God or Chance?
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
In divine providence, God sustains and governs His universe, bringing all events to their appointed end. This doctrine, however, is scarcely accepted among people today.
The non-Christian, for the most part, has ruled out both the creating act of God and His Providence. Randomness, luck, chance, fate- that is modern man’s answer to the age old question, “Why?” Of course, there’s no other alternative if one dismisses the whole idea of God, as many do.
Many others, while not dismissing the idea of God, have fabricated a God of their own speculation. Seventeenth-century deism constructed a God who created a universe and then walked away to leave it running according to its natural laws and man’s devises. Many people today are practical deists. Even Christians often think as deists, accepting the concept that God is sovereign but believing He chooses not to exercise His sovereignty in the daily affairs of our lives.
In His well-known statement about sparrows, Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father….Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows”(Matthew 10:29,31). According to Jesus, God does exercise His sovereignty in very minute events- even the life and death of an almost worthless sparrow. And Jesus’ whole point is: If God so exercises His sovereignty in regard to sparrows, most certainly He will exercise it in regard to His children. While it is certainly true that God’s love for us does not protect us from pain and sorrow, it’s also true that all occasions of pain and sorrow are under the absolute control of God. If God controls the circumstances of the sparrow, how much more does He control the circumstances that affect us? God does not walk away and leave us to the mercy of uncontrolled random or chance events.
We know from Scripture that in the fall of humanity, as sin entered into their lives, pain and sorrow would be the consequences. From the moment humanity gave itself over to the dominion of Satan, troubles, trials and heartache would become its constant companion. I realize there are those who would tell us that if we lived right, prayed right, and so forth, we would be exempt from pain and suffering. What we fail to grasp is that once we removed ourselves from the protection of God, the destroyer would work to have his way,
The story of Job gives us valuable insight into the sovereignty of God over us and His limiting of the work of Satan toward us. In the conversation between God and Satan concerning Job, Satan says to God, “You won’t let me touch him.” We read that Satan accuses Job of only following God because of the blessings and God accepts the challenge. Again we are told that God limits what Satan can do. However you read this story and it may appear that Job is the pawn in the contest, you must see the sovereignty of God. In the first appearance by Satan God limits him to only touching Job’s possessions.
“Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that Job has is in your power, only do not put your hand on the man himself.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
In the second appearance Satan again says that while someone may lose their possessions and still trust God, if they suffer personally, they will cease following. God responds to the challenge, but again we see His sovereign control over Job and over his life.
“Satan answered the Lord, “ Skin for skin! Yes, a man will give all he has for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh [and severely afflict him]; and he will curse You to Your face.”
So Job becomes inflicted with boils but the sovereignty of God limits even this and tells Satan that he can inflict but he can’t touch his life.
“So the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life.”
Now I know this story is a little crazy but I think it illustrates the point. Even when Satan has this much leeway, the sovereignty of God controls the limits.
We see the same thing as the death angel passes over Egypt. Those who were under the covering of the blood of the lamb were kept secure.
Finally no better picture than that of Christ. I’m sure the Sanhedrin wished to take credit for His death. Perhaps we could attribute it to Judas or maybe Pilate. We could lay the blame on the Roman soldiers or even the multitude who cried out for His crucifixion. But that’s not what Jesus said. Listen:
“11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His [own] life for the sheep. 17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My [own] life so that I may take it back. 18 No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down voluntarily. I am authorized and have power to lay it down and to give it up, and I am authorized and have power to take it back. This command I have received from My Father.”
I’m sure all these and Satan believed they had accomplished their goal of finishing off Christ. I’m sure they thought that for about 72 hours. And boy were they all surprised.
We may learn from these stories that even in the darkest times and the most difficult moments that our Father who watches over the little sparrow also watches over us. Even though we have no promise to be kept from trouble, we have the promise that our Father will never leave us nor forsake us. So we find hope and we never give up and we believe at the end of all things our Heavenly Father will keep us by His grace. We are not mere leaves in the wind blown about without any control but we are the children of God on a journey with a glorious destiny.
Dr. John Thompson