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The Measure of the Greatness of God

A sermon preached by Dr. Peter James Flamming, Pastor
First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia
October 4, 1998

Text: Isaiah 41:10

Mark McGuire hitting 70 home runs can't possibly be true. By my way of thinking it is impossible to hit 1 home run, much less 70. Consider. To hit a home run you have to hit a round ball with a round stick out of the ballpark. Furthermore, that ball is coming at you 80, 90, maybe 100 miles an hour. What's more, the pitcher causes that ball to dip, and swerve, and twist, and turn so that you can't hit it solid. 70 home runs? Impossible. But he did it. And with grace and on occasion, even with humility, as has Sammy Sosa.

After he broke the Babe Ruth and Roger Maris records, McGuire said after he got to heaven he wanted to hunt them both up and talk to them and say thank you. Hunt Babe Ruth up in heaven? From what I've read McGuire might have to make a long trip to see him!

It does remind me of the story of the two veteran baseball players, Clem and Joe, now both in their seventies, remembering the good times. One asked the other, "Reckon they have baseball in heaven?" The other said he didn't know. So Clem said, "Tell you what. One of us is likely to get there first. Let's agree to come back and let the other know." They agreed. Well, Joe passed away first. One afternoon when Clem was rocking on the porch Joe appeared. Clem was wide-eyed and asked, "What did you find out?" Joe said, "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that they do have baseball in heaven. Wonderful green grass. Beautiful playing fields. Perfect weather." Clem said, "What's the bad news?" Joe answered, "The bad news is, you're pitching Thursday."

An interesting feature in all of this has been the ability they now have to measure the distance of a home run. I suppose some laser system.

Say, how far could God hit a home run? If God could hit a home run from one planet to another planet would that prove God's greatness? How do we measure the greatness of God? What laser gun can measure that greatness? What computer system could catch it?

When we turn to the Scripture we come out with one conclusion: THINK SMALL.

Don't think only of a vast universe with millions of galaxies each with millions, even billions of stars. Think Small. Think of one individual person, Jesus Christ the Lord, who gave up all of the benefits and perquisites of being God, to come as a solitary, individual person, to be servant, savior, and Lord of our lives. Greatness for God is not galaxies but the ability to bring good news in bad times; Greatness for God is not the outer reaches of space but the inner reaches of salvation;It is not the measuring of the universe with light years so much as creating light within us.

Here, friend is the good news about the greatness of God. The greatness of God is about you.

Measure God's Greatness with His Presence
Put away your yardsticks. Leave your tape measures in the tool chest. Forget the light years that measure the galaxies of God's universe. Measure instead God's greatness with his willingness to come to you.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God." (Isaiah 41:10)

Go with me please into the hospital room of one who is deeply ill, and a beloved one standing near so distressed. To say to that one - be of good cheer, God knows everything, even the names of the stars in the farthest galaxy. That is knowledge important in its place but it has no value in the deep issues of life.

You see there is knowledge that is important as information but useless for our salvation. What is needed is the deep sensing that God has entered that room. God is present. God has come.

Peter Marshall tells the story of a man who was having terrible dreams. And it seems that in his dreams he was trying to get to God. He would beat upon, in his imagined dream, a thick plate-glass window. And he would scream, and he would scratch and claw at the window trying to get through to God. And then one night in his dream he heard a still small voice saying, "Why do you scream? Why do you beat against the pane? For I am your god and I am here where you are."

Was not this Isaiah's experience with God: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God."

Measure God's Greatness with Understanding Beyond Ourselves
Isaiah says we need not be dismayed, distracted, distraught, because we are not God. God is God and that is enough.

How proud we modern people are at our accumulated knowledge. And we have accomplished much, especially in technology. It is in people that we begin to flail and fail.

A professor in sociology turned to his seminar of graduate students to seek their wisdom. A call has come for an appointment. The father enters. His brow is heavy with distress. He explains that he has a dreaded personal disease; his wife has tuberculosis. They have had four children. The first was born blind. The second died in childbirth. The third was deaf. The fourth now has tuberculosis.

His wife, he explains, is now carrying their fifth child. She is willing to have an abortion.

At this point the professor turns to the class and asks what they would advise. They take it seriously. They ponder. They weigh the possibilities. Finally they agree unanimously - as regrettable as it would be, it would be better for the mother to have an abortion.

The professor asked again, "Are you sure?" Again the class pondered. Finally the spokesman said, "With heavy hearts we would still say, the mother does not need another child at this time," which of course was true as they weighed the possibilities.

After a moment of pause he looked at the group and said, "You have just robbed the world of Beethoven."

Playing God is probably the worst thing we humans do. What a great comfort and strength it is to cling to God's understanding instead of our own. "Do not dismayed for I am your God."

Measure God's Greatness by His Personal Power to Sustain
The promise is, "I will strengthen you and help you." Turn a chapter over and read these words: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you." (Is. 43:2)

Back in 1982 I received a card from my friend Bruce McIver about a day when everything had gone wrong that possibly could. Then they received word that his mother, then 87, had fallen and broken her hip. Worse, she had fallen in the yard and it was several hours before anyone found her. They rushed to her side.

They quickly expressed deep concern that she had to lie there on the ground for hours before anyone heard her call. Her reply was, "The leaves were soft." They argued, "But the ground was cold and damp from the drizzle." "Yes," she replied, "but the Lord warmed everything up when the sun came out."

The greatest power of the Creator is not the power of the galaxy, but the creation of new life and new attitudes, and new priorities within us.

Measure God's Greatness by His Willingness to be as a Parent to us.
"I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." It is the picture of a parent who has reached down to hold the hand of a son or a daughter. Others may rush by. The traffic may swirl by. But as long as that little boy or girl have hold of Mamma or Daddy's hand, everything is fine. Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven . . ."

In Connecticut a mother came to see her pastor about her son who was saying the Lord's prayer wrong. He prayed, "Our Father, who art in New Haven, how did you know my name." The wise pastor reflected that he would learn the proper version soon enough, for now just leave it alone, because he was asking the right question.

Sometimes it is almost like the Father in heaven reaches down and holds us, his children, by the hand and walks us through the toughest of times. Billy Bray, a crippled preacher in Scotland years ago, used to say, "Never feel sorry for me, for I am a prince, the Son of the King!"

Listen to the verse one more time:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strength you and help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10)

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