Our Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) is divided into eighteen articles, reflecting the common and helpful practice of systematizing our theology. The BF&M describes God this way: "There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being."
Those whom God used to pen His Word were not so focused on systematic categories — they were rightly focused on Him and what they encountered as they obeyed Him. These writers of Scripture had such an intimate relationship with the LORD that they spent little time debating His existence or defining His character. Their experience of God and experiences with God served as the background of their lives. The reality of God in their daily walk was far more present to them than the operating systems on our computers — always there, always running, never obtrusive, but oh, so real! I have this same sense of God's never-failing presence in my daily life through my relationship with Jesus Christ, His Son and my Savior.
God is my Father
Unlike Martin Luther, I had a father who loved me and cared for my well-being. Thus, to think of God as my Father is natural as well as supernatural. I have had no reservation or hindrance in ascribing to Him the qualities of a caring Father and having the assurance that He was listening to me when I pray. This has been true regardless of whether I asked for Him to make me acutely aware of His presence during moments of uncertainty (Isaiah 26:3 has been especially meaningful to me) or to give me hope and courage in times of trouble (among other verses, God has led me to Romans 5:1-5 in such times). He is the Father who gave His only Son as a gift to me and all who would receive Him. Upon receiving Him into my heart as Savior and Lord (John 3:16), I became a child of God and will be forever His child, not by my goodness, but by His grace.
God is my Guide
I have always sought to lean upon the LORD and His guidance in my decisions. Sometimes He has delayed His answer, but He has never failed to answer — in His timing. In fact, through the years, I have learned that His will is inextricably bound to His Word and His timing (take, for example, Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, or the flow of the Jordan River stopping at the precise moment the priests stepped into the waters, allowing the children of Israel to cross). I believe this so strongly I have incorporated this thought when advising young people who are listening and looking for the will of God. I have counseled them not to make a decision to move to another place of ministry until God has given them a release from their present place of ministry as well as a call to a new place of ministry. His word is faithful and true. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
Unfortunately, a young person may be drawn in the wrong direction from early in his or her life. The only recovery is in God's forgiveness and restoration through faith in Jesus Christ. For this redemption, we give thanks. However, repenting of wrong choices does not absolve a person from experiencing the consequences of choosing his own way rather than God's Way. When God forgives, He removes our transgressions from us. But He does not remove the natural consequences of those poor choices. Though every believer will ultimately be fully conformed to the character of His Son (Romans 8:29), many wander in the wilderness during their sojourn here on earth (as did the people of Israel after their refusal to follow God's plan at Kadesh-Barnea).
Each time an individual maneuvers himself into a coveted place or position while claiming the will of God, he not only is untruthful to himself; he defies God and uses the wonderful Name of our Lord for his own purposes. Ultimately, however, that individual finds himself bereft of the blessings of God upon His life and ministry. For this reason, a missionary long ago said, "The safest place in all the world is the will of God."
God is my Source of Wisdom
Wisdom is a gift of God. We should seek His wisdom at all costs. The more educated we become, the more we tend to believe that growing in knowledge is the equivalent of gaining godly wisdom. It is not so! Many have become learned men and women of their day, but have failed to exercise true wisdom. They confuse the knowledge they have gained (which has its important place) with divine wisdom (which is from above). We can be astute theologically, and yet personally miss knowing and experiencing the wisdom of God in our daily lives. A man who does not know God can grow in knowledge because he learns the lessons learned and taught by other men. J. I. Packer wrote this: "If one has been given a good bump of common sense one may frequently be able to use this learning to help floundering Christians of less stable temperament to regain their footing and develop a sense of proportion about their troubles ... and [yet] hardly know God at all" (Knowing God, Downer's Grove: IVP, p. 22).
Some Christians believe all wisdom is found in the Bible to the exclusion of God's Spirit revealing wisdom in the heart of the believer. It is true that all wisdom is in accord with God's Holy Word. It is also true that God's Spirit speaks to our hearts (since I have never heard His voice audibly, I often use the phrase that God's Spirit has impressed me as only He can) and gives us wisdom to follow His plan for our lives.
God is my Fullness
Although it comes at you fast, life is engaging. Many personal and corporate experiences bring happiness, joy, fulfillment, expectancy, and thanksgiving. Nothing brings greater joy than the experience of salvation, knowing that it is strictly a gift from God which is unmerited by our goodness. We learn that God loves us unconditionally. There are no limits to the love of God. He loves the peoples of the world so much that He gave us the Great Commission to tell the world what Jesus has done for us. An obedient life that is fully dependent upon the leadership of the Lord is a joy-filled and victorious life. If we will let Him, He will encourage us each step of the way.
Living for Christ far supersedes any peace, happiness, or contentment we can manufacture for ourselves through raw ambition, greed, self-aggrandizement, self-promotion, worldly and fleshly pursuits, or self-appointed power. Though God may allow a believer to have these things, somewhere along the way, the pursuer discovers the futility of striving after things of the world and not of the Spirit. We must always be on guard not to forsake Him by being drawn to lesser pursuits of the world and the flesh.
I fear that we too often equate success with fulfillment. Yet success and fulfillment are two distinctive descriptions of that which results from the way we spend our time in this life. A person can be temporally successful without being spiritually fulfilled. Conversely, a person who is fulfilled in Christ is successful in the eyes of the Heavenly Father.
There is no greater fulfillment than knowing that while you were not perfect, you fully surrendered yourself to love and obey our Lord Jesus Christ. The believer who has lived for Christ, and Christ alone, can rejoice in the goodness of God.
God is my Provider and Protector
The Christian has many blessings about which to rejoice. God's Word promises us that God Himself is sufficient. It is also true that life is filled with disappointments, discouragements, and disillusionments. God never promised us that life would be without hurt and heartache. But He has promised to be with us in the good times and bad. He promised that He would never leave us or forsake us, and He promised that nothing could separate us from His love
God is much more than this brief description can convey. He is the Alpha and the Omega — the One who is, and who was, and who is to come (Revelation 1:8). He is our eternal Father, strong to save. He is the Rock of Ages, in whom I find my refuge. He is my Light and my Salvation (Psalm 27:1) and my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).
In this article, I freely used the personal pronoun "my" to describe my perspectives of God. I do this first, because it is biblical to do so. The patriarchs and the godly kings did not hesitate to refer to God in very personal terms. Jesus taught us to reference God as "our" Father — reflecting a personal relationship. The Apostle Paul used the endearing term "Abba, Father," to describe the relationship of the believer to our Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.
But I also do this because the Lord saved me when I was seven years of age during a revival at the First Baptist Church in Laurel, Mississippi. At the age of twelve, I felt God was calling me to vocational ministry. During the invitation at Royal Ambassadors Camp at Camp Garaway, I answered His Call, totally unaware of the experiences that awaited me. I never could have perceived the good times or the bad times I would face across the years. But with His Word I have a compass; and with His Spirit within me, I have an unwavering determination to follow His direction to the best of my ability. Sometimes I have failed Him, but He has never failed me.
Never have I regretted long ago giving the Lord all of me when all of me was not much. He took my willingness and guided me gently, yet firmly, and always in His timing. I shudder to think what my life would have been like had God not reached down and loved me enough to use me in His Kingdom's work. Though I shall praise Him for all eternity, it shall be insufficient for what He has done in the life of a boy in Kosciusko, Mississippi, who simply said, "I will." To this day, due to my imperfections, I pray constantly that I will not fail Him or embarrass Him by what I do or fail to do, say or fail to say. May God help us glorify Him until we see Jesus face to face!
Morris H. Chapman is a member of Thompson Station Baptist Church in Thompson Station, Tennessee, and is president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.