These notes are from a talk by Duncan Forbes at the recent Reaching the Unreached [http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk/] conference in Barnsley. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Duncan intended. Part one is here.
3. God has sovereignly arranged deprived neighbourhoods for our benefit
‘From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.’ (Acts 17:26-27) Everything and everyone has told me I need to escape my council estate. But if I know that God has arranged my council estate and he has arranged for me to live there so that I would search for God then it will change my attitude. It means we cannot complain about our up-bringing. God arranged that I would be a scared kid living high up in a tower block with a sick mother so that I would find him. If I had grown up somewhere else then I might not be a Christian now. God arranged my deprived neighbourhood for my benefit. And not only is the estate given to us by God to save us, but also to make like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). It is his means of sanctification in my life.
It is important that we proclaim this because many people cannot stand living on their estate. Many of us have seen ministries grow only to see them die back because people have moved on. It is not always wrong to leave an estate, but we must not see it as an enemy to be avoided. It changes everything if we view our council estate as God’s means to save us and make us like Jesus. This will help people stay on the estates and cope with hardships.
4. Nothing can stop God accomplishing his purpose
‘I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ (Isaiah 46:10) ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.’ (Job 42:2)
In deprived areas many people feel powerless. We believe that power belongs to politicians or bankers. This is why many of us do not pursue middle-class means of improvement. We do not have power. Growing up it took years for the council to mend a broken window in our flat. So I grew to assume the authorities were not there to help. I remember a middle-class friend phoning the police after an incident with his son. I assumed nothing would happen. But almost immediately he had an interview with a high ranking officer.
Is God going to help us with our addictions? Is God going to help us plant a church? We feel like we don’t have the resources to plant a church. I remember a well-known Christian speaker saying, ‘I know what it’s like to plant a small church – on my first week I only had 80 people.’ This kind of statement crushes you when your church has been 10-20 people for years.
But nothing can stop God accomplishing his purpose. Jesus has promised to build his church. So we can drop our excuses and our victim mentality.
5. God is in control of our physical safety
This is important in deprived areas because children plan their route to school to avoid getting jumped. I have had children say they cannot come to college the next day because a gang had threatened to beat them up. Elderly people do not leave their houses for fear of getting robbed. Physical protection is a big issue in deprived areas.
‘O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no-one to rescue me.’ (Psalm 7:1-2)
Here is a prayer to pray in the morning before you leave the house. It can be prayed in any situation when you feel threatened. I do not need to carry a blade or get a vicious dog because I have got my minder – Yahweh.
And if we do get hurt it is something that God has created to make us like Christ because being like Christ is more valuable than not getting hurt. This also means I can avoid taking vengeance.
6. God is in control of who gets saved
‘For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.’ (Romans 9:15-16)
‘The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.’ (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
If God wants to give someone repentance then he will. Why is this important? Probably in your areas there are not massive queues of people trying to get into church. It can be discouraging. It is important to remember that God is in control of who gets saved.
One bloke in our church said: ‘Shane is a guy who can’t get saved.’ But within a year God in his sovereignty had saved him. Shane got saved a Calvinist because God’s sovereignty was so clear in his experience!
I can tell a drug-dealer the gospel because God may grant him salvation.
This stops us becoming proud. As Christians we loose our rough edges and become more middle-class. We can think, ‘I don’t do that anymore; I’m a good Christian.’ But remembering that we are only who we are because God chose us will stop us becoming proud. ‘The only reason I’m not beating my wife is because God chose me. The only reason I’m not off my head on drugs is because God chose me.’