I really love today’s question: “Hello, Pastor John. My name is Alex and I live in Alabama. I was just thinking today about all the things that run out. Money runs out, food runs out, sex runs out, cars run out, time runs out, and people run out of time and die. But God never runs out. Can you elaborate on that subject? It seems like a reminder to not rely on things, but on the eternal God.”
I am so eager for this question. I’m so thankful that Alex simply threw open the door for me to talk about the inexhaustibility of God. Here are a couple of reasons why I’m so excited to talk about this.
One is that my introduction to Reformed theology fifty years ago was not mainly through secondary theological sources, but through texts of the Bible that elevated the self-sufficiency, the inexhaustibility, of God as high as it possibly could be elevated. In other words, what struck me is that the very Godness of God is that he is absolutely free, absolutely self-sufficient. He has no needs from outside himself, but is completely and eternally sufficient in himself, and not just sufficient but a Vesuvius of joy in the fellowship of the Trinity, so that he has absolutely no need of me whatsoever, but is so full that he is prone to overflow with a river of pleasures toward those who will have him as their supreme treasure. That picture of God years ago from the Bible was ravishing to me.
The second reason this is such a golden invitation to me is that just the day before yesterday, I received an email from a friend who has gone through years of very, very hard times. And he wanted to thank me, even though I was part of the hard times, for something from a message years ago. I’ll just quote what he sent me: “Grace is the overflow of God’s self-sufficiency. So, you can’t have grace if you don’t have an utterly, infinitely, gloriously self-satisfied, all-sufficient, overflowing God who does not need you at all.” That’s the picture of God that he was sustained by. That’s the meaning of grace that held him and kept him from making shipwreck of his faith. Grace is the overflow of the self-sufficiency of a God who doesn’t need him.
“God is on the lookout for anyone who is humble enough and weak enough to let him be strong for them.”
That’s what grace is: it’s the overflow from an inexhaustible fountain, which means that the only way we can relate to God so that he’s pleased and so that it glorifies him is not by hauling buckets of human labor up the mountain and pouring our supply into the pure, inexhaustible mountain spring of God, but rather by falling on our face exhausted, and putting our faith and our face in the water, and coming up and saying, “Ah, that’s so good. Thank you, God, for the overflow that you are for me.”
Giver of All
Now I’ve eaten up half my time telling you why I’m so excited to talk about this question. So, let’s consider, in the time that remains, just a few passages of Scripture that celebrate the fullness of God to the point where he doesn’t need us at all, and where it would be an offense to him if we tried to become his benefactors. For example, Acts 17:25: “[God is not] served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
And that’s not just true of God the Father; it’s true of Christ as he comes into the world. Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We don’t serve him — he serves us, or we die.
Romans 11:34–36: “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Nobody — you can’t give God counsel. “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” Nobody — you can’t loan God anything to put him in your debt. Why? “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Owner of the Earth
Or Psalm 50:10–15 — Spurgeon calls this “Robinson Crusoe’s text” because, if you read that novel, you realize Crusoe used these verses to get himself through.
Every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills. . . .
If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:10, 12–15)
That’s amazing. So, how do we glorify a God who has absolutely no needs and has all resources in himself? Answer: By not being his benefactors, but his supplicants. By calling on him for help. Then we get deliverance; he gets the glory. Or as the psalm says, “I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” “You get the deliverance; I get the glory.”
“The very Godness of God is that he is absolutely free, absolutely self-sufficient.”
This is what stunned me years ago: the bigger God gets, the more self-sufficient he becomes, and the less he needs me, then the more resourceful he can be for me, and the more riches of glory he has to pour out freely on me, and the more glorious he looks when we find our joy in him. What a God! That’s exactly the way God wants us to experience his absolute fullness and self-sufficiency. He wants us to experience it as the source of inexhaustible grace.
Helper of the Weary
Listen to the way Isaiah 40:28 makes the connection:
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
What’s the consequence of all that self-sufficiency?
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength. . . .
They shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29, 31)
So, the inexhaustible hand of God is good news for the exhausted.
Sustainer of the Humble
I remember in those early days when I was first being amazed by this kind of self-sufficient, inexhaustible, overflowing God, two of my passages were 2 Chronicles 16:9 and Isaiah 64:4.
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
In other words, he’s on the lookout — he is actually on the lookout — for anyone who is humble enough and weak enough to let him be strong for them.
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)
In other words, God’s uniqueness — nobody’s seen a God like this — is that in his overflowing fullness, he delights to work for us, rather than have us work for him. The giver gets the glory.
No Help Wanted
So, not surprisingly, this kind of absolutely self-sufficient, inexhaustible, overflowing God is where the gospel comes from, the gospel of our salvation. For those who have absolutely no way to save themselves, he says,
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)
It’s like the machine shop that I jogged by for years until it closed recently. It had a permanent “Help Wanted” sign nailed to the wall on the side of the building. Every time I’d go by, almost, there was a big, permanent “Help Wanted” sign. But some days there was a big red diagonal line through the sign with a big No in the middle of it: “No Help Wanted.” And I used to leap for joy while I was jogging, saying, “That’s my God! That’s my gospel! No help wanted. No help needed. No help demanded. ‘I exist to be inexhaustible and to help those who will trust me. That’s my glory.’ That’s the glory of the gospel.”
So amen, Alex. Everything else runs out, like you said. But God never runs out. He will be giving and giving and giving to all eternity as we receive and receive and receive like little children with joy.