerful (33)
Romans 11:33—Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
With everything he has written in mind, Paul says that it is impossible to get to the bottom of God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge. Exploring God should result in us marveling at God! He is speaking of how deep they are with the idea being that they are beyond human comprehension. There is a vast difference between God’s greatness and humanity’s weakness.[ii] Riches—here probably refers to God’s immense power.[iii] Wisdom—probably refers to God’s ability to structure history in a way that accomplishes His (plan) saving purposes for His people.[iv] Wisdom directs all things to the best end.[v] Knowledge of God—this is not our knowledge of Him, but His knowing us and electing us to be His children.[vi] It refers to His infinite knowledge.[vii]
Together these three terms communicate that God has more than enough power and intelligence to save his chosen people.[viii] God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge all point to His saving plan. It is the wonder of this plan that is driving Paul’s praise. How unsearchable are his judgments—undiscoverable…refers to something that is simply beyond the ability of human beings to fully grasp.[ix] How inscrutable his ways—(unfathomable, mysterious, not easily understood) untraceable…refers to the inability of human beings to fully comprehend the greatness of God’s power or to see in advance that what happens in the world is serving God’s plan.[x] God’s ways are inaccessible to human beings apart from His making it known to us.[xi]
Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)—For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
You can have confidence in God because He is all-powerful, but your inability to do and accomplish on your on will require help. You must trust beyond yourself. Can you trust an all-powerful God in your weakness? There is gap between what you need and what you can do…it is actually a gaping chasm! You can’t really do much at all. Often your efforts just make it worse!
Romans 5:6 (ESV)—For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
In that gap, you must trust. You must believe by faith! Paul continues his doxology by identifying a second characteristic of God.
God Is All-Knowing (34-35)
Romans 11:34—“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
In verses 34-35 Paul asks three rhetorical questions to show that human knowledge and wisdom cannot come close to God’s. With our limited knowledge, can we question a God who knows, sees, and understands it all? Paul is reminding his reading not to question God, but to trust God.[xii] Who are we to instruct or give God advice? Though we often have our opinions and ideas about how He could do things, better, for our benefit and convenience!
We question God when we think we know better than Him. Trusting requires acknowledging we have limited knowledge. Admitting that you don’t know it all requires humility. We do not even know what we don’t know, yet we storm around like we have it figured out. We live in a complex world with complex problems and we couldn’t even figure out how to set the clock on our VCR! Finally, they invented live streaming so we could just avoid the problem! Oh yeah—He wants advice from us! Apart from His revelation and grace, we could not discern His plan for history much less develop the plan that God developed.[xiii]
It is ok to not know it all. Nobody does. It is ok to ask for help. When electricity is involved, it is an easy ask. “Hey Dad! Can you come by with your meter? I need to know what’s hot and what’s not.” Get help or get electrocuted? Go with getting help, it is less painful.
Romans 11:35—“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
This 3rd question is about resources. What do we bring to the table that God would want? All of the questions that Paul is asking begs the answer: “no one.” Regarding “gifts,” think about what we bring versus what God sent. We bring a sinful mess. God, in His great love, sends the gift of His Son.
Romans 6:23 (ESV)—For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Will you receive the gift or wait and try to figure out a better way forward on your own based on all of your power, wisdom, and knowledge? It may sound silly, but it is what many do. That’s the view of our abilities, our wisdom, and what we have to offer. We believe we can gift, think, or work our way to acceptance with God…we think we deserve to be applauded or rewarded by God for our stellar deeds.
But there is a problem…
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)—The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)—We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Without God making Himself known, we don’t even know we have a problem. We are clueless! Paul has already shown what we bring to the table, nothing!
Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)—as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
When our plan is not working out, we make the hasty judgment or assessment that it is God’s fault. We confuse our plan with His plan. The amazing thing is that God is wise enough and powerful enough to include your present circumstances—the mess that you decision-made yourself into—for your good and His glory! You can have confidence in God because He is all-knowing, but your ability to understand and comprehend His ways require you to trust.
Can you trust an all-knowing God with your unknown future? There is gap between what you know and what you don’t know…it is actually a gaping chasm! You don’t really know much at all. You can hardly see past your desires and circumstances. In that gap, you must trust. You must believe by faith! Paul continues his doxology by identifying a third characteristic of God.
God Is All-Present (36)
Romans 11:36—For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
“All”—speaks to totality, God’s total involvement. Not only is God the source of all things and the means by which all things are accomplished, but he is also the goal of all things.[xiv] God is the source, the agent, and the goal of all things. He developed the plan, implements the plan, and His purposes are the goal of the plan.[xv] Now it is His plan, not your plan. Are you comfortable with that? But that can be tough, difficult, and unsettling. It is a matter of trust. When Paul says “amen,” it is an expression of trust.[xvi] You can have confidence in God because He is all-present, but sometimes you will “feel” alone and isolated, you will be required to trust.
Can you trust an all-present God with your feelings of loneliness? There is gap between how present others can be and how close God can be. It is actually a gaping chasm! You can hardly sense His presence sometimes, but He is there. He feels distant. In that gap, you must trust. You must believe by faith!
Psalm 139:7-8 (ESV)—Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
God is there! He knows! He is powerful! He can do something about any situation we are in, it is not hopeless even when we feel helpless. Think of the comfort of the presence of a friend in a crisis. During an extended stay in the hospital my brother-in-law stopped by. We did not talk much; he was just there. There is comfort and security in the presence of somebody that is for you. How much more comfort and security in the presence of a God that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present?
In fact, you can have confidence in God because when you can’t, He can! He can-
Paul has not given neat and clean answers to all our concerns about God and His ways, but he has reminded us that God is in control and that we do not need to know all the details of what He is doing![xvii]
You are not expected to-
Do it all
Know it all, or
In fact, You can’t, but God can!
We are called not to question, but to trust. In what areas is God testing you? How is He challenging you to trust Him? What must you yield, submit, or surrender to go to the next level in your spiritual growth? What do you fear losing? What is making you lose sleep at night? What about as a church? How is God challenging us to rely on Him more? What would the impact be if we relented and trusted God? What would the message be to our families and to our community? We can’t, but God can! Our community needs to see and experience a big God! Let’s hold that out for them?
This manuscript is for a sermon that was originally preached on June 30, 2019 at Connect Church.
[i]Grant Osborne, Romans (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 370. [ii]Frank Thielman, Romans in ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), 552. [iii]Ibid., 553. [iv]Ibid., 553. [v]Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans in PNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 428. [vi]Osborne, 371. [vii]Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans 2nd ed. in BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018), 616. [viii]Thielman, 553. [ix]Ibid., 553. [x]Ibid., 553. [xi]Schreiner, 617. [xii]Osborne, 373. [xiii]Schreiner, 618. [xiv]Ibid., 620. [xv]John D. Harvey, A Commentary on Romans in KEL (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019), 294. [xvi]Theilman, 555. [xvii]Harvey, 295.