In the Lord’s Hand
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.(Proverbs 21:1)
How are we to respond when we find ourselves desperately needing a favorable decision of action on another person’s part? Can we trust God that He will work in the heart of that individual to bring about His plan for us? Or consider the instance when someone is out to ruin our reputation or jeopardize our career. Can we trust God to intervene in that person’s heart so he doesn’t carry out his evil intent?
According to the Bible, the answer is yes. God does sovereignly intervene in people’s hearts so that their decisions and actions accomplish His purpose for their lives. Yet God does this in such a way that these people act by their free and voluntary choices.
Perhaps the clearest biblical statement that God does sovereignly influence the decisions of people is found in Proverbs 21:1. Charles Bridges comments that here the “general truth” of God’s sovereignty over the hearts of all people “is taught by the strongest illustration- his uncontrollable sway upon the most absolute of all wills-the king’s heart.
In our day of limited monarchies, it may be difficult for us to appreciate full the force of what Charles Bridges is saying. But in Solomon’s time the king was an absolute monarch. There was no separate legislative body to make laws he wouldn’t like or a Supreme Court to restrain him. The king’s word was law. His authority over his realm was unconditional and unrestrained.
Yet God controls that king’s heart. The stubborn will of the most powerful monarch on earth is directed by God as easily as the farmer directs the flow of water in his irrigation canals. The argument, then is from the greater to the lesser- if God controls the king’s heart,surely He controls everyone else’s. All must move before His sovereign influence.
Far too often we attempt to take upon ourselves the task of influencing change or others decisions. If we, for example, are desiring a promotion, we will attempt to attract and incur the boss’s favor. We will exert ourselves to better performance and yet after all that effort we may find ourselves receiving a decision that is at best disappointing. Our response then is anger or jealously or depression. In those moments when we feel that there are those “out to get us”, we may feel helpless to stop a smear campaign or the destroying of our reputation with those we care for.
When we look at Proverbs 21:1 we find that it is God who can influence a heart. So we bring our situation to Him and trust Him to bring about the best solution for us. When we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we are asking God to exert His influence in us and toward us. If it is God’s will for us to be promoted or to get the raise or receive the recognition we may rightly deserve, as we pray for His kingdom to come and His will be done, we are trusting Him to influence those who are the decision makers to respond according to His will for us and them.
Several years ago the church I was pastor of needed to purchase some land. Over the years the community had grown around the church and it was becoming landlocked. As I was in prayer one day, the Lord instructed me to pursue purchasing additional land. The only available was part of a developing subdivision. After praying about it for several days, I made an appointment with the owner. At first he was amendable to me buying the land until I told him it was for the church. Once he discovered that, he told me that he was not interested in selling to a church. He would just hold it until someone like was interested. You can imagine my disappointment for I really believed I had heard from God. I went back to my office and called my youth pastor to join me and we prayed together over the matter. Feeling led by God we went out and walked the lines of the property asking God to make the purchase possible if that was His will. A few weeks went by and one day I received a call from the property owner who said, “I don’t know why I’m doing this but if you all are still interested, I’ll sell the church this land. Furthermore, I’m reducing my asking price by $4000 for you all.” I was literally flabbergasted. Though we had prayed, the reality was quite unbelievable. We met as a congregation to decide whether to move on this. I must tell you that we were a small congregation and our weekly offerings were barely enough to meet our current obligations. We met for eight meetings. As we approached the last meeting and the congregation indicated it was favorable to purchase, I still had no clue where we were going to find the finances. As we waited before the Lord, one of our deacons offered to lend the church a portion of the money at no interest. Thankful for that offering, I still couldn’t see how we were going to find the rest of the funds. So again we waited in prayer before the Lord. A widow stood to her feet and told us the Lord had directed her to lend the church the balance at no interest. Do you see how God worked sovereignly to bring about His plan? He first influenced my heart to pursue the opportunity. He influenced the heart of the owner to sell. He influenced the congregation to buy. He influenced the deacon and the widow to make the funds available.
So if you are in a place that others have the control over decisions affecting you, bring the matter to the Lord and trust Him that “His kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
On another occasion, while working as a technician, I through a series of incidents beyond my control incurred the disfavor of my supervisor. That year at evaluation and pay increases I received a 10 cent per hour raise and my coworkers received 50 cents. Though that hurt, I determined with God’s help to not let the disparity affect my work ethic and attitude. Several of my coworkers upon finding out approached me and asked me what I felt about it. My response was that God was my source and that whatever he chose to provide would always be sufficient. One day is was called to the plant manager’s office. I learned that the disparity had gotten the attention of the V.P. He began an investigation as he initially felt that if my performance was so poor in comparison with my coworkers then perhaps I should be terminated. As he learned that was not the case, he became incensed with the situation. He decided based on his findings to override my immediate supervisor and I was given a dollar per hour raise. My temptation then was to gloat but the Lord gently reminded me that He was who had exerted His influence on the behalf of His child and that it had nothing to do with my abilities or influence. During that time, the supervisor constantly attempted to make life hard and each time it just backfired. I watched in amazement as God continually kept me by his grace and how the team saw the obvious plan of this supervisor. In all that time God gave me grace to not have an attitude toward this person.
I’ve told these stories, and I have many more to say that you can trust God to move, to influence those around you and to change whatever is necessary to bring about His will for you. If what you want or need to happen isn’t happening right now, it may be that it’s not God’s will or someone is being stubborn. Either way you can know that the outcome will be the best for you that God can provide.
Dr. John Thompson