Every Detail Under His Control
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.( Proverbs 19:21)
Not only are the willful malevolent acts of other people under God’s sovereign control, so also are the mistakes and failures of other people. Did another driver go through a red light, strike your car and send you to the hospital with multiple fractures? Did a physician fail to detect your cancer in early stages, when it would have been treatable? Did you end up with an incompetent instructor in an important course in college, or an inept supervisor who blocked your career in business? All these circumstances are under God’s controlling hand, as He works them out in our lives for our good.
Neither the willful malicious acts nor the unintended mistakes of people can thwart God’s purpose for us. “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30). The Roman governor Felix unjustly left Paul in prison for over two years because he wanted to grant a favor to the Jews.(Acts 24:27) Joseph was left in prison for over two years because Pharaoh’s cupbearer forgot him.(Genesis 40:14,24) These two godly men were left to languish in prison- one because of deliberate injustice and the other because of inexcusable forgetfulness- but both their predicaments were under the sovereign control of an infinitely wise and loving God.
Nothing is so small or trivial as to escape the attention of God’s sovereign control; nothing is so great as to be beyond His power to control it. The insignificant sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His will; the mighty Roman Empire cannot crucify Jesus unless the power is given it by God(Matthew 10:29; John 19:10,11) And what is true of the sparrow and for Jesus is true for me and you. No detail of life is too insignificant for our heavenly Father’s attention; no circumstances is so big that He can not control it.
When we quote Romans 8:28, “For we know that all things work together for the good of them who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose”, what are we really saying? Is it some things? Is it only the pleasant things? Or is it really everything that in any way touches us?
With this also comes the question of God’s sovereignty. Is He really in control of everything, all the time or do we as humans or powers of evil have control. As we read the Bible, there are times when it appears that some being other than God is in control. In the cases that Jerry Bridges uses, Paul, Joseph, the sparrow, and Christ; it would appear at least on the surface that others are in control. As we read further and the scene unfolds, we see the sovereign control of God. Had not Paul been imprisoned we would not have the rich writings that became a large part of the New Testament. Had Joseph not been forgotten in prison, who knows where he would have been when Pharaoh had the dream and surely Joseph would not have been in the position to help his family. Had not Pilate passed the sentence as the voice of the powerful Roman Empire to crucify Christ, we could have no salvation. The idea that the God of the universe takes notice of a sparrow, literally a worthless bird, tells us that little old us is noticed and cared for.
Let us not be foolish and attribute these things, especially those that bring suffering to the authorship of God. While insurance companies may attribute things as “an act of God”, we dare not for the Bible teaches that “ every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”(James 1:17) But it is true that nothing happens and no being acts out from under the sovereign rule of God. As we read further in Romans 8 we find great hope and comfort in this knowledge of the sovereignty of God.
“What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be [successful] against us? He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]. Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Just as it is written and forever remains written, “ For Your sake we are put to death all day long; We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter .” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Though I freely confess I don’t always understand a lot about a lot of things, I am confident that God is in control. I don’t know why the Covid-19 is happening or who’s to blame. Like you, I am not happy with all the restrictions especially that we cannot meet and fellowship as the church, but I am convinced that if we seek, we will find that even this virus will work toward a greater and more blessed future. Just as God worked His plan through the cases above, I believe He will also work His plan for us as His people. Romans 8:31 says that “If God is for us, who can be successful against us.” I read it this way, “since God is for us” for there is no question that He is. Our confidence in the sovereign control of God for our good is not in us or our work but it lies solely in Christ, “ He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him graciously give us all things?”(verse 32). I am totally convinced that God is working a greater plan for His church. I believe that we are going to experience both spiritual and numerical growth. Therefore, we must turn our hearts and attention to God and trust Him that He is working everything for our good. I’m sure Paul and Joseph chafed while in prison but all the while God was bring them both to a greater purpose. We may choose to focus on all the wrong of our circumstances but all the while God is working for us and for our good. This is no time to sit in despair. It is time to reach for that which God has purposed for us. It is said that those who lose sight enhance their touch and hearing. The loss of one thing brings a more effective use of another. Let us not continue to mourn our loss. Instead let us enhance what we still have, our faith. Everything may feel out of kilter and life may never be the same but we trust in the God who never changes. In this time of trouble, let us ask God to reveal His purpose for us and let us remember those words of Romans 8:37, “Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him that loved us.”
Dr. John Thompson