For some time, I have been thinking a lot of the trials and difficulties that a minister of Christ is suffering. And such sufferings are very true to what is happening in my ministerial life. The title of today’s message is exactly the question that I want to ask to God. What were yo thinking?
Lord, What Were You Thinking?
TEXT: Matthew 16:13-18
INTRODUCTION: If you were suddenly given the opportunity today to sit down for one hour with any person in history and have their undivided attention for one hour—and able to ask them anything that you wanted—who would it be and what would you ask them?
Would it be an explorer from world history like Marco Polo, Columbus or Magellan? Would it be an American military hero like John Paul Jones, Francis Scott Key or Ulysses S. Grant? Would it be a famous scientist like Einstein, Thomas Edison or George Washington Carver? Would it be a poet like Robert Browning and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning? Would it be a musician like Bach or Beethoven?
If it could be a Biblical character, which one would you choose and, again, what would you ask him or her? Noah? Abraham? Jacob? Joseph? Moses? David? The 12 Apostles? Paul?
All of these would be quite intriguing, wouldn’t they? But, what if you were given time today to sit down and talk to God Himself? What would you ask Him?
I would probably ask Him this question:
“Lord, what were You thinking??”
I. What Were You Thinking In Your Creating And Choices?
We know the primary attributes of God—that He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. His foreknowledge enables Him to look backward from the future, if you will, like one who’s watched a sporting event on television, recorded it and now playing it for someone else. He knows what’s coming up, but his guest doesn’t.
That’s why I’d want to ask Him, “Lord what were You thinking when You made Adam and Eve? You knew they’d be tempted by the devil, listen to him more than You, eat from the forbidden fruit, usher in all kinds of evil into the world and You’d have to expel them from the Garden. What were You thinking?
“Lord, what were You thinking when you allowed Noah to see Grace in your eyes (Gen. 6:8) and led him to spend 120 years building that ark and preaching your righteousness without a single convert. And, even though you used him to save the human race, You still knew he’d get drunk after the flood, leave himself exposed in his tent and then curse his own son’s lineage, from which would come Nimrod, the city of Babylon and the tower of Babel? What were you thinking?
“Or what about Abraham—the one You called ‘Your Friend’ (James 2:23)? You knew he’d ‘go without knowing where he was going’ when You called him at the age of 75 (Heb. 11:8; Gen. 12:1-4), yet would still twice get Sarai to lie about who she was and created all kinds of havoc in the world today because of listening to her voice and having a child by their handmaiden, Hagar (Gen. 16:1-4), instead of waiting for the promised child, Isaac?
“Or what about Jacob? You knew he’d be deceitful, get Esau, his brother, to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew and then steal his birthright and have to flee from home for over 20 years. You knew his very name meant ‘deceitful’ or ‘trickster;’ yet You chose him just the same. What were You thinking?
“Or what about Moses? Even though You spared his life in a most dramatic way that day when his mama placed him in a small basket in the bulrushes at river’s edge and he’d later be discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in Pharaoh’s palace, You still knew he’d kill an Egyptian and later give you a whole assortment of excuses when You told him what You wanted him to do? And, later on You’d forbid him from entering the Promised Land because he twice struck the rock instead of speaking to it like You told him. Why would you choose such a stammering, stuttering, meek servant like him to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery?
“Or what about Samson, the one You blessed with extraordinary strength and called to be the last judge of Israel? You knew he’d have a weakness for wild women and one of them would ultimately do him in, causing him to have his eyes put out and end up being the court jester for the pagan worshippers of the false god, Dagon? What were You thinking?
“Or what about David, the one You called ‘a man after My own heart’ (I Sam. 13:14), whom You’d enable to kill a lion and a bear with his bare hands, fell a 9’9” Philistine giant with a single stone from a slingshot, inspire to write many beautiful psalms, etc., yet would end up committing adultery with Bathsheba, have her husband killed and then allow the son born out of that adulterous relationship to be sick and die seven days after he was born? What were You thinking?
“Or, what about Job, that righteous man who prayed and sacrificed for his children? Why did you allow the devil to take everything he had and even afflict his body with painful boils, seemingly treating him like some pawn in a celestial chess match? What were You thinking?
“Or what about those closest followers of Jesus—those guys like Matthew, Mark, Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip, etc.? You knew beforehand that they’d abandon your precious
Son Jesus in His greatest hour of need and leave Him to die alone on the Cross? What were You thinking?
“And, since we’re talking about Him, Lord, what were You thinking when You sent Your only begotten Son into this world, knowing ‘before the foundations of the earth were formed’ that He’d be despised and rejected from the womb to the tomb? You knew the suffering He’d endure at the hands of sinful men—the mockery. . .the horrible beating with a cat-of-nine-tails, where His back would be shredded. . .His being slapped and spit upon, having part of His beard pulled out by its rooted. . .and then to cry such a mournful, forlorn cry from the Cross, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ (Mt. 27:46)? Yes, You knew ahead of time what suffering and shame He’d endure and how He’d be ‘despised and rejected among men. . .and how we’d hide our faces from Him and esteem Him not. . .and how He’d bear our griefs and our sorrows. . .and how He’d be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquity and the chastisement of our peace would be upon Him and by His stripes we’d be healed. . .how He’d be oppressed and afflicted—all because it pleased YOU to bruise Him, put Him to grief and then be pleased to see the travail of His soul’ (Is. 53). Yet, You sent Him to this earth anyway.
“What were You thinking?
“And, while I’m at it I may as well ask You about Jesus’ words in our passage today—i.e., about building Your Church upon a Rock and the gates of hell not prevailing against her and how whatever she’d bind on earth would be bound in Heaven?
“Dear Lord, I hate to bring it up, but didn’t You know ahead of time how paltry, prayerless and powerless she/we’d be?!? Just look at the folks You chose as Your own in the Old Testament! From the git-go Israel was a rebellious, whining, always murmuring and complaining, disobedient, backsliding heifer (Hos. 4:16). You knew she’d ‘play the harlot’ (Hos. 4:15) and constantly ‘sow to the wind while reaping the whirlwind’ (Hos. 8:7). You knew one minute she’d be hot and the next minute she’d be cold. One minute she’d be loving You with all of her heart and the next minute she’d be down in the valley dancing a naked jig around a golden calf while your servant, Moses, was up on the mountain getting Your 10 ‘Guidelines for Right Relationship with You and Others.’
“So, why in the world would You, knowing our propensity for sinning and tendency to stray like stupid, stinking sheep, still choose such frail, faithless followers like us to be Your ‘salt and light in the world’ (Mt. 5:13-16) and ‘ambassadors of the Cross, sent with the Word and Ministry of Reconciliation’ (II Cor. 5:17-21)?
“Don’t You know we can’t be trusted? Didn’t You know the Church—the One You’ve called to be the ‘Bride of Christ’ (Rev. 21:2, 9; Eph. 5:25)—would too often love the world more than You and would still have ‘spots, wrinkles, blemishes and be unholy’ (Eph. 5:26-27) when Jesus, the Bridegroom, comes again?
“Likewise, didn’t You know the church in Corinth would be a sinful, dysfunctional church that would fuss and fight among themselves, allow an incestuous relationship to go on in their congregation and do nothing about it, fight over which spiritual gift was the greatest, doubt the resurrection, etc? Or, what about the seven churches in Asia? You knew ahead of time that five of them would have some major problems—especially that lukewarm bunch at Laodicea, who made You want to throw up (Rev. 3:14-22)? Why didn’t You just zap them out?
“Or, what about the Church today, dear Lord? What were You thinking when You entrusted us with the Great Commission, to ‘go into all the world, preaching the Gospel and baptizing and making disciples’ (Mt. 28:18-20)? Didn’t You know that we’d too often end up being carnal, complacent, casual ‘cultural Christians,’ who’d too often more resemble the world than we do You. . .would let our tongues run loose on both ends as we gossiped about folks in the congregation, not thinking twice about what Your Word says about such folks and how Your wrath abides on them and how they divide the closest of friends and deeply wound others by their malicious words and deeds?
“Or, what about the Church’s tendency to play games and pretend, hide secret sins and presume on Your Grace? Didn’t You know that we’d spend more time grieving Your Holy Spirit than we would ‘delighting ourselves in You’ (Ps. 37:4) and doing great damage to Your Kingdom Work through thoughtless, unloving words and deeds while crying ‘The devil made me do it’?
“Didn’t You know?
“Yes, You knew—but You still saw fit to choose her/us anyway.
“What were You thinking??
II. You Were Thinking of the Joy Set Before You (Heb. 12:2b)?
“What’s that, Lord?
“The joy set before You??
“What joy? How could there be joy in having Your Name dragged through the mud by those who profess to love You with all of their hearts and trample Jesus’ Blood underfoot by their wicked words and dastardly deeds?
“How could there be joy in seeing those who should be ‘the Church triumphant’ and ‘more than conquerors through Him that loved them’ (Rom. 8:7) too often be so legalistic and judgmental. . .unloving and unforgiving. . .greedy and Grace-less in their dealings with others, etc.?
“How could You find any joy in that?
“The joy of seeing one sinner repent? The joy of seeing one prodigal son come to himself and say ‘I will arise and go to the Father’ (Lk. 15:11-24)? The joy of seeing a struggling band of believers, who continue to love and serve You, despite tremendous persecution? The joy of seeing one whose life has long been ravaged by drink and drugs miraculously transformed by Your Grace into a productive member of society and mighty force in Your Kingdom? The joy of seeing someone greatly wounded by another demonstrate the Grace he/she’s received by forgiving those who’ve hurt him/her?
“Is that what You mean?
“In a world where Islam teaches to ‘kill the infidel’ and Hinduism teaches that lack of value of the individual, You find great joy when someone will leave a good-paying job to go work among the downs-and-outs of this world. . .or travel halfway around the world to spread the Gospel to those who’ve never heard. . .or give belts, backpacks, books and shoes to elementary-age children who can’t afford them. . .or take care of someone else’s kids, even though the budget is quite tight, just because You’ve led them to help the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, etc., just because that’s what Jesus would do?
“That’s the reason You’ve done what You’ve done?
CONCLUSION: “I think I’m beginning to see it now. As the song says, ‘When Jesus was on the Cross, we were on His mind.’ Even before the world was created and all that is within it and above it, You had a Plan for our lives. And, even though You’d give us the freedom to choose to serve You or not. . .be used by You as You see fit or not. . .to love You with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength or not. . .You still demonstrated Your great Love by sending Jesus into this world to die on the Cross for sinners like us who were ungodly enemies of You (Rom. 5:6-11)—all because You loved us.
“Lord, I have one more question: Why do You love us so and what keeps You from just snuffing us out? That’s what we deserve—hell’s too good for us, Lord. Why do You love us so and want for us to spend eternity with You? Don’t You know how sinfully stupid we are?
“You know; yet, You love us just the same?
“Wow, Lord, no wonder You call it Grace—a love we can never earn. And, no wonder You show us Mercy; otherwise, none of us would have any hope (Lam. 3:21-23).
“How can we ever repay You, Lord?
“What’s that? By giving our lives to You?
“Why, that’s not too much to ask. Here, Lord, here’s my life. Take it and use it as You see fit.”
Author: Tom Smith is the pastor of Open-Door Fellowship. He is deeply engage in mission ministry and Morning Manna, a daily devotional that already reached thousands of readers. Morning Manna is published daily here on The Disciplers but you can also get it directly to your email by emailing Pastor Tom. You can know more about him by visiting his website: www.back-to-bethel.org.