God is in control. We hear this phrase a lot in churches especially during difficult times or when we see the world in chaos. We hear it as a source of comfort to allow us to cope with the unknown and to hopefully live understanding that we can’t know everything. The bible expands on this idea of sovereignty. That even though evil seems to prosper and that good often falls, God is just and that in the end good shall overcome.
“Does he who fashioned the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?” Psalm 94:9
“He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the lord our God will destroy them.” Psalm 94:23
The older I get, the more I believe this idea to be true. When we are younger, we like to think we are in control of our lives and everything around us, but so much of our life is dictated by our circumstances. For example, where we live, our jobs, our friends, our relationships are often more of a matter of where we find ourselves and the circumstances that have occurred that are out of our control. The path of least resistance is usually where we end up.
Now I’m not saying our choices don’t matter, because it’s true that we make choices everyday that have real consequences, both good and bad that can affect our life. I guess what I am saying is that it’s at least a combination of both. For example, things like what we eat can affect our health, but our DNA and family history has even more to say about it.
The area of where we really have the most control is our spiritual growth, an area which has eternal consequences, remembering that this isn’t our home anyways and that this life is more of a proving ground. This world is a place where we prepare for how we will spend eternity. That one day this world will pass away and a new world, ruled directly by God will take its place.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil. 3:20-21
“Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” 2 Samuel 6:22a
I have always loved this story for so many reasons. David is called a man after God’s own heart, so what David did during life should be looked at. Obviously David was still human and he did do things that displeased God. He was still a sinner. God punishes David and others when they sin and so we can tell the difference of when he was following God and when he was not.
For instance, the first time David attempts to bring the Ark to the City of David, it doesn’t go well. He chooses to transport the Ark using a cart and oxen which is not how God had instructed them to move it. So God punishes them for disobedience.
“the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead.” 2 Samuel 6 6-7a NLT
David was celebrating right before this happened. They were praising God and moving the Ark which was a good thing, but they were not doing it how God had told them to do it. Everyone is always concerned with the destination or the end goal and often we think no matter the cost, no matter the method. It’s in our culture, in our movies and in our books. But God is saying, I am more concerned with the journey, of how you get there. The second time, when David moves the Ark he does it the way God wanted. Still celebrating, but with more humility and honoring of God by obeying him.
“After the men who were carrying the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.” 2 Samuel 6:13-15 NLT
“Please let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the Lord your God…that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.” Jer. 42 2b-3
I think in our hearts, we want to do what is right and to find favor in this world. Maybe it’s with work or with family or as in this case with God. The trick is of course figuring out how to do that while living our daily life. It’s not always as simple or cut and dry as we might want. Some choices are easy and some are hard. Sometimes it might seem like we are doing the right thing, maybe even thinking we are doing the Godly thing. But using our own wisdom and discernment, we can sometimes be lead astray.
“So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts…And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook…and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent…and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.” 1 Sam. 4: 4-11
The Israelites took matters into their own hands here. They had seen the ark used in battle with great success and so they thought that it would again give them victory. They were using something that was of God, but they never asked God to be in it. Their faith was misplaced and they paid dearly for it.
It kind of reminds me of how some have tried to use the bible or the law to provoke others to change. Simply stating rules and condemning others for not following what they had deemed most important. If I am honest, this is how I saw the world when I first became a Christian. The church I belonged to helped to reinforce this idea. It wasn’t till years later that I learned that the law without love only leads to condemnation and suffering. It is by faith alone and not the law that we are saved. There is great freedom in knowing that we are forgiven by faith and not by keeping a set of rules. That way, when we fail, and we will fail, it’s okay. God will always love us, no matter what.
“And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will given, and he will have abundance;”” Matthew 13:10-12a NKJV
Have you ever thought about the blessing of knowing and understanding. How when we read the bible as a Christian, we can understand in a way that a non-Christian would not? Or maybe how understanding has grown after more time of reading the bible. I think that is what Jesus is getting at here. That when we first believe, God sends within us His spirit and our eyes and ears are opened to see things in new way. We gain wisdom. As time goes on, that same Spirit shows us new things and we gain more understanding.
Of course I remember another verse coming to mind that to whom much has been given, much will be required. Pastors like to use that verse to talk about money and how as Americans we are blessed and need to help those who have less. All of that I believe is true, but in my opinion applies to this even more. God has given us this message of hope and light and asks us to be bold in spreading the gospel to every lost soul and dark place. I forget this so quickly and am silent too often. God has called each and every one of us who believes to be His light in some way. I don’t have to sell everything I have or move to a foreign country to do that either. I just need to be willing to move or be moved by that same Spirit that has blessed me with understanding. I want to stand before God one day and know that there are others there with me because I was bold.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Rev. 21 1-3
This passage is often used to comfort those who are going through a tragedy or time of trial. To me it is comforting because it speaks to the temporary nature of the things that we experience here on Earth and more importantly testifies to the eternal glory of God. According to legend, these versus were being spoken by a man of the cloth as the Titanic was sinking. In those moments, when things are out of control, we finally want to let go of this world and surrender to God and His power.
I believe that true happiness in life is found when this idea becomes part of everyday life. This idea of surrender can actually give us freedom and joy. It takes the pressure off and helps us to see what is really important and who is really in control. It’s a perspective or idea of where blessings truly come from. When I read the Old Testament, it speaks of this pretty clearly.
“He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great. May the Lord give you increase more and more, you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth.“ Psalm 115:13-15
I wish I could say that this is my mentality at all times, but I am so quick to take credit for things and accomplishments. I mean I worked hard for that or look at what I made. But if God had not blessed me, then I could do nothing. He has blessed me with the talents that I have, the intelligence, strength, whatever it is so that I can do what I have done in my life. All the glory belongs to Him.
God, help me to remember that all good things come from you. Let me live a life of surrender.
“Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes before you as a consuming fire.” Deuteronomy 9:3a NKJV
One overwhelming truth is evident as I study the bible, God is faithful. This promise is given to the nation of Israel as they are about to cross over the Jordan River into the promise land. Their journey that started over 40 years before in Egypt is drawing to a close at last. There are still many obstacles in front of them and they are worried. God has guided them through the wilderness, giving them water and food daily. He has protected them and visibly shown Himself to the nation, but they are still worried. So God once again with compassion reminds them of who He is.
Boy does that sound familiar. When I stop and look at all that God has blessed me with through my life, I am amazed and often am driven to tears. I was lost in the wilderness for many years and did things that should have brought destruction upon me, either worldly or heavenly, but God actually protected me from myself. He went on to guide me to a place where I could find Him and find the life I was meant to lead. And yet, there are still times when I forget how sovereign He is and begin to worry about nothing. Thankfully, God is compassionate, and He gently nudges me to remember who He is and all that He has done and will do in the future.
“The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea. Your testimonies are very sure; Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever. Psalm 93:4-5 NKJV
God, You are so good. I will never understand this side of heaven why you chose to use me, to bless me the way you have. I pray that I would remember ever day your mercy and grace that you have lavished in my life. Help me to spread that grace to those in my life.
“We praise You, God, we praise You, for Your Name is near; people tell of Your wonderful deeds. You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm”” Psalm 75:1-2 NIV
These words are hard to speak with any measure of enthusiasm when things are not going well. When the world seems to be spinning out of control or when tragedy strikes I have trouble believing it. When things happen like what occurred on Monday in Moore, Oklahoma many begin to wonder just how much God is in control. It causes us to question how God could allow such things to happen, especially when it involves the loss of children. There have been other times in my life where I have lost friends or family and this is where my heart was taken.
But honestly, I can’t have it both ways. Yes God is sovereign and all things happen because he allows them too, but free will has determined that life is going to be unpredictable and often messy. When man first sinned in the garden, we decided that we wanted to do things our way and the fall has brought with it many consequences. This includes the storms of life which take many forms. God does not leave us to ourselves though. He wants to walk through all of these things with us and draw us to Him.
For me, music has always had a special place in my heart and allows me to put things in perspective. God speaks to my soul through great songs. So I would like to share this song with you all because it has helped me.
God, help us to have faith. Help us to praise you no matter what. Help us to be the church to a lost world. Help us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the broken.