Stay where you are!

Unfortunately, the Chief Apostle had to cancel his planned trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Instead, he drove to the nearby congregation of Altkirch, France. He had an interesting sermon for the congregation.

The Bible text for the sermon was Psalm 139: 5: “You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.” The gist is clear: God loves and protects humans and calls them to His service. But things are not quite that simple, because several levels are involved, the Chief Apostle said.

“God watches over our material existence. He provides for our needs and sends His angels to protect us.” His aim, he said, is to protect us from material dangers that could prevent our salvation. He intervenes in our lives as often as necessary so that we can continue to pursue the path He has laid out for us. He watches over us even when we have not expressly prayed for the protection of His angels. God’s intervention is not limited by our prayers.

On the material and spiritual level: God is there

“God also provides for the needs of our soul and makes sure that we have spiritual security. The hand of God over us is an image of the blessing that He grants us.” It reminds us that we are His children, the Chief Apostle said: “He bought us at a price, we belong to Him. He loves us no matter what we do or where we are.”

The Chief Apostle went on to address the various aspects of God’s love.

“God protects the faithful from what lies behind them.”

  • He forgives them their faults.
  • He frees them from the yoke of the past by making them new creatures in Christ. They are therefore no longer constrained by their origins, their family history, or their own background.

“God puts a protective hand out for the believers. They have no reason to fear the future.”

  • He sees approaching difficulties and makes sure that they can get through them.
  • He will have the last word.
  • He will complete their sanctification by means of His grace.

“God lays His hand on those whom He calls into His service.”

Let us never forget the calling of God, no matter the circumstances we may currently be going through. This was an urgent appeal by the Chief Apostle to the attentive congregation. “God has called us to serve Him here and now. He is with us, we have nothing to fear. Let’s not be afraid to speak about Jesus to those who do not know Him.”

Another possibility to serve God, especially within the church, is to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice, the Chief Apostle said. “Let’s take the time to listen to our neighbour when he tells us about his joys and sorrows. Let us show him that we care.” The Chief Apostle also felt that it was important to point out that one should not interrupt the other person after a few sentences already when he or she wants to tell us in detail what they are currently going through. “Let us be an instrument in God’s hand.”

God also sets limits

God also sets limits, Chief Apostle Schneider said. He asks us to stay where He has put us.

  • “Let us not leave our post by displaying false humility. God would not accept excuses from Moses and Jeremiah either for not doing what He had asked of them.”
  • “Let us not push ourselves to the fore; we are only tools in the hand of the Master. Honour and praise are due to God only.”
  • “It is not up to us to judge and even less to punish the sinner.”
  • Our actions must be within the framework set by God: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6: 31).

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Peter Johanning
France, Chief Apostle, Divine service