This past Sunday, when Dillard Ungeheuer gave a report from Gideon’s International, he told the story of a young man on a college campus in Brazil who was given a Bible by the Gideons and angrily threw it into the air. It seemed like such an uncalled for waste of God’s Word….and yet. On a building right next to the place where the incident occurred, a young man was on the roof contemplating suicide. The Bible flew over the ledge and landed on the roof, causing the suicidal young man to pick it up and read it. He committed his life to Christ and was saved as a result. The angry young man on the ground threw the Bible away….and yet God caused eternal good to come out of the sinful act. God specializes in things like this. He orchestrates, allows, and ordains things that are far beyond our ability to totally grasp. Which is why we must trust in Him. And believe that He really can make “all things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28) Even when our life seems so bad.
In 1 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to flee idolatry, remain faithful, and continue following the Lord. As a warning he cites Old Testament Israel, who grumbled against God and were judged for it. Paul writes: “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 (NASB)
As I studied this passage for our Wednesday Night Bible Study, I had to stop and ponder this amazing truth for several minutes. Think about it. God’s sovereignty is so overwhelmingly amazing that He can take one incident and work a million different purposes into it…most of which we don’t even know about, unless He chooses to reveal it to us.
Take the example with Israel. They were disobedient and unfaithful to God. Was God pleased with their sin? Of course not. But he used their wickedness for His eternal purposes. God was still glorified in spite of Israel's obstinance. God’s justice was clearly manifested in His judgment on the people. AND….Through Paul, God used the incident as a warning to the people of Corinth. AND By way of the Bible, God uses this incident as a warning to 21st century Christians.
This means that while Israel was being disobedient, God was not only judging them, but He was also planning to have the Apostle Paul write a letter to the Corinthians thousands of years later, using this as an example of what NOT to do. Then He ordained that Christians through the centuries would read and study 1 Corinthians and learn the same lesson. Then He ordained that a hick Pastor in Pleasanton, Kansas would teach on the passage in 2007 and write a blog about it, further using the example of Israel as a warning to God’s people. When I ponder that, I am amazed not only at God’s sovereignty over all things (including evil acts). I’m also amazed at God’s ability to take such evil things and use them for His eternal purposes.
I think when we meditate upon God’s sovereignty we should be amazed….but we shouldn’t be surprised. God is great and glorious and all-knowing, and all-powerful, and perfect and pure and holy and righteous and just…..and within all of those attributes He orchestrates human history (including our lives) in such a way that He “works all things after the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11 NASB)
So much of God’s sovereignty is beyond us. Because of that we have a tendency to downplay God’s control and dupe ourselves into thinking WE are really the ones calling the shots. This is a tragic error for anyone to make. I refuse to apologize for the Sovereignty of God. Though I don’t always understand what He’s up to….I don’t have to. HE is God. HE is in control. And HE will work things out for my good and HIS glory because I am a follower of HIS and I “love God” and I am “called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)
It’s not always easy to say this….but as Christians we must always believe it and train our hearts to live it…even in times of catastrophic trial. If I die young, then God will use my death for His glory. If I live to be 100, then God will use my life for His glory. If I get fired from my job, then God will use that for His glory. IF I stay at my current job until I die, then God will use that for His glory. If I suffer from chronic Acid Reflux Disease, then God will use that for His Glory. If I have a paralyzing stroke, then God will use that for His glory. You can plug in whatever scenario applies to your life….and say the same thing. The events of life might change….but GOD never does.
While I don’t apologize for God’s sovereignty, I would suggest that Christians be wise and compassionate in how they live it out and speak it in day to day life. For example, if you have a friend that loses a loved one in some tragic accident, I WOULDN’T suggest that you nonchalantly stroll up to them and say, “Oh well, I guess it was just God’s will…..you better accept it.” That would be insensitive and foolhardy. On the contrary, love them, support them, weep with them, pray with them and trust that at some point down the road, if they continue to follow Christ, then God will work out the theological lesson in His own time. He might even use you to do it…but not if you’re insensitive and callous to the suffering of others.
With all of that said, I encourage all Christians to stop, think, and MARVEL at the God of all sovereignty. Marvel at the God who takes a disobedient people like Israel and teaches us a lesson from it. Marvel at the God who ordains suffering in our lives and then uses it to make us more like Christ. Marvel at the God who has a million different purposes being worked out by one seemingly insignificant act. Marvel that this God of all Sovereignty is actually willing to allow you to know Him. And to know Him deeply. Take advantage of the grace He gives. Walk with Him. Love Him. Persevere. Endure trials. And in all of that….as you look to God. Marvel at how “in control” He really is. Fall on your knees. Fall on your face. Think about God……..and marvel.