Seeing God in Everything
Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: God is in every detail of our lives
Problem: we don’t know how to find him when we need him
Answer: look for him in small, hard, physical, and coincidental places
Persuade: to see God in every event of your life today
A little girl went to church, leaving her invalid father at home. In his anger and frustration he wrote on a piece of paper the letters, GODISNOWHERE. She came home, saw the sign, smiled, and said out loud, “God is now here!” And he is.
As you hurt, God hurts with you. And he promises you his presence, help, and hope. Every day. This day.
Where do you go when you need to hear from God? When you’re facing a decision, or a problem, or a pain. When it seems that the heavens are silent and prayer is unanswered?
Listen to the perplexed poet:
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”
How can you find God every day, all day? Esther 2 tells us.
God turns small things into big things (2.1)
The first verse of our text is proof: “Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her.”
Here’s the chronology to chapter 2:
•Xerxes succeeded his father Darius in 486/5 B.C.
•Three years later he gave the banquet which led to Queen Vashti’s deposal as queen (483/2 B.C.).
•Now Persia enters into three years of disastrous war with Greece (482-479).
•At the war’s end the king “remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her” (2.1).
The nation has been at war for three years, but this war is not even mentioned in the book of Esther. Imagine a history book which left out WWI, II, Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Taliban. At the same time, the relatively trivial matter of palace politics and the next queen is the occupying issue of the book. In a day when kings had many wives and concubines (Solomon had 700 and 300, respectively).
Why is this so? The Bible tells us what we need to know about God, not about the world. Thus no dinosaurs in Scripture. God uses events we wouldn’t consider. A fugitive shepherd in time will defy the mighty Egyptian nation. A shepherd boy will become king. An enslaved prophet will find God in a lion’s den. A Galilean carpenter will die on a cross and save the world. God uses small things in big ways.
How can God use small things in big ways?
I became the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas at the age of 30. My previous pastorate, which I served while teaching at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, averaged less than 100 on Sunday morning; our new congregation had more than 8,000 members and more staff than our previous church had in Sunday night worship.
I had not been in Midland long when it became apparent that my previous experience and expertise was not sufficient to this new calling. I remember to this day those feelings of overwhelmed inadequacy. One evening I was sitting on our back porch, asking God to give me direction and strength for this ministry. My attention was drawn to a leaf which had fallen from the peach tree in our back yard and landed at my feet. I felt the Spirit’s leading to pick it up and examine it.
I had never paid much attention to a leaf, but I did that day. As I studied its intricate design, I was amazed by the minute detail it exhibited. I considered the chlorophyll and photosynthesis which it employed with ease. I reflected on the fact that modern scientists, with all our amazing tools, cannot produce from nothing a single leaf. As I focused on that leaf, I sensed God’s Spirit say to me, “If I can design a leaf, I can design your life.” With that thought came “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
God called our family from Midland to Atlanta, Georgia in 1994 and then to Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas only four years later. Not long after our move to Dallas, I returned to Atlanta to conduct the wedding of a dear friend’s daughter. I spent much of that weekend at Ignatius House, a Jesuit Catholic retreat center on the Chattahoochee River in northern Atlanta.
God has spoken to me often at this remarkable place, and that weekend was no exception. As I sat on a wooden deck overlooking the river in late August, I admitted to God my confusion. We were excited to be in Dallas, but didn’t understand why he had led us to make this move. I could discern no great narrative or strategy for our new ministry. I asked him for a sense of his plans and purpose for us.
As with the leaf in Midland years earlier, I sensed again the Spirit’s strange direction, this time to a caterpillar crawling along the wooden fencing of the deck. There I watched the hairy green insect make its way along the board, bunching and then stretching itself over and over again along the wood.
It was impervious to my presence, and had no idea that a Jesuit retreat center was responsible for its pathway. It seemed unaware of the river flowing beneath its porch or the swimmers inner tubing along that river. It didn’t know that I could squash it with my sandal if I wished. It simply did what it was made to do, and its Maker did the rest.
The Spirit spoke from that caterpillar directly to my spirit. If I would be as wise as that insect, crawling along the two-by-four which God had chosen as my pathway, he would take care of all that I could neither see nor understand. Once again the Creator used his creation to draw his child closer to himself.