I’ve heard people say: If God is so loving, why is there cancer? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t He stop poverty? If He’s so all-knowing why didn’t He intervene on 9/11? If God cares, why am I suffering? If God exists, why doesn’t He do this or change that or fix this or stop that? All of these questions are asking one thing: If God is sovereign, why doesn’t He act like it?
Which is a backdoor way of saying: If I were God, I could do better than He is doing. Isaiah put this in perspective when He wrote: Isa 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
God doesn’t need to justify anything. Here we are on earth and He operates in the stratosphere of understanding. What He does or doesn’t do fulfills a purpose. His decisions or actions come from a higher source of understanding than we can reach. But people still feel they have some right to challenge Him. David told us why: Ps 50:21 "These things you have done and I kept silence [and you think you are justified in reproving Me for how I chose to act?]; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.
The people were judging God based on how they would have done things – what they thought He should have done. Instead of silence, they would have acted. But He is not like us. He has understanding and perspective we don’t have, which we might only gain when we look back and see what He has been doing all along.
That’s why He is God and we’re not. He is sovereign. He has the right, the authority and power to do whatever it takes to accomplish His desires in our lives or in the world. We pray to a sovereign God and yet trust Him to do or not do according to what He knows fits His good plans. He is the God in whom nothing is impossible, who can do all things. Our God is a great and awesome God!
And yet He has given us Free Will to choose our responses. The Bible contains the story of God working around and through the choices made by His people as He completes His plans. Yet God remains undiminished by what choices they make. Nothing can thwart God’s purposes. Does Free Will take away from God’s sovereignty. Not at all. We take nothing away from God. We only take away things from ourselves when we choose poorly.
Some think there is only a certain amount of money in the US. It’s called the Scarcity Mindset. It says there is only so much money to go around and for you to have more I must have less. It leads to the thought that some have too much and others have too little. That’s where redistribution of wealth comes in. Because some have so much more, it should be taken away from them and given to those who have less. That would make things fair. No, you’re not trying to make things fair, you’re trying to make things equal. Do that and within a short amount of time there will again be some with more and some with less.
If we’re divvying up a pie and don’t cut it proportionally, sure, someone might get more than others and giving one person more does take away from someone else. But we’re not starting with only X amount. There’s not a grand total of money to go around.
Now, it’s easy for that Scarcity Mindset to creep into Theology. We think because of Free Will we share power with God. No. We don’t. No one does. He rules from a category of One.
But also, because there is evil in the world, and an enemy in charge of that evil whose objective is to steal, kill and destroy, we think he shares power with God. That there must be a limited amount of power available and the more Satan uses the less God has to use.
Like batteries. We’re used to working on iPads, Laptops and Cell phones that hold only a certain amount of battery charge. We look at how much energy we have left to know if we have enough to operate before we recharge.
In life we use words like: worn out, used up, depleted, exhausted. We often look at life like we do batteries. It’s not hard to become overwhelmed with how much evil we see or overcome by the turmoil in our lives. It drains us. What we are feeling – our pain and fear – grows large because it is consuming too much of our lives. What happens, as problems grow large in our minds, God grows small.
When God grows small, we lose confidence in His ability to be in charge. We begin to doubt His sovereign reign in our lives because of how big or continuous our problems seem. We feel abandoned and lose hope of Him doing anything.
Mark 9:18-24 “I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." And He answered them and said…”Bring him to Me!" They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." [Believes in what, impossible things being done? Or believes in the God who accomplishes the impossible?] Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."
Truth didn’t matter. Perception had taken over. Nothing else had helped. If you can do anything shows more doubt than faith. His turmoil had grown larger than Jesus’ reputation as healer. I believe you can. I just don’t think you will. I’m be-doubting. Trying to straddle the fence of faith, with one foot in belief the other in doubt.
That can happen to us. We say we believe, but when we feel abandoned, we deny God’s promise never to leave nor forsake us. We feel hopeless, so we doubt His plans He has for us, plans for our welfare, not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope. We feel our problem is bigger than God, so we forget Job’s confession: Job 42:2 I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
The problem is: when all we look at is the problem, all we’ll see is problem. When we can’t see what God is doing, we imagine He can’t do anything. We doubt He’s enough to handle what we’re looking at. We throw sovereignty out the window.
When we look to God, we’ll see answer. Which brings us back to faith – that ability to trust God and entrust to God all the issues of life, knowing He is: Eph 3:20 able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us…
When Israel was at Sinai waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, the people grew restless and demanded a golden calf be made for them to worship. Why? They thought they needed to see something tangible in order to believe.
Satan has used that lie ever since – What you can’t see can’t help you. God is out there somewhere but disconnected from and disinterested in your problems. You’d better keep your eye on that problem. Faith is telling us the truth – God is right here, intimately connected to what’s going on.
A farmer is never closer to his soil than when it’s being churned up.
Ps 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and delivers those who are crushed in spirit.
1Pe 1:6-8 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
Faith reminds us God is our Almighty, Sovereign King. As sovereign, He reigns over all His creation. Did you hear the word ALL?
His method is Providence – the ability to foresee and attend to – He can sustain and guide us by looking long-range and affecting circumstances to coincide with future plans.
A child of God is never lost from Him, nor His plans, no matter what choice the child of God makes. Our lives never lose value in God’s eyes just because we experience turmoil. Not even when we’ve caused the turmoil ourselves. Why? Because whatever is meant for evil, God can turn it to good.
Why is the story of Joseph so detailed? God devoted thirteen chapters to tell how Israel got into Egypt, but more so the necessity of Joseph already being there. We learn more about Joseph than almost any other Bible character. Why? So God can have Joseph make the most significant statement about Providence there is in Scripture: Gen 50:19-20 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
But I see way more bad than good. I see way more evil than righteousness. It looks to me like Satan is winning and God is losing. Then change your focus. Quit looking at life through eyes of flesh and look through eyes of faith. Faith says: My God will accomplish what concerns me – that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with me – that nothing is impossible with God. Because greater (always and at all times) is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
How does He do all of that? I don’t know. I just know He does. Deut 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
We’ll never understand completely how God operates as God. We’ll never fully grasp the magnitude of the word sovereign, or explain providence, or figure out free will. But we can live within what God has revealed to us. Which is why we’re going to take our study into the history and purpose of the Temple in Jerusalem. You will be amazed what God did to keep that Temple in place until Jesus came.
- When it comes to Sovereignty, God is in competition with no one.
- When it comes to Free Will, we are competing against God by our own worldly desires and by giving in to Satan’s interference.
- When it comes to Providence, nothing can stop God from fulfilling His purposes.
- When necessary, in order to fulfill those purposes, He has the right to take over completely and do whatever it takes to complete His plans.
- The bottom line is: believe absolutely in sovereignty, trust completely in providence and make wise choices.