God Is With Us For A Purpose
“God Is With Us For A Purpose”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Sixth Sunday of Epiphany
February 12, 2017
Readings: Ecclesiasticus 15:11-20, Psalm 119:1-16
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Matthew 5:21-24, 27-30, 33-37
We’re on the sixth Sunday of Epiphany. It’s as though we have become a hard-headed people that God’s compassion works with us and for us to help us break through the walls that keep us from understanding and draw us back to Him. It’s so sad that we pay more attention to the principles of the world than the principles of God. When we read Scriptures like Ecclesiasticus, we wonder where those Scripture readings have been all our life. There’s much responsibility in what God gave us. When He created us, He trusted us to implement the provision that He gave us. Scriptures tell us that we are His house; His building. He laid the foundation, but this can be interpreted in a number of ways. Scriptures were written by the Holy Spirit and there’s a lot of symbolism used so that it would fit every generation. He laid the foundation and no one can change it. So for us to think that we’re in control of our life and we can do whatever we want is rebellion. We have a choice – to obey God or rebel. He created us in His image and likeness and empowered us by the Holy Spirit and therefore, there’s no excuse for us to fail. Every time we make a mistake, we have an excuse. But the truth is we fail because we’re not walking in the commandments that God gave us. These commandments cause the building to be constructed according to the foundation. In construction, when the foundation is incorrectly built, the building will collapse. The foundation should be solid. When I look at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai so high up there, I wonder how far down they had to dig for the foundation in order to support it. And they’re building another one, taller than the first, but what use is it to build something so tall? What if the power goes out and people have to go down so many flights of stairs? Human error happens even with computers. The Scripture we just read says no one can do good deeds without God. We think we can do things on our own without Him but He wants us to understand that He is with us and He’s not difficult to get along with. He’s not cruel; not mean. “I won’t cause you to fail. I won’t take revenge on you or put you down. I’m not going to get even. That’s not My character. I will not do that. I will restore. I will bring you back to that place of favor.”
On this sixth Sunday of Epiphany, God is speaking to us from Psalm 119:11 “Thy Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee.” Have we really treasured His Word? Do we grasp its meaning? How often have we read His Word over the years and truly understood what it’s saying? So we don’t implant it in our hearts and it doesn’t become a part of us when in reality the very character of God, His likeness is here within us. It’s not something that we have to develop; it’s there, if only we will tap into it and allow it to be brought forth in our lives. To be like Him; to reach out and to touch the power of that source that He’s given to us. He created man in the very beginning, set him in the counsel of His will and set before him all these choices; then He said, “Choose life. Choose good.” He taught us what to choose, like He rigged the test so we would win because we are His children. He favors us. He feeds us with His own power and strength. He gives us His wisdom. But sometimes we find in our lives that things just aren’t what they are supposed to be.
I refer to a portion in Scriptures that isn’t in our readings for today, but it confronts us because this is where we are today. We’re living in a society that is anti-God. What’s going on in the world? There’s so much fighting, like the world is poised to destroy itself. The enemy just sits back and waits because man will do it on his own. 2 Timothy 3: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self (in our society today, men don’t care about anyone or anything other than what they want), lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips (they now call this false news; the purpose of gossip is to destroy), without self-control (we do whatever we want; the rioters, protesters protesting just because they want to. They burn buildings, loot stores, just doing what they want, totally out of control), brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding on to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power….” The consequences of all this: “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” They will never know the truth because truth never comes through disorder, only through discipline, submission and obedience. People today want to be “normal”, but normal today means “being what I want to be”. This is what our children have become, possibly because parents have been so busy finding their own place in life, having to work. As a result, their children were never taught discipline and obedience and they grow up this way and then they go out into the world just doing what they want. This Scripture warns us and shows us the time we’re in so we can correct ourselves, and understand why we’re having the problems we’re struggling with today. It’s not God’s fault; not the devil’s fault. We read in Ecclesiasticus, “The devil didn’t make me do it; I chose to do it.” We need to pay attention. In our society today, this is the normal person – lover of self, uncaring about others, self-centered. And this is evidence of the critical place we are in today – the last days. This is very evident around us. Do we obey the laws? No. We don’t pay attention to it. We find ourselves struggling and we think it’s a way of life. We don’t want challenges; we don’t want responsibilities; we just want to do what we want when we want it.
God is making us understand that He established from the very beginning the principles He gave us as the foundation of life; the foundation of the Kingdom. We haven’t understood that and we think we can go our own way, and when we do things our way, God would understand. When we talk about the cross, we’re not talking about salvation from sin. We’re talking about redemption from the old life totally, and brought into a new life completely. The old is gone; everything is new and from God. God has given us new life. God has given us everything we need, if only by faith, we will walk in it. I’m not against education, but God has given us wisdom, and we can be smarter than the professors and textbooks which are written by man. The wisdom of God is ours if we walk in His ways. He’ll show us things nobody else can see. When it comes to the test, we’ll pass with flying colors because we have the wisdom of God.
So this is what the sixth Sunday challenges us to realize: God is with us for a purpose. He doesn’t want failure. If God is with us, no one can be against us successfully. Men can go against you, but you won’t be affected because your success comes from the heart, from the innermost being. Here’s where your success is: it’s not because you did something out there; it’s because you listened to what’s in your heart, where God is. Many years ago, I heard a very successful businessman say he never does anything in his business until he hears God’s counsel and instructions in detail, and all his businesses were successful. He didn’t fail. He didn’t go to textbooks or experts; he went to God where true wisdom is. He alone has wisdom. What we need to realize is that our source is God. He will not fail. That’s where our hope is.
The Gospel today tells us that we do things without really understanding Scriptures. We think we’re not guilty or capable of murder, but when we hate our brother, we commit murder. When we allow these hateful feelings to fester inside, we sin. Even if they’ve done wrong against us, we don’t want to do things against them because it will destroy us. We don’t hate them, even if they hate us. What we do to others will be done to us. If we hate, we will be hated. We commit adultery even in our thoughts only. Vows – we shouldn’t make them. Instead we live out the truth and be what God wants us to be.
This is God making us ready for the rest of the year. If we’re involved in any of these things, they hold us back and we will never know the truth. We may work hard for success, but it won’t work for us. Success isn’t how the world defines it. If it were, why are people still hungry, still dying from hunger? Why all the turmoil and fighting in the world? Syria and Afghanistan have been in war for years, constantly fighting; without peace, because they didn’t follow the instructions from the wisdom of God.
So on this sixth Sunday, He wants us to comprehend that we need Him for every detail of our life. Most of us are impatient. We want things now. With God, we have to be patient. It takes time to build the things of God into our lives. Don’t change your direction. Trust God. It may seem like the world’s going to fall apart, but it won’t. The governments will fail, but God will not fail. Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I challenge us to realize where we are; evaluate, talk to Him and take the time to listen to Him. Think of the things that God has given you and be thankful for them and let Him bring the joy of His being into your life. It’s amazing how God has done everything for us and yet we still blame Him for the failures in our lives. It’s not His fault. He doesn’t make mistakes. Our failure comes from our disobedience and lack of understanding of Him and His ways. We make the choice. We have to stop making bad choices. When we choose God, the results will be good. Good seed will always produce good fruit. The seed that has been planted in us is excellent; perfection. That’s God’s gift to us and we need to walk in it. On this sixth Sunday of Epiphany, we must wake up! It’s time to listen to God. He loves us! He’s saying to us six times now in six weeks, “I am with you. Stop being afraid; stop being anxious; stop being fearful; stop being angry. I am with you. What can go wrong? Trust Me.”