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Act on What You Know, Leave the Rest to God

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November 7, 2010

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

God’s people are on the verge of the Promised Land. Moses is speaking to them for the last time. Deuteronomy is a series of sermons preached in the last month of Moses’ life. We have come now to Moses’ final words.

If you knew you were speaking to your loved ones for the very last time, the ones you have invested your whole life in, what would you say? What really matters? What is of supreme importance?

Two Ways to Live

A good title for Moses’ last sermon would be “Two Ways to Live.” Moses says, “You are about to enter the Promised Land.” Moses is not going with them. He is going to be with the Lord. “As you enter the land, remember that there are two ways to live.”

Moses lists the blessings that will follow obedience, “If you fully obey the Lord your God… you will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country, the fruit of your womb will be blessed and the crops of your land…” (28:1,3). He is talking about the future life of the nation.

Then Moses lists the curses that follow disobedience, “If you do not obey the Lord your God… you will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and kneading trough will be cursed” (28:15-16).

Put yourself in the shoes of these people. You are about to enter the Promised Land, and Moses says, “My final message to you is this: There are two ways to live. There is a path on which the nation will be blessed. There is a path on which the nation will be cursed.”

You are standing there with your children round you. Here is what I would be thinking. It is what we would all be thinking, “Moses, which one is it going to be? What will be the experience of our children and our grandchildren? What kind of world are they going to inherit? What can we expect in the next ten years? What does the future hold?”

Moses says:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (29:29).

I’ve chosen to focus on this single verse today because it has been so significant in my own life. The reference is easy to remember, “Deuteronomy 29:29.” It sticks!

The truth is stated so simply, “The secret things belong to the Lord. The things revealed belong to us.” The whole of life is divided into two parts. There are things God has kept secret, that you do not know and you do not understand, and things that God has revealed, that he has entrusted to you.

God keeps some things secret

As a Christian you should expect to face questions to which you do not have the answer. Don’t be afraid to say. “I don’t know.” It is not part of faith to pretend that you have an answer for every question. Faith bows before the mystery of what God has kept hidden.

I have heard Christians, on a number of occasions talk about their “Deuteronomy 29:29” file. Have you heard this? When something happens that is hard to understand, you put it in your “Deuteronomy 29:29” file. I don’t know if they actually have a folder.

Living by faith means accepting the limits of revelation and affirming the reality of revelation. We normally put the emphasis on what God has revealed, but it is equally important to affirm what God has kept hidden.

Moses says, “The secret things belong to the Lord.” There will be things in your life that make no sense to you. They baffle you. You cannot work them out. They may tempt you to despair. You might feel like throwing up your hands and saying, “Life makes no sense. It is completely absurd. What’s the point? I give up.”

That is not where Moses goes. He does not say, “The secret things are there to frustrate you and lead you to despair.” He says, “The secret things belong to the Lord.”

There will be times in your life when you say, “I can make absolutely no sense out of this, but God knows. The secret things belong to the Lord, and the Lord who knows them is my heavenly Father.” Faith lives with unanswered questions. Grasp this and it will settle you in the unsettling things of life.

God reveals some things to help you stand

“The things revealed belong to us and to our children forever that we may follow all the words of this law.” (29:29)

God has kept some things secret. They belong to him. But there are also things that God has revealed and they belong to us! Faith bows before the mystery that God has kept hidden. Faith stands on the promise that God has revealed. These are the two dimensions of faith.

The revealed things are given so that you will follow the Lord, even when you find yourself perplexed by the things you don’t understand. The revealed things belong to us and to our children. They are given so that we can stand firm in every circumstance of life.

The Bible says, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). A day is coming when faith will be turned to sight. On that day we will know even as we are known. But that day has not yet come. Until that day, faith bows before the mystery of what God has kept hidden, and faith stands on the promise that God has revealed.

Seven Secrets That Belong to the Lord

1. The future for your children

Is there any parent who hasn’t wondered about this? What will happen to your children? Will they marry? Will they be happy? Will they prosper? What kind of world will my grandchildren inherit? This was surely in the minds of those who heard Moses speaking to them, as they were getting ready to enter the Promised Land. The secret things belong to the Lord.

2. The reason for your suffering

All of us at some time life will ask the question “Why?” For some it is a painful question. Why was I born into this family? Why has this illness come to me? Why did that awful event happen to my son or my daughter?

You have been asking this question for years, and you still don’t have the answer. The secret things belong to the Lord.

3. The manner of your death

All of us wonder about these things. When you get older, you will think about these things at some point. How long will I live? Will I reach old age or will God take me while I am young? Will I die of an illness or will it be an accident? Will I have a sound mind? Will I experience pain? The secret things belong to the Lord.

4. The salvation of your loves ones

You have unbelieving family and neighbors and friends, and you have been praying for them and sharing the Gospel with them. I’m thinking here about someone I have been praying for over 20 years. He has no interest in God, no love for Christ. Will he be converted? I don’t know. The secret things belong to the Lord.

5. The events of tomorrow

Karen and I plan to fly to England tonight, and arrive in Glasgow tomorrow morning. Every time I travel I think about the words of James,

Listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city…’ You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. (4:14)

You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow either, whatever you have planned. The secret things belong to the Lord.

6. The outcome of your ministry

As you serve the Lord there will be times when you ask yourself,  “Am I doing anything of real and lasting value?” You pray and you wonder if it is making any difference. Is there any Christian who hasn’t been there?

You make sacrifices and you wonder if anyone even notices.

The people of God will be surprised by the outcome of their ministry. On the last day, the Lord will say, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was in prison and you visited me…” His people will say, “Lord, when did we do these things?” Jesus will answer, “In as much as you did it to my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:31-40). The last day will hold many surprises, because in large measure, you don’t know the outcome of your own ministry.

The secret things belong to the Lord.

7. The progress of your Christian life

If you are a Christian today, you will know what it is to be alarmed by your own lack of progress in the Christian life. God is conforming you to the likeness of Jesus Christ. There is progress is sanctification. But the truth is that it is not always obvious, and where it is seen, it is more likely to be seen by others before it is seen by you.

Sin lies so deep in us that we often find ourselves alarmed and astonished when it breaks out in unexpected ways—the sudden word, the cynical thought, that overwhelming impulse or that unexpected failure. You say, “Where in the world did that come from?” It came from inside of you.

Peter says to Jesus, “I am ready to die with you” (John 13:37), and a few hours later he is cursing and swearing that he never knew the Lord (Mark 14:71). Where did that come from? It came from inside of him.

You thought you were making progress. You thought you had left these things behind, but the sin you thought you had conquered is back again and it is staring you in the face.

Have you made no progress at all? Will you ever be the person that God is calling you to be?

If you are a Christian, you will know what it is to face the mystery of your own sin. The secret things belong to the Lord. That is why Psalm 19 says, “Who can discern his errors?” (19:12).

This is a humbling truth for us today. Look at the vastness of what you don’t know. Consider all of the things that God has kept secret—the future of your children, the reason for your suffering, the manner of your death, the salvation of your loved ones, the events of tomorrow, the outcome of your ministry and the progress of your Christian life.

How do you navigate your way through a world where God has kept so much secret? “With all that I don’t know, how can I live?” God has kept so much hidden from you that you feel is important for you to know. But God says, “I’m not going to tell it to you.” Live with what God has kept secret by trusting what God has revealed.

Seven Promises that Belong to Us

1. The future of your children

I don’t know what the future will be for my children. But I know this: God is faithful. And God will be faithful to them as He has been faithful to me, “The promise is for you and for your children… for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).

2. The reason for your suffering

I don’t know why some painful things have happened in my life, but I know that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

I know that “our… troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). I live with what God has kept hidden by trusting in what God has revealed.

3. The manner of your death

I don’t know how I will die. But I do know that “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). And it is better by far to be with Christ, “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

4. The salvation of your loved ones

I don’t know if my unbelieving friends and loved ones will be saved. But I do know this: God saves people who are not looking to be saved. “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me” (Isaiah 65:1).

Are you praying for a person who is not seeking God? How could that person find God if they are not seeking him? He is seeking them. It is not the sheep who go looking for the shepherd; it is the shepherd who goes looking for the sheep.

When I pray for unbelieving friends and loved ones, I say to the Lord, “You don’t need their permission. Intercept their lives. They will never find their way to you, Lord. So, in your mercy, find your way to them.”

5. The events of tomorrow

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow. And so do you, if you’re in Jesus Christ. The future lies in the hand of God, and He is my loving Father.

Our Lord spoke about this: “Do not worry about your life.” Then He explained why, “Look at the birds of the air…  Your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Instead of worrying about tomorrow, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:25-26, 33).

Don’t live a life that is consumed by worry. Don’t worry about things that you don’t control and cannot change. Live flat out for Christ and His kingdom. Go after righteousness with all that you have, and pursue this every day for the rest of your life. Leave tomorrow in the hands of God.

6. The outcome of your ministry

I don’t know what God will do through our ministry. But I know that God has said, “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

In the presence of Jesus you will learn about prayers that you never knew were answered. You will discover deeds that you never knew mattered. And you will learn of ways that God used you, that you had absolutely no awareness about during your lifetime.

7. The progress of your Christian life

How do you live in the reality of this life, where you look at your own life and say “Is that still there?” I don’t know what progress I have made in the Christian life. I know that I am not what I used to be and I know that I’m not yet what I hope to be.

Right now, the work of the Holy Spirit is woven into all our battles with the flesh. But I know this, “When He appears, we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2). Remember this in the middle of all your struggles with sin.

Faith bows before the mystery of what God has kept secret, and stands in the strength of what God has revealed. When Christ says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), He is staring into the mystery of what God has kept secret.

What is Christ doing when he says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46)? He is trusting in the promise of what God has revealed, and that is what He is calling us to do. He is going to walk with us as we trust in what God has revealed.

The secret things belong to the Lord, so trust Him in what you do not know. The revealed things belong to us, so obey Him in what He has made known. They are yours!  They are given to you, to help you stand today and this week.

Come to Christ with all your questions and listen to His promise

My last word is to the person who feels confused. You have seen that life is empty without God, but God seems to be far from you. You would like to find him, but you don’t know where to look. You would like to have faith, but you don’t know where to begin.

Listen to these words of Jesus, “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). You don’t know the Father. But Jesus does, and He can reveal the Father to you. He says, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Christ says today, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Come to Christ with all your unanswered questions. Come with the burden of what you don’t understand, and listen to his promise, “I will give you rest for your soul.”



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