Sometimes you will hear a person described as a “self-made man”. I know what they are talking about when they describe someone that way: they mean that they didn’t begin life with a fortune; that they worked their way “up the ladder” to where they are today. But in reality, the expression is a poor one. There is really no such thing as a “self-made man.” Scripture tells us that God gave every one of us, every ability that we have. Thus we owe everything we have, and everything we are, to Him.
We should be reminded of that every time we read the Creation story of Genesis. In Chapter 2 of that book, we find a re-telling of God’s creation of man. In verses 7-8, there are 3 verbs which describe for us specifically 3 things that God did for that first man — and that He does for each of us as well. They serve as a good reminder of how dependent we are upon the Lord, and how we need to look to Him daily for our help, and trust Him with every one of our circumstances.
I. He Forms Us.
:7 “The LORD God formed the man.”
The Hebrew word for “formed” here (yasar) is the same word used of a potter, who skillfully shapes a pot with his own hands. The Bible says this is what God has done with us. He “shaped” us, it says. Psalm 139:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God carefully designed us according to His plan for us, before we were born. This is one of the reasons why Bible-believing Christians are pro-life; that unborn child is not just a “fetus”, or a “glob of flesh”; it is a work of art that is being formed by the hands the Master Potter! He forms us.
Now, the fact that God made us is something we all “know” in a sense — “God made me” is one of the first lessons our preschoolers learn in Sunday School. But I think there’s still a lot of room for the practical application of that truth in many of our daily attitudes.
God “formed” us, like a potter does a pot. Romans 9 asks the question, “Will the pot say to the potter, ‘Why have you made me like this?'” The implied answer is, “Of course not!” But the truth is, in real life, a number of us DO ask God why He made us the way He did. Maybe we ask it outright, or maybe it is just a subconscious question: “Why aren’t I smarter? Why aren’t I taller? Why aren’t I better looking than I am?” “Why couldn’t I have been given more athletic ability?” or even “why aren’t I a woman instead of a man” and so on. Although we may not say it outright, ultimately it IS asking the Potter why He made us this way.
Our response as Christians should be to affirm what this verse and others teach, that The Lord God formed (ME!). You are not the way you are by accident. God formed you the way a potter shapes a pot. He knit you together in your mother’s womb, Psalm 139 says. That means that He has purposes for the way He made you. He chose your sex. He gave you certain strengths and weaknesses Is there a strength in your life? Thank God for it — He is the One who gave you that strength. Glorify God as you use it.
A few years back, when our son Michael was a young elementary student, someone commented on how well he was doing in school, and how he had an exceptional ability to memorize. And I heard Michael say back to him, “Yeah, God made me smart.” I thought it was very interesting at the time, the way he said it, because he didn’t say it with an attitude of pride; he was just very “matter of fact.” He knew that he was intelligent — but most importantly, he knew that it was GOD who made him that way!
We should all be more like that. You should realize that the strengths and abilities that you have are from God too. You are not “self-made.” Even if you say that you worked hard to get where you are, you need to realize that even your ability to work hard, and persevere, is from God, who has given you every good quality that you have.
But by the same token, the God who formed each of us also allowed some inherent weaknesses in our lives. Recognize that God made you that way. Now, this should never be taken as an excuse to sin: just because you have a weakness does mean that you have to give in to it. Rather our weaknesses give God an opportunity to glorify Himself as He overcomes your weaknesses in His power.
For example, remember how Moses said that he was “slow of speech” and couldn’t lead the people of Israel out of Egypt? Now if Moses was “slow of speech”, then it was God who made him that way. But God planned to use that weakness in Moses for His glory. Because Moses was not by nature a dynamic leader, when God brought Israel out of Egypt, it made it obvious that it was God who did it, and that it was definitely NOT Moses’ natural ability. See, Moses’ weakness was not an excuse for him to give in to it and not do anything. Instead, his weakness was an opportunity for God to demonstrate His power in what He can do even through one who is weak. In the same way, God has formed YOU, and has purposefully given YOU both strengths and weaknesses. Glorify God with your strengths, and let Him get glory as He overcomes your weaknesses in His power.
II. He Breathes Into Us.
:7b “He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”
As we saw in the first point, you and I are merely “dust”, formed by God into something infinitely more special. And when God had formed the man, this passage says, “He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Without God, we are as dead and lifeless as dust. It is HE who “breathes into us the breath of life.” This means a couple of important things for us today:
A) First of all, if the breath of life is found in you today, that is God’s blessing. Thank Him for it! Don’t take it for granted!
I have had people with asthma, or COPD, tell me how panicked they get when they can’t breathe. I can see why that would be; there have been a very few times in my life when I was unable to breathe well, and that gets right to the core of your being; you have to be able to breathe, to live! The breath of life is a blessing from God.
The Bible tells us that the only reason that ANY of us are breathing today is the fact that God has breathed into us the breath of life! God breathed into this first man and gave him life — and He does the same for every living creature. Psalm 104:29-30 says of God’s creation: “You send forth Your Spirit (literally His “breath”!) and they are created … You take away their spirit (literally “breath”!), they expire, and return to their dust.” The Bible tells us that it is GOD who gives and takes away breath from every living creature. So if we are breathing today, we should thank God for it — He has given us that “breath of life.”
This adds a special slant to Psalm 150, where it says: “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.” I remember when our son Paul was little, and I taught him to memorize Psalm 150, which ends, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.” He would quote that Psalm, and then he would breathe in and out, as if to say, “I’ve got breath!” and then he would say: “Praise the Lord!”
We should do the same thing. If you’re breathing today, you should praise God for it — for it is HE who has given you that gift, which, like so many of the other blessings God gives us, we usually take for granted.
Cheryl & I and many other friends where shocked to learn that last Monday morning, a good friend a church member in Louisiana had passed away in her sleep. She had played the piano in church Sunday morning as usual; she had gone with her church small group to a movie Sunday night — and then she was found dead in her sleep on Monday morning. Listen, don’t take “the breath of life” for granted. If you your loved ones woke up breathing this morning, be grateful. That “breath of life” is a gift from God!
B. But what is true physically is also true here in the spiritual realm as well. It is God’s breath that makes us “alive” physically — and it is the breath of God’s Spirit that makes us “alive” spiritually as well.
In Ezekiel 37, God shows Ezekiel the valley of the dry bones, and asks him if they can live. Ezekiel rightly replied, “O Lord YHWH, You know!” And God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones, and flesh came back on them, and skin covered them again, but they had no breath. And God told Ezekiel to prophesy again, and God’s breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet. And God told Ezekiel to tell Israel, “I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life .. then you will know that I, the Lord have spoken and done it, declares the Lord.”
Here God showed Ezekiel that it is only HE who can “breathe life” into something and make it “live” (spiritually) whether it is a person, or a group of people, a church, a denomination. The only reason anything succeeds is that God “breathes” into it His breath, His life.
This is true for us as individuals in salvation. God must “breathe” His Spirit into us for us to live spiritually. See, the Bible says that we are all “dead in sin”: we were born with a sin nature, and we have each chosen to sin against God — and the wages of sin is death. We were all spiritually dead. But God loved us, and wanted us to live eternally in heaven with Him, so He came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, and died on the cross to pay for our sins, and rose again to demonstrate that He really was God, and can forgive our sins. And whenever we turn from our sins, and turn back to follow Him as our Lord & Savior, He sends His Spirit, His “breath” in a sense, into our hearts, and makes us spiritually “alive” before Him.
If you are really a Christian today, it is because God has “breathed” His Spirit into your life. If you do not have God’s Spirit in your life, then you are still spiritually dead. Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” You can walk to the front of a church; you can fill out a card, you can be baptized, you can go to church services. But if the Spirit of God does not breathe His life into you, you are still spiritually dead. You must have the “breath” of God’s Spirit in your life to live spiritually.
And the same thing is true for what God does in a church, or an organization as well. We must have the “breath” of God’s Spirit to be alive and powerful spiritually. We can have organizations, and meetings, and classes, and all kinds of human efforts — but we must have the power of God’s “breath”; God’s Spirit, to accomplish anything powerful and lasting.
That’s why one of my regular prayers for our church is Psalm 67: “God be gracious to us and bless us and cause His face to shine upon us …”. THAT is what we need as a church. We have some great people, and some great classes and ministries in our church, and we are planning what I think are some exciting things for this fall, for outreach and discipleship. But what we need more than planning, more than organization, more than anything else — is for GOD to make His face to shine upon us; for Him to breathe His Spirit into us. There is no substitute for it. My prayer is that God will do something here at PRBC that can only be explained by the power and presence of God.
It reminds me of the story of the Oklahoma pastor a number of years ago, who was trying to keep his yard alive in a drought. He said he dragged hoses all over the yard, and tried to keep everything watered, but it wasn’t doing any good; the ground just soaked it all up, and everything was still dying. Then, he said, suddenly some dark clouds formed, and a front came through, and it just POURED rain. I still remember what this man said later: “God did more in 5 minutes than I did all day.”
See, it makes all the difference when God is in something. That is why we need to make seeking HIM and His blessing, and His Spirit, our greatest priority. This does NOT mean that we are not responsible to do the things He calls us to do, but when all is said and done, it is only GOD who can really “breathe the breath of life” that this church needs.
And it’s true for more than our church, too. Maybe you would say you need “a breath of fresh air” in your personal life, or in your family, or in some particular area of your life. Ask God today to “breathe” His “breath of life” into that area of your life, which will make all the difference.
III. He Places Us
:8 “There He placed the man”
This is a third action that God performed on behalf of the man: He FORMED him; He BREATHED into him the breath of life, and now we see that He PLACED him in the Garden that He had prepared for him. This was no “random” placement. God prepared the MAN, as we have seen. God prepared the PLACE: verse 8 says He “planted a Garden toward the east, in Eden.” And then it says God PLACED the man exactly where He wanted him, in that garden.
And God does the same thing with all of His people too. I Peter 1 opens by addressing itself to “those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” The word “scattered” there is a Greek Bible word that means to be “strategically placed.” Those early Christians were not “randomly scattered” around the world; they had been “strategically placed” where they were by God. They were where they were for a reason: God wanted to use them in those specific places, to spread the news of His kingdom.
And just like God “placed” Adam right where He wanted him in the Garden, and “placed” those early believers in exactly the right place to serve, you need to realize that God has “placed” you right where He wants you to be too. Why are you where you are right now? Why are you in this country, this state, this job, this church, this life situation right now? God has placed you there for His purposes.
Now, many of us would say that for the most part, where God has placed us has been a cause for thanksgiving. Some of us have been to the slums of India, or the gypsy village in Romania. Think about it: God could have placed YOU there! It should make us think. It should make us grateful; it should make us want to be more generous to the people there, when you think that it is only by the grace and placement of God that it is not YOU who are waiting over there for the generosity of someone over here to send help to you! Most of us have SO much to be thankful for in God’s placement of our lives. We should be embarrassed at how much we often complain about our situations.
Then there are times when we think that where God has placed us is NOT much of a cause for thanksgiving. But even then, we need to see by faith that He has placed us where we are for His purposes. Joseph in the Old Testament is a good example of that. Why did he have to be thrown into the pit by his brothers? Why did he find himself relegated to be a servant in Potiphar’s house? Why did he end up in prison, of all places, when he had done nothing to deserve it? Yet as we know, God worked ALL of that together for His purposes. The Lord used Joseph’s circumstances to save his family, and preserve and prepare the nation which would produce the Messiah. God had “placed” Joseph where he was, for a reason. Even though it was uncomfortable and painful for a time, he was exactly where God wanted him to be.
The same thing was true of a young lady named Ruth who married a man from a foreign country. But then he died, and she had nowhere to go, so she lived with her mother-in-law (of all things!). They had no money, so she got by day-to-day just by going out and doing whatever jobs she could find, basically relying on the generosity of others, in a foreign land. Why was she in a situation like this? She never really knew. Although her circumstances did get better towards the end of her life, she never really saw all of God’s purposes unfold. But the scriptures give us a hint, at the end of the story of Ruth, when it says, “to Boaz (this woman’s husband) was born Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David” the king. It turned out that with all the hardships that Ruth went through — as bad as they seemed at the time — God had placed her exactly where He wanted her, so that He could produce David the King through her circumstances — and then through him, the “Son of David”, Jesus Christ our Savior.
All this just goes to remind us that we need to trust God with our circumstances today. You may think that you are in a “bad place” — but the truth is, you may be exactly where God has placed you right now. He has a purpose in having you just where you are: in your physical location, or in the job you have, or in your marriage, or your family, or some other circumstance of your life. Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t bear some responsibility for your circumstances — there are things we can and should change, and this teaching is no excuse to make foolish decisions, or not to try to better ourselves. But you should also trust that God “PLACES” you — just as surely as He did Adam in the Garden of Eden — for His wise purposes. It is our responsibility to trust His placement, and to look for His purposes in it — for us, for others, and for the advance of His kingdom.
It really all boils down to trust. We need to learn to trust the God who made us, with every facet of our lives:
When Cheryl & I went to England in 2010 for our 10th anniversary at our church, she said one of the reasons that she really enjoyed the trip as that she just trusted me with the details. She didn’t worry about where we were going next, or how we were going to get there; she just trusted me, and enjoyed it — and it was the trip of a lifetime!
Now this week Cheryl & I are going to Romania, and I have never been there before — but I know someone who has! Bro. Ray & Mrs. Norine are over there right now, and they are going to pick us up at the airport, and now I am in the place of trust. And I can tell you truthfully, I am not concerned with any of the details for the trip. I know Ray has been there 20 or however many times, and I am totally confident that he has it all lined out. I am going to show up and preach, and visit, and do whatever he tells me. I trust him with those details.
But listen: if you are a Christian today, you have Someone even more trustworthy than Ray Miller guiding you: GOD HIMSELF is directing your life!
— We need to trust that He made us just the way He wanted us — with both the strengths & weaknesses that He would use for His glory.
— We need to trust that He will “breathe” into us His Spirit to give us the power to do all that He wants to do through our lives.
— And we need to trust that He has placed us exactly where He wants us to be, for His kingdom purposes, His honor, and His glory.
The Bible tells us that our Father in Heaven is a Master Potter, who FORMED US, who BREATHES into us, and who PLACES us exactly where He wants us. With your life and your circumstances today, put your trust in the Master Potter’s hands!
With our heads bowed, many of us today need to purposefully trust some of our life situations to God:
— Maybe you need to trust that He made you the way He wanted you, and stop wishing for something else, or stop trying to be someone else. Never use that as an excuse to sin — and some of us may need to confess THAT to God this morning — but ask God to use your gifts to serve Him, and even your weaknesses to show His strength.
— Maybe you need to recognize that God has placed you right where you are now for His purposes — and it is time for you to realize it and start being His witness and minister there ….
— Maybe today for the first time you need to ask God to save you and “breathe” His Spirit into your life and make you new.
— or come and pray that God would empower and move in our church with His Spirit in a way that only He can. What if dozens of us as God’s people began to pray that God would do more in 5 minutes in our church than we could do all year? Let’s ask Him to “breathe” His Spirit into us — or maybe into some specific area of your life: your spiritual life, your marriage, your family, some loved one you have on your heart.