“Trusting God’s Plan”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series called “God’s Plan.”

Whether you’re elated, mourning, or indifferent to where we are as a nation, God does have a plan. First, if you call yourself a Christ-follower, we are children of the King of Kings, the president of the universe! Nothing can stop that plan when we cooperate with Him. Don’t put your hopes in a lesser plan and let’s move forward together!

Next Steps:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

“Trusting God’s Plan” Next Steps

Gateway in South Austin Service Video:

Message Notes:

There’s a lot of anxiety about what will happen in the future because of these election results.  We want to remind you that no matter what happens, God has a Plan, and it’s good.  We can trust God through all of this.

While we have never been a church that tells people how to vote, it would be ignoring the gravity of where we live to not acknowledge that today, some of you are elated and some of you are deflated this Sunday. 

Today, we want to remind you of God’s Plan–whether you’re elated, deflated, or indifferent to where we are as a nation.  We can trust God in the midst of all of this.

Last week, we heard a remarkable story from Will Ford and Matt Lockett. They have such a powerful example of how a loving and good God can guide and direct us through the Scriptures, through dreams, through conversations with others, and through prayer to help us live out who He created us to be. There story is one of personal reconciliation. Making a friend with someone who is different than you is absolutely a good start, but it’s just that. It’s the start.

The issues that need to be addressed and the changes that need to be made go far deeper than that. For systemic issues in our culture like racism or violence or immorality, God uses His Church to bring life, hope, and freedom. And He guides us. We can trust Him.

So to help us with that, today, we are going to talk about Our Place in This World, Our Position in God’s Kingdom, and Our Posture Towards Others to help us navigate this next season.

Our Place in This World

There are people who have put all of their hope in a candidate or a party, and they are demoralized today.

There are people whose candidate has won, and they are riding an emotional high. But soon they will discover life is not all sunshine and butterflies. No candidate can truly fix all of our issues. At their root, our issues are spiritual. And hurt and broken people will continue to hurt and break people. Even still, we can seek to be the answer to Jesus’ prayer that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In fact, if you follow Jesus that is your calling.

Have you ever wanted to know your purpose? Jesus summarizes it for us. And the beauty is that it is simple although it is not easy.

To become who God created us to be: we love God and we love people.

Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:37-39

But here’s the catch. Sometimes it is hard to love and trust God because He is invisible and sometimes what He is doing doesn’t make sense! And sometimes it is hard to love people because they are too visible – they are everywhere! And certainly what they are doing doesn’t make sense either!

You see, we live in a broken world, but this is not always how things have been nor how things will always be. In the first few pages of the Scriptures and the last few pages, we see that God created the universe, the earth, and all things on the earth including humanity. And it was all good. There was no brokenness. There was no death. There was no sin or pain or tears. And one day he will bring together a new heaven a new earth where all who choose Him will be in His presence for all of eternity.

Right now, we live in between Eden and Heaven. We are in between the Garden of Eden and the New Heaven and New Earth.

You see, God created humanity with freedom. And in that freedom, we choose the wrong way. Because God is so good, loving, and gracious, often He gives us what we want – even if it is not actually what is best for us.

This is true in our individual lives and this is true of our nation.

The Scriptures often speak to nations and to individuals. It’s this remarkable thing. God is concerned for each of us individually, and He is concerned with us corporately. And you can be doing good and headed in the right direction individually but belong to a nation that is not doing good and headed in the wrong direction. Both can be true.  Here’s what is remarkable: the individual has the capacity to influence the nation.

And not only does He care for us as individuals and for us a nation, He also cares for us as the Church and for our local church. The Church is not a building or a service on Sunday. The Church is made up of all people who have chosen to follow Jesus as their Rescuer, as their Leader. The Church is not just made up of all who follow Jesus, but there are local expressions of the Church in neighborhoods, in cities, and in nations all over the world.

Because of the freedom God gives us, an individual can be heading in the right direction, even as the local church he or she is part of may not be going in the same direction. God is guiding individuals, churches, and nations. As followers of Jesus, each of us has the capacity to change the trajectory of our life, our church, and our nation! And we can do far more good together than we can on our own!

In fact, we cannot fully become who God has created us to be without community. We were designed for community, and we are called to live out our faith in the context of a diverse community. The early church was made up of men, women, slave, free, barbarian, Gentiles, Jews people of all nations. In our culture, differences we are called to work through may be more political, socio-economical, or the color of our skin.

It is in learning to love others – even those the world tells you not to love, that we grow in our faith and better understand God.

God often speaks to us when we gather together. In fact, most of the letters of the New Testament were written to churches, and all of the books in the Hebrew Bible were designed to be read to those who gather together – in the Temple, in the synagogue, or as part of the church.

We cannot find our place in this world, without really knowing among whom we live and without knowing our place in God’s story.

In one of the letters in the New Testament, Paul writes to the Roman church which was suffering and split into two camps. And Paul’s goal is to help them reconcile and become united around their mission together.

The Bible Project podcast on Reading the New Testament points out that in Romans 1:1-7, Paul locates himself in the broader biblical story. He points out that Jesus is the cosmic King promised in the Scriptures, who was exalted to heaven to draw all nations back into the family of God.

We are invited into this new family, and if we have joined that new family, we are to invite others to join us as well.

Let’s look at Romans 8:

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are… But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved.

You see, our place in this world is clear. We were born into a place not as it should be or will always be. We know it deep down. And even creation seems to know it. But God’s solution is to begin renewing the earth one person at a time, and through those who are renewed, they bring renewal.

Which leads to the second idea that helps us trust God’s plan.

Our Position in God’s Kingdom

“God will give us our full rights as his adopted children” – Romans 8:23

This is remarkable! Even though we do not deserve it, God chose us. He offers us a new life. And we get to decide if we want to be part of his family or not.

If you call yourself a Christ-follower, we are children of the King of Kings–  So what does that mean today? 

God is President of the Universe, God still has a Plan, and it’s good–and you are His own son or daughter.  So nothing can stop that plan when we cooperate with Him, and don’t put your hopes in a lesser plan. 

Even in the chaos and sufferings of life, God has a plan  and he is allowing it for a season–so that people will not hope in a world that’s gone our way instead of God’s way. 

Now is the time to see the hope God offers, not the hope or discouragement the world offers.

Loving God and loving others is our calling, our purpose in life.

It’s easier said than done, but as children of the Creator of the Universe we don’t have to do it on our own. God helps us!

Let’s keep going in Romans 8:

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

God helps us make progress. This isn’t a journey we are supposed to take on our own! He even helps us pray!

And God understands our weaknesses and helps us in it–His Spirit intercedes through us–and God is working something good in the hearts of all who love Him–but the good He’s working is eternal (not just changing the circumstances, but changing us.  It’s to make us more and more like Jesus.  Because that’s what the world needs–not better businesses or education or politics (though it does need that) but better people–people whose hearts are aligned with the heart of God.  We can be those people.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Think about this for a moment. God already gave His Son. Does He really need to prove He loves us any more than that?

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

We have to remember: as followers of Jesus we are to see things from an eternal perspective. We will face trouble, calamity, persecution, hunger, destitution, desperation, danger, and death. This is promised as we live in a broken and fallen world. What we need to remember is that God is with us in the midst of the suffering. He can use the suffering to help us in ways we will see to be miraculous.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you know how loved you are?

When you feel far from Him, what separated you from Him? It wasn’t God!

The promise we have is that nothing–nothing at all can ultimately harm us or take from us what we actually need most–the love of God forever.

We can have a faith greater than our circumstances!

Our Posture Towards Others

We are all brothers and sisters of the King–and as such, He wants us to care for one another.  How do we do that in this season when some may be elated and others mourning?  How do we unite to solve problems that the government has not been able to solve–like how can we love one another beyond differences?

The book of Romans really helps us with this. Remember I mentioned that Paul was writing this letter to a church that was split into two camps? The two groups were the Gentiles and the Jews.

The Gentiles who came to follow Jesus. They came out of pagan backgrounds. Many of them were Roman citizens. They were the majority culture in Rome. The other group were the Jews who followed Jesus. All Jews had been kicked out of Rome by the Roman Emperor Claudius as a result of his prejudice and as a form or state oppression. They were the minority group in Rome and the minority group in the church of Rome.

Paul is writing after these Jewish Christians were allowed back into Rome. They had been gone long enough that the Gentile believers had gotten used to not having them. They didn’t have to accommodate some of the Jewish traditions that these followers of Jesus kept and felt strongly about. One of their biggest beefs with each other was eating meat sacrificed to idols (pun intended). The Gentiles had no problem eating that meat because it was cheap, delicious, and they did not believe those idols were even real anyway. The Jewish Christians felt that eating this meat was against God’s law as expressed in the Torah.

It is in this context, that Paul wrote the book of Romans. He was helping the divided church stay united on the bigger story of God’s work in the world.

The Bible Project podcast on Reading the New Testament points out that in Romans 1:1-7, Paul locates himself in the broader biblical story. He points out that Jesus is the cosmic King promised in the Scriptures, who was exalted to heaven to draw all nations back into the family of God.

The global reach of Jesus’ mission causes us to consider the next layer: cultural context.

In Romans, Paul uses two titles for house churches in Rome. In Romans 15, he calls one group “the powerful” (Greek: dunatos) and another “those without power” (Greek: adunatos).

Now we who are powerful (dunatos) ought to bear the weaknesses of those without power (adunatos) and not just please ourselves… Therefore welcome one another, just as the Messiah welcomed you to the glory of God.Romans 15:1, 7

In chapter 14, Paul uses different terminology to refer to two groups within the church.

Romans 14:1-5 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to offer judgment the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.

Not eating meat and observing one day over another—are both Jewish versus Gentile markers.

“The ‘weak’ are Jewish believers who are in the stream of God’s elect people, who know and practice the Torah, and still probably attend synagogue, but who sit in judgment on Gentiles, especially the ‘strong’ in the Christian community of Rome, even though they have no status or power… The ‘strong’ are predominantly Gentiles who believe in Jesus as Messiah, who do not observe Torah as God’s will for them, and who have condescending and despising attitudes towards Jews and especially to Jewish believers in Rome, over whom they have superior high social status in Rome… The tension between these is not just a matter of theological differences… ‘powerful’ and ‘non-powerful’ from Romans 15:1 are status terms in the Roman world.”

– Scot McKnight from Reading Romans Backwards

As followers of Jesus, we need to make accommodations for those with a weaker faith. The more mature we are, the more willing we need to be to make the greater sacrifices.

You know, God came to rescue all of humanity by walking among us as a human being, and He is name is Jesus. He willingly gave His life, sacrificing His life, shedding His blood for us. As crazy as the world may get or it may be right now, it is important to know we can entrust our lives to our Him, our families to Him, and even our nation to Him. He can unite us like no other!

Consider ways to trust Him more in light of all we have been going through as a nation or what you and your family have been going through.

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