home > Pastor’s Desk > 2017 > May 26th > Difficult Divine Decrees


disappointed-with-godDisappointment with God is often caused by a misunderstanding about who God is and how His will intersects with our lives. Some of the most popular faith preachers boldly declare that it is never God’s will for His children to ever experience pain, sickness, or difficulty. These adversities, they declare, are the attacks of the Devil. By exercising the power of faith and making positive confession, they claim, such devilish adversities can be overcome. The problem is, of course, that despite how many thousands of devoted followers some of these faith-preachers have, reality bites each of them. There is of course great value in being an optimist and tending toward a positive outlook. In fact, I am about to make the case that if we adopt realism rather than optimism as our Biblically-informed outlook for life, we will be more wondrous of God than disappointed with Him. But to begin to achieve this, what I am about to say may shock you!  



This is my first shocking statement: God’s highest purpose in decreeing anything is what glorifies Him; His highest purpose is not our happiness!

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.
First Chronicles 29:11

¶ Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psalm 115:1

God does not exist to make us happy – He exists for His glory. The next time you hear a TV preacher tell their fans that “God wants you to be happy” replace the word ‘happy’ for holy. That which is holy is set apart to give God glory. By living lives which are dedicated to giving God glory we are putting our trust in the One we worship – even when we face difficulties. 

¶ So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
First Corinthians 10:31

For those that know me, and some of the challenges that I have faced over the past few years, you know that this is not just a theory for me. I now travel through this life with an uncooperative body. At times it feels as if it is fighting me. As I write this, I am in a good deal of discomfort. But I have learned to lift my open hands to heaven in surrender to God, rather than to lift a clenched fist and shake it at God. Before I explain what the Scriptures teach about divine decrees, I fear I risk being misunderstood at this point. Life is not a choice between happiness or holiness. Life’s true happiness only comes from committing our hearts and minds to living holy lives. 



However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt.
Ezra 5:13

We don’t live in a society which is subject to decrees. Time was when the Monarch could decree something for their realm and it had the force of Law without the approval of any other legal body. Even though the President of the United States has the Constitutional power to pronounce a Presidential Decree, it is a power which is rarely used. Australia has nothing equivalent to this. Thus, when we read of God decreeing certain things, our cultural filter may cause us to ask whether God had the consent of the Congress or Parliament to do such a thing?

This is the wicked man’s portion from God,
the heritage decreed for him by God.”
Job 20:29

Unlike the decrees of Monarchs or Presidents, God’s decrees are always wise, good, and right – even though we may not agree with them / understand them /  accept them. In the Old Testament, we read that God decreed destruction for Jerusalem twice – during the time of Jeremiah by the Babylonians (Jer. 11:17) so that ultimately The Messiah could come, and then in 70AD by the Romans to bring an end to the elements of the Old Covenant after the Christ had established the New Covenant (Dan. 9:24, 26). I’m sure that this didn’t make sense to the inhabitants of Jerusalem at the time.

Rather than assuming God has lost control when difficulties come our way, it might be, and here is my second shocking statement, that God has decreed such difficulties for our good and His glory! 

Two recent stories powerfully illustrate this truth. The first was a novel written a few decades ago by the Fellow of Medieval Literature at Oxford University, called The Horse And His Boy. The second was an Academy Award nominated (x 6) movie about a Tasmanian boy released in 2016, Lion – A Long Way Home. Both stories bare remarkable similarities. A young boy is taken from his home in his infancy, in what appears to be a random accident, and is eventually found by someone who raises them as their own son. But their upbringings are stained by a sad ache – sehnsucht – for what they later realise is a longing for their true home. In the novel, the boy, Shasta, is befriended by a talking horse, Bree, and is rescued one night as they together sneak away from their respective cruel masters. But no sooner had they left the tables than a pack of ferocious lions pursues them into the dark forest. Once in the forest they are separated and Shasta is stalked by the lions and soon discovers that although it had sounded and seemed like “lions” it was in actuality only a Lion.

Pearl Ming's depiction of The Horse And His Boy

Pearl Ming’s depiction of The Horse And His Boy

Shasta bemoans his current predicament and laments the journey of his life to its now apparent end as he awaits to be eaten by this Lion who is driving him up a steep mountain this foggy night. To his surprise, the Lion responds and it soon becomes apparent that this is no mere lion, it is the Lion: Aslan.  Aslan tells Shasta that all that has happened to him was decreed by Him! Shasta is bewildered. But then, as he trusts Aslan and walks on, he discovers his true identity. He is no mere slave boy – he is the rightful King of Narnia! If Aslan had not “hurt” Shasta through all the adversities he had had to deal with, he could never had been able to claim his throne.

Saroo Brierley was born Sheru Munshi Khan and was played by Dev Patel in the movie- LION, A Long Way Home

LION, A Long Way Home

The similarities between the two stories is profound despite one being a novel and the other being a true story – with the notable exception that there is no talking Lion in Saroo story, but remarkably at the end of the movie, there is a postscript where we learn that Saroo had been mispronouncing his name. Instead of “Saroo”, he was actually named “Sharoo” which means “lion”. At the end of the story we learn that if all these setbacks had not befallen Saroo throughout his life, he may well have been killed in his childhood as indeed he discovered his brother had been. Saroo’s story looked like there was some invisible Guiding Hand on his life. (I will be very interested to where his story ends up with such evidence of Divine Decrees guiding his life to this point.)



By now you can see why I’m not a televangelist! The message that God decrees difficulties for our lives doesn’t sell well. But it is Biblical. It is evidenced in the greatest and holiest man who ever walked the planet. It is seen in the lives of those who truly came close to God and resembled a Christ-like life down through the ages. And I can confidently say that the people who most inspire me today to walk closely with Christ are those people who lift their eyes, hearts and hands to heaven in worship while in the midst of God’s difficult decrees for their lives!

And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. ¶ About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them
Acts 16:23-25


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Perhaps I was a little unfair to this gentleman though, because it is a well established fact that all men are born with selective hearing (as every wife can testify to) and perhaps this may sometimes spill over into incidents such as the one I just recounted(?). But I also suspect that some women have a similar deficiency.

A few years ago the kids and I were a little concerned about Kim’s hearing difficulties. As it turned out, one day outside a shopping centre that we had just arrived at, there was a government sponsored mobile hearing clinic. We urged the reluctant Kim to go in and have her hearing checked. Much to the utter shock of myself and our children the clinician told Kim that she had “perfect hearing”! This then proved that even women may be able to imitate the innate ability of a man to produce selective hearing 🙂 Therefore, there is a high likelihood that both men and women are equally subject to hearing difficulties.

The problem with any hearing difficulties is that it inevitably leads to the far more serious problem of misunderstanding. Misunderstanding is at the heart of nearly every relationship problem that anyone will ever face. Misunderstandings due to mis-hearing or mis-communication frequently leads to disputes that if not handled correctly, which it is mostly not, is likely to lead to relationship breakdowns. But there is a different – almost secretive – way to deal with misunderstandings. Let me explain by using several pictures that will make my point. 


Mark Lowry is normally comedic. But his now classic Christmas song is no joke! It presents baby Jesus as the eternal God the Son, the creator of heaven and earth, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of all humankind who turn to Him, the all-conquering Lamb of God, and the Great Judge of all people, the I AM. The event of His miraculous conception is known as the incarnation (God becoming human). But the incarnation was not Jesus the Christ’s first entrance into our world. In fact, it is as though He felt a divine right to enter our world any time He chose. These various appearances of Jesus prior to His incarnation are referred to as theophanies (appearances of God) or more particularly as Christophanies (appearances of God the Son). I want to highlight one of these in particular…


We have all seen parents abruptly terminate conversations with other adults to keep an eye on their children. Children can wander about easily. They could get involved in acts that are detrimental to themselves. Parental instincts, often reflected more in the mother, is one of those protective gifts that ensures children are kept safe.

THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 6 – The deGorified Newborn The ReGlorified Lamb of God

One of my favourite stories of concealed identity hiding in plain sight is from Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Miserables, where the escaped convict, Jean Valjean, is pursued for years by now retired Inspector Javert. As it turns out Jean Valjean, who had changed his name to M. Madeleine has now become a successful business man and the Mayor of Toulon. Javert arrives in Toulon and is immediately recognised by Valjean. But Javert does not recognise the now clean-shaven, genteel aristocratic Mayor of Toulon as his nemesis. But when he observes the compassion of M. Madeleine he recalls the time in prison when Jean Valjean had also displayed a similar extraordinary compassion for unfortunate fellow prisoners. The more he observed such acts of kindness and generosity from M. Madeleine the more Javert became convinced of the true identity of Madeleine. There is something about this idea of concealed identity that comes from the story of Christ. The prophet Isaiah foretold that when the Servant of the LORD would appear He would be largely unrecognised – there would be no form, no beauty, that we would desire Him (Isa. 53:2). But how on earth was this possible? How in God’s Name  could those who were created by Him in His image not recognise Him for who He was? The answer to this great puzzle lies in one word: the kenosis.


Andrew, on occasions, used to wistfully say, “You know, all I really want is…” then he would say some ephemeral pleasure, like ‘a drink of coke’, or ‘quiet’, or ‘to get something finished’. So, one day I decided to ensure that his greatest desire (‘all I really want’) was met. This time all he ever wanted was a coffee, so I bounced up and brought him the best cup of coffee I could make and added a little yummy treat to compliment it. A few days later he once again said, “All I really want…” and I interrupted to finish his sentence for him … “was the cup of coffee that I was able to make for you the other day. I bet it was the best ever. I’m so glad I could meet that greatest desire you have.” He never said, ‘All I really want’ again!


THE LORDSHIP of JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 5 – He is the Creator of Heaven & Earth and all things Visible and Invisible
While the pagan religions in the days of the patriarchs, judges, and kings of Israel, all conceived of their gods as territorial, the God of Israel, Yeshua, declared that He was the Creator of all things and that He was Lord of Heaven and Earth. And He still is.

Freedom in Christ encompasses Freedom FROM and Freedom FOR

God offers freedom to those who turn to Him in faith, and this, as Pastor Andrew says, deserves a Toyota jump. It is worth celebrating. The freedom the New Testament speaks of is not just any old freedom. In Romans 8:21 Paul speaks of ‘the glorious freedom of God’s children’ (NET). In the same way you might savour a piece of chocolate as it slowly melts in your mouth, allow your spirit to savour the meaning of the freedom that is yours in Christ in all its richness. This single word freedom is densely packed with meaning, and we benefit from taking time to unpack just a little of what it means for believers.


Throughout the Old Testament, God made certain promises to the patriarchs (Abraham, Issac, and Jacob/Israel) that their descendants, the nation of Israel, longed to see fulfilled. These promises centred on having a holy Homeland and a Messiah. Over the centuries that followed their expulsion from their Land which sent them into exile into Babylon initially and then into Persia, the Israelites became known as Jews. Their expectations of how these divine promises would be fulfilled became greatly embellished with powerful military overtones.

THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 3 – Before He was Incarnate, He was the Eternal LBefore He was Incarnate, He was the Eternal Lordord

For those unfamiliar with the story of the Bible who may be seeking to remedy that unfamiliarity, I would recommend that they start reading in the New Testament. It is there that they will be introduced immediately to Jesus who is the central character of the whole Bible. For many novice readers of the Bible who then attempt to read the Old Testament of the Bible (its first 39 books), it initially seems like they are reading a completely unrelated story which seems to describe a completely different God. But with a little patience and persistence the reader will begin to suspect that this is not a different story but is in fact the prequel to the New Testament. Then a strange supernatural thing happens as they continue to become acquainted with the lives of the patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, as these characters interact with enemies, giants, angels, strange heavenly beings, and GOD Himself. The reader begins to see in a similar way to what a photographer could not previously see clearly until his camera’s focus was adjusted to make the picture clear — the GOD who created, acted, spoke and judged, frequently referred to Himself as ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘our’, and at times seemed to have conversations with divine characters identified as ‘the LORD’ and ‘Me’ and ‘His Spirit’ (Isa. 48:16). And this all begins to sound very reminiscent of the GOD described in the New Testament as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With a growing knowledge of the Bible and hunger to understand it, the follower of Christ discovers that literally for thousands of years prior to this day there have been many many others who have also walked the journey of discovery through the mysterious pages of the Bible and have each made a startling discovery about the human Jesus’ pre-existence throughout the pages of the Old Testament.


The One who spoke the world into existence entered materially into His World and “split time in half”. He came to rescue the world because a great betrayal occurred. One of His chief agents was filled with self-deception and conceited envy and manipulated a serpent to his bidding in destroying the very last and highest of the Lord’s “very good” creation. Disappointingly she fell for it – and her husband who supposed to protect her failed in his most basic of responsibilities. Their fall from innocence and into grace plunged that was momentarily and formerly under their vice-regency. The world had now gone rogue. When the Eternal Son of God submitted to His co-LORD, the Holy Spirit placed Him into a virgin’s womb by uniting his consciousness and sinless essence with the ovum of this young virgin. In doing so, Immanuel relinquished none of His sovereign power or prerogatives but chose to lay aside His glory and become fully human. And for those who came to recognise who He actually was, it ever caused them to fall down at His feet in adoration, or shrink back from Him in terror. The side-effect of those who who adored him was a new ability to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping because of worries, you too can discover how an acquaintance with the Lordship of Jesus the Christ can also help you to sleep better.