Steve’s Devotional – If God is in Charge
APRIL 9, 2018
What is God like? The answer to that question determines how I will act, who I am and the very world in which I live. From the beginning of fallen man’s history, God’s existence has been acknowledged as a fact, but God’s nature has been in question. And so man’s questions have centered on the God he or she knew was there: Where is God? What must I do to get his attention? Is he benevolent, or is he a monster? Does he care, or has he gone away to Bermuda on vacation? Does he love? And then very hesitantly: Does he love me?
And then there was the sound of laughter. Not the cold, cynical laughter of the confused and angry, but the free, warm, exhilarating laughter of a father who brings a surprise gift to his beloved child. In his love, mercy and grace, God’s laughter spilled over into a world that had forgotten how to laugh.
God is for us. God accepts us. God forgives us. God has a purpose for us. And providing a solid foundation to it all, God is sovereign over the world and over our lives. If God is in charge (and he is), how then is he in charge?
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign in that he creates. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The first two of the four cosmological arguments of Thomas Aquinas for the existence of God are very instructive at this point. Aquinas said that motion presupposes an original mover and that an observation of effects forces one to presuppose a first cause. In other words, someone or something must have started all that we observe. The Bible clearly teaches that God is that original mover and that first cause.
Someone will ask what that has to do with my life and God’s involvement in it. There is a sense in which we, as human beings, can be movers too. We can, if you will, be the first cause of a number of effects. The difference between man and God is that when we set something into motion or when we are the first cause of a number of effects, it is a gamble. Without complete knowledge, which we don’t have, we can only attempt to predict what will happen with any action we perform.
Our predictions will never be totally accurate. For instance, I can be the mover of a bowling ball down a lane. It is my hope that I will get a strike, that all ten pins will fall. But from long experience, I have discovered that my hope (i.e., prediction) is not always realized.
My wife and I believed in discipline in our family—not because we liked to discipline, but because we were charged with the responsibility of bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Because our children, as wonderful as they are, are human beings, responsible for their actions, there is always the possibility that they will act in a manner contrary to our hope.
God, however, is the original cause and the prime cause. He is omniscient (i.e., all knowing) and his predictions are always accurate. In other words, he doesn’t make mistakes. When he starts the ball rolling, he always gets a strike; when he disciplines, he always achieves the result he intended.
Because this is so, God’s original act of creation was an act much like throwing a pebble into the still water of a pond. The ripples continue far beyond the original splash of the pebble. God knew exactly how the ripples would occur when he threw the pebble (i.e., created). He knew, for instance, how his act of creation would affect your life right now—both the apparent good and the apparent bad. He knew his act of creation would cause joy and pain. His act of creation was not blind—God didn’t say: “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes.” When he created, he knew every single, minute effect of that creation.
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign also in that he sustains. The psalmist says, “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice” (Ps. 97:1). In other words, God did not (as the deist implies) create the world and then go off on vacation. Even now, the universe owes its continuing existence to the sustaining power of the sovereign God.
Someone tells of a scientist who, in a lecture to a convention on the future of astronomic movements, said that the sun would probably, as other suns before it, burn out in two or three billion years. After the lecture he asked for questions. A very disturbed young woman on the back row said, “How long did you say it would be before the sun would burn out?” He replied, “I said in perhaps two or three billion years.” “Thank heavens,” the young woman said, “I thought you said two or three million years, and I was very frightened.”
Because of God’s sovereignty, we can trust that the sun won’t go out until he decides it should. Because of his sovereign act of sustaining the universe, we can trust that the laws of nature will remain constant.
God is sovereign not only through his creation and sustenance, but also in his actions within that which he creates and sustains. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “[I pray that] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (Ephesians 1:18-19, emphasis added).
The psalmist, in answer to the question of who the King of glory is, says, “The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!” (Ps. 24:8). The Scriptures are replete with countless examples of God’s intervention in his creation, and the greatest of all was when God himself entered time and space to die on a cross for his creatures.
The Bible says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [that’s everybody]. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-8).
There is no such thing as cheap forgiveness—on our part or on God’s part. Forgiveness always costs. Our being forgiven cost God his Son. In God’s action, Jesus bore the cost of our sin on the cross. That means you don’t have to be guilty anymore. The relationship between you and God can be restored. You can be totally, wonderfully, joyfully accepted and forgiven…all as a result of God’s loving and sacrificial action.
God didn’t just talk about love; he didn’t just pontificate on the subject of care from his throne of sovereignty. He came; he acted; he, if you will, put legs to his words.
What does that say to us? Just this: God is a God of action. Our prayers do not go unanswered. He intervenes in his creation in general, and in individual lives in particular. His sovereignty is not just that of decree, but also of interaction.
He Plans for the Future
Finally, God is sovereign in that he plans for the future. I am not one for setting dates for Christ’s return and history’s end. However, I know that history, when it has served God’s purpose, will come to an end, and Jesus Christ will come back to clean up the mess. The Bible says, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Rev. 1:8).
History is not moving in circles but in the exact direction God intended, and it is moving toward a final culmination. History is his story manifesting his plan. God didn’t and doesn’t create, sustain, and act just for the fun of it. He had and has a plan, and he is working it out in time and space.
The exciting thing about the planning of God is that he has called us to be a part of that plan; he has allowed us to become his co-workers in fulfilling his plan. Your actions, prayers, compassion and witness are not meaningless. God has a plan, and even if we don’t know the details of that plan, there is a great degree of comfort just in knowing there is one, and that no matter what else happens, that plan will be accomplished.
In looking at all this, it is important to remember that God’s sovereignty is not just a theoretical rule over creation. Rather, he rules over you and me as individuals. His sovereignty is highly particular…and we, as sons and daughters, are foremost in his thoughts.
Time to Draw Away
Read Psalm 139 & Jeremiah 29:11
What does it mean to you that God is in charge of your life and of the world? Is that a comfort and a place of rest, or just the opposite? After all, if God is in charge, that means we’re not and frankly, it’s hard to give up control. But when we do, we discover God’s “got our back.” God can be trusted in both his sovereignty and his love.
Adapted from Steve’s book If God is in Charge.