November 15, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
When I was a teenager, I wanted to figure out God. I thought that if I worked hard enough and was completely logical, then everything about God would ultimately make sense. In retrospect, I think my desire to know God was laudable, but my expectations were naïve. I didn’t take into consideration my own limitations as a human being and God’s unlimited nature. Nor did I account for how sin gets in the way of our knowing God.
Over time, I have come to realize that, although there are many things we can know about God because he has revealed them to us, our understanding has limits. The Lord made this clear in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
God’s ways are often mysterious. Sometimes they are gloriously mysterious. Sometimes they are frustratingly mysterious. For example, when God allows the innocent to suffer, when he fails to act in ways that would seem to bring him glory, and when he appears to say “no” to our fervent prayers, we struggle to accept God’s inscrutability.
Yet, the greatest mystery of God’s nature leads us not to exasperation but to exaltation. I’m talking about the wonder of God’s grace, his limitless mercy, his unfathomable love. The more we reflect upon the mind-blowing goodness of God, the more we’ll echo the words of Paul in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” For Paul, as for us, the mystery of God’s grace leads to astonished praise.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you feel when you can’t figure out God?
What about God do you find hardest to understand?
When have you felt overwhelmed by the wonder of God’s grace?
Gracious God, first of all, we want to thank you for making yourself known to us. Your revelation, in history, in Scripture, in Jesus Christ, and in our hearts, is a priceless gift. How blessed we are to know you, to serve you, and to love you!
Yet we accept the limitations of our knowledge. There is so much about you that we will never understand, at least not this side of Heaven. Your ways are higher than ours, so much higher! As you know, Lord, sometimes this is distressing to us, especially when it seems like your love and justice are taking a nap. Help us to trust you, even when your ways are frustratingly different from what we would expect and desire.
The most amazing thing about you, Lord, the most mysterious thing to us, is your love. Sure, we can say that you love us. But every now and then, we are blown away by the depth of your love. The Creator of the universe loves us, each of us, personally! What a wonder! Hallelujah! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God’s Character Is to Have Mercy on Everyone (Romans 9–11)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.