Reflection/Devotional: In 1792, William Carey preached a sermon that has since been called the “Deathless Sermon” because it sparked a missions’ movement that will never die. To clarify, Carey would never have taken credit for the movement–he saw the call to missions as a revival of what Jesus and the apostles had preached so long before. Acts 1:8, for example, records Jesus’ command to his disciples that they would be witnesses to the end of the earth. Yet somewhere in the next 1750+ years something was amiss. The need for missions was greater than ever, but the motivation was lacking. In this important time, soon after the founding of the United States of America, William Carey called upon his audience to do two things: “Expect great things from God–Attempt great things for God.” It was and remains a simple and catchy statement, but it remains immensely difficult to live out. And yet, I find it to be and excellent answer to the age old question of human responsibility in a world governed by divine sovereignty.
Too often our approach is to sit back and let God, in His sovereignty, do all the work without our help. Or, the opposite approach, we try to accomplish everything ourself rather than trusting God through prayer and the power of His Holy Spirit. But somewhere in the middle is a balance–it is the promised power and presence of God which motivates us and empowers us to act on behalf of God to advance His kingdom mission in this world. Precisely because we can expect great things from God, we are motivated to attempt great things for Him. This is the challenge of Acts 2:22-23. Though Jesus’ death was in the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, his death was the responsibility of sinful human decisions. Providentially, however, it is this same divine sovereignty vs. human freedom tension that provides the answer. Because the cross was part of God’s plan, Jesus is able to defeat sin, and because of the resurrection (which Peter goes on to preach in the following verses) Jesus has defeated the greatest consequence of sin–death. And precisely because of his defeat of sin and death, we are now enabled to act freely in a way that magnifies Jesus, not crucifies him, and yet this is equally in God’s definite plan and foreknowledge. The challenge, then, is whether we will expect great things from God in a way that motivates us to attempt great things for Him. The fact that God is in control means that He will accomplish His purposes. The question is, will he accomplish those purposes through your decision to attempt great things for Him?
1. How does practicing the presence of God help you to expect great things from God?
2. What do you expect from God on a daily basis?
3. What are you doing in your life right now that requires faith?
4. What great things is God calling you to attempt for Him? How can you follow through with attempting those?
Scripture Memory: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”–Acts 2:23