Sovereignty and Faith

Sovereignty.

A noun, defined as “supreme power or authority.”

The Bible is loaded with texts describing God’s sovereignty.  The following are just a small sampling:

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11.

“All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”  Daniel 4:35.

“The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them.” Psalm 89:11.

God’s supreme power and authority were recognized by the apostles:

“That I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.” Romans 15:32.

“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” James 4:15.

Clearly, the Bible teaches us that God’s power is above all.  His authority is over all.  God is sovereign.

This reality should make us feel safer, more secure, more confident in the loving, merciful, holy God we’ve come to know.  Yet all too often, in spite of it, we allow Satan’s niggling seeds of doubt to slip in through one of his infamous “if…why” questions, like, “If God is sovereign, why is there so much pain, suffering, and disease in the world?”

Many others have given solid Biblical answers to that question, so I’m not going to focus on that.  What I am going to focus on is our response to God’s sovereignty.

Is it faith or feeling?

If asked whether or not God is sovereign, I believe most Christians would say yes, He is.  But then something bad happens.  You lose your job, and your bills start mounting up as you search week after week, month after month for a new job.  You’re forced to downsize to one vehicle and move into a tiny apartment before finally finding employment and getting back on your feet.  Maybe years go by without you ever getting back to where you previously were financially.

Do you still believe God is sovereign?  Was He still in complete control as you struggled to provide for yourself and maybe your family?

How about illness?  Do we accept God’s sovereignty in the death of a cherished family member or friend?  It’s not so hard when the loved one has lived a full life.  But how about when it’s a child, or a young person my own age, whose life is suddenly taken in some freak accident or by a painful illness?  Is God still sovereign?  Do I still trust Him even as I watch a dear friend suffering from a disease that I know He can heal?  Is my response to His sovereignty one of faith or feeling?

The knowledge that God is sovereign (omnipotent) must be accompanied by two things:

1) the knowledge that He is all-knowing (omniscient) and present everywhere (omnipresent), and

2) a surrender to and faith in Him as the all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful authority.

And that can be really difficult for us.  As humans, we like to know why.  We have to understand why things happen this way or that way.  If we don’t know the reasons behind an action or inaction, we consider it “stupid,” or “dumb.”  Don’t believe me?  Try telling someone to do something unusual without giving them any reasons, and see how they respond.

We want to know why.  But God doesn’t always tell us why.  Just as a good parent knows how much is appropriate to share with a small child, God knows how much is in our best interests to know about why things happen the way they do.

On this ground, our relationship with God is tested.  If we have formed a relationship with Him through trust in His Word, the Bible, we know that He is love (1 John 4:8; John 3:16); that He is self-sacrificing (1 John 4:9, 10); that His heart is moved with compassion by our pain and suffering (Matthew 20:34; Mark 1:41); that His number one priority is to save all who want to be saved (2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11); that He welcomes humble, sincere questions (Psalm 10, 74), but does not accept doubt (Luke 12:29; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 1:6); that He is merciful and gracious (Exodus 34:6); that He is forgiving (Exodus 34:7; 1 John 1:9); that He is both the source of truth and truth itself (John 1:14, 17; John 14:6; John 17:17; Ephesians 4:20-23)…and the list can go on and on.  His Word reveals who He is and what He’s like.  We read it, study it, and through faith accept it (Romans 10:17).  In other words, we choose to believe and trust that this is the way He is; just like we believe and trust that our friends are the way we’ve observed them to be. So if we’ve come to know and trust God through His Word, we will know what we can expect from Him.

For example, if I know He is love, and He is touched by our suffering, it will change the way I view the death of a loved one.  I still may not understand why He didn’t heal my friend, but I will trust that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, and the embodiment of love.  I will know that He is sovereign, even though I don’t understand, and that His will is perfect (Psalm 18:30, Romans 12:2).

Sometimes this is really hard.  Especially in those moments when I think I know the best way for things to happen and then find all my plans thwarted.  But I must make a choice, once and for all.  Do I believe Christ’s Word when it teaches me that He is sovereign, and am I going to trust His sovereignty no matter what?  Like Job, do I trust Him enough to accept good and bad, knowing He showers me with the good, and doesn’t allow more bad than I can handle?

I’ve made my choice.  I believe.  I trust Him.

How about you?

The Basics ~ Adoption: Step 6

Step 6:  The Test of Love

My dear friend, when you reach this step, you’re nearly home!  This is the final step before the great Homecoming, but it’s not an easy one.  In all the epic love stories there is always some test of love.  In the same way, your love for Jesus must be tested.

You see, God must know that you want Him because you love Him; not just because He’s rich and you’ll live eternally in a mansion and walk on streets of gold.  Your love for Him is shown in how you keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 6).  Remember I said earlier that obedience is important?  This is why.

God’s law (the commandments) is His character.  Everything it in points to the loving, just, and merciful God that He is.  His law is who He is.  That’s why keeping it is important.

Now, you might be frustrated and wondering, “How can I keep all God’s commandments?  Some are easy enough, but others are so hard for me.  Nobody’s perfect.  No one can keep the whole law.  Why did God make the test so difficult?”

Well, clearly none of us can keep all of God’s commandments on our own.  Our greatest efforts are pitiful and our willpower is weak.  But with Jesus’ help, anyone can keep all of them.  Remember, I told you that God’s law is His character?  And do you also remember that you must develop a character like His?  Well, guess what?  That’s the key!  God wants to write His law on your heart.  God’s law will be in you!  (Jeremiah 31:33.)  It will be your character, a part of who you are, seen in the way you live!

Some people will tell you that this is impossible because they’ve never seen a person who never, ever sinned anymore after coming to God.  Well, check out the book of 1 John.  God’s Word makes it clear that we should live our daily lives in the way that Jesus has revealed to be right.  This is the essence of walking in the light.  It’s all about obedience to His Word, the day-to-day, moment-by-moment choices to follow in your Savior’s footsteps.

So Jesus invites us all to be reborn, to start our lives afresh with Him, walking in His light.  As long as you are walking in that heavenly light, you can’t stumble.  But if somewhere down the road, you walk away from the light and choose to do your own thing, don’t stay in your fallen state and continue living in sin.  Repent!  Run straight back into the arms of the One who loves you and gave His life for you!  He will forgive you, clean you up again, and put you back on the lighted path.

So putting the two concepts together, when you walk in obedience to Jesus, you are developing His character.  His law is being written on your heart.  Your heart is being knit together with His heart, the natural result of love  which is displayed in obedience (John 14:15).  And this is what puts you on the enemy’s radar.

You see, the enemy has created his own counterfeit of God’s law, a false law that reflects his own selfish, cruel, and evil character.  In this test, he will try to persuade you that his counterfeit law is superior to God’s true law.  He’ll come at you with lying arguments and fake miracles, and if all else fails, he’ll resort to force.  He will even go so far as to take your very life if you won’t follow his law.

Yes, your love for Jesus will be tried in the fires of some very hard experiences.  Jesus spoke of those who love Him being arrested, beaten, persecuted, and even killed by those who have chosen to follow the enemy and his laws (Matthew 10:17-22; Matthew 24:9, 10).  Some of the persecutors you face may even be people you once cherished as close friends, or even family (Mark 13:12).  They will hate you because you love Jesus, and you will feel it keenly (Mark 13:13).  Jesus never sugar-coated this bitter reality; but He did include a beautiful promise to all who would be faithful to Him even it means dying for their faith.  “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10, NKJV.  Jesus won’t leave you to face this alone.  He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20, NIV.  So be strong!  Hold on to your faith and keep trusting your Savior to keep you to the end, because the reward is totally worth it!