BOWEN COLUMN: How big is God?

Published 9:30 am Friday, February 10, 2023

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(Chapter 5 of a sermon and essay entitled, ‘How Big Is God’)

Can you imagine John’s squinting his eyes toward the shadowy figure standing out on the shore that pre-dawn morning? Then his eyes get big and joy leaps into his heart as he realizes something huge, ‘It is the Lord! It makes us want to freeze that moment and apply it at will to all of our life.

I like how scholar Alexander Maclaren states this great truth long before our time. ‘They only see aright who see Christ in everything,’ he writes, “The words of John, ‘It is the Lord’ ought to be the conviction … with which we go out to examine all of the events and circumstances of our daily life.”

It is that type of faith that marks so many writers of the nineteenth century. It seems to be a thriving time of man’s believing in the Lord’s continual providential care and guidance. They take at face value the teaching that the Lord knows when we sit down and when we rise up. Such a faith certainly does not hurt the psalmist in his walk with the Lord, as we see in Psalm 139. You are very right, too, Mr. Maclaren: “They only see aright who see Christ in everything.”

As we step out the door each day and go about our Christian business, we should feel great confidence in knowing that everywhere we turn, all along the way, “It is the Lord!”

Read the words of the writer further:

Nature is but the veil of the invisible and ascended Lord: and if we would pierce to the deepest foundations of all being, we cannot stop until we get down to the living power of Christ our Saviour and the Creator of the world, by whom all things were made, and whose will pouring out into this great universe, is the sustaining principle and the true force which keeps it from nothingness and from quick decay.

Now, that is some sentence! We might need to read over it a few times to absorb its great truths. I would not recommend trying to diagram it, though.

As you swish those thoughts around, observe that when the disciples haul in exactly 153 fish that early morning, that John recognizes at that moment that only his Christ has power over all of nature, that it is his power that is “the sustaining principle and the true force” for all of nature.

As we proceed chapter by chapter into contemplating the theme of “How big is God!” our hope is to pause continually to consider just how far the Lord’s power and providence go. Not to admit failure, but, even as we say that, we concur with the songwriter Mr. Hamblin, whose song inspired our title here, “To try to tell these lips can only start.”

But those seven disciples don’t get it yet – saving for the one. They are so overwhelmed with the night’s fruitless work that they overlook the tremendous power of the man on the shore who amazingly has power over not just the gathering of a 153 fish on the right side of the boat but also over every law, principle, concept, and element in the makeup and function of this universe.

Let’s soak it in a moment: Christ upholds all things in this universe by the power of his might – and those are the words inspired by the Spirit himself. By him, all things ‘consist.’

Of these great truths, our lips at least have vaguely started to tell.

Keep this thought close to the vest. We want to make sure we carry that profound conviction that ‘It is the Lord’ with us every step of the way, both in everything we do as we go out searching for our way and, in this hour, as we enter into the opening scenes of the twenty-first chapter of John.

When we see Christ in everything, that’s the only time we see Christ ‘aright,’ indeed.