- Is God Really in Control?
- Romans 8:28
- Lyndol Loyd June 30, 2019
This morning we are wrapping up our series, “God Size Questions.” We’ve tried to create some space for people to ask the kinds of questions that many of us would like to have answered, but are maybe hesitant to ask for fear of what others might think of us. So we have taken a look at the following questions so far:
– Does God Answer My Prayers?
– Does God Heal Today?
– Why Is There Suffering?
– Is Christianity Just a Straight Jacket?
– How Could a Good God Send People to Hell?
Today we are going to close things out by asking the question, “Is God Really in Control?”
Do you ever find yourself wondering, “Does God really have things in hand here, or is my life spinning out of control?” Many people have.
Maybe you are the kind of person who found it easy to believe in God when you were younger, but after a series of setbacks, failures, and adversity now you find yourself wondering if God is really in control and if He somehow had any purpose in it all.
Maybe after your career ups and downs, relational challenges, and moments where you have felt spiritually dry you’ve wondered if maybe you were just fooling yourself. Instead of God being in control, maybe your life’s course felt like it had no real purpose after all. Maybe your mistakes were more than God could handle.
One of the ways that human beings have invented cope with these kinds of feelings and questions is to make the statement, “Everything happens for a reason.” It is almost like we think saying that somehow makes everything better when that is actually far from being the case. It actually makes everything worse.
Everything happens for a reason is something I know that I’ve heard a great many people say. To be honest, it concerns me when I hear it, because behind that statement is what I consider to be some sketchy theology that I believe can really mess with a proper understanding of who God is, how He relates to us and the condition of our world. It skews our understanding of what it means for God to be in control.
Come to think of it, I do believe that everything does happen for a reason.
When you got that new job you were hoping for, that happened for a reason – you applied for it, you interviewed well, and the company thought you were the best candidate for the job.
When you failed that test you needed to pass in order to maintain your GPA and keep your scholarship, that too happened for a reason – you spent too much time on Facebook, going out with friends, and catching up on your favorite shows when you should have been studying.
The time that house on the news got hit by lightning and burned to the ground, that happened for a reason – the roof of the house was the closest contact point for the bolt of lightning, and the massive charge of electricity caused the wood the house was built with to catch on fire.
When that young mother and her child were hit head-on by a drunk driver and died tragically in a car accident, that also happened for a reason – someone had too much to drink and without concern for anyone else’s well being they got behind the wheel of their car wherein their impaired judgment and slowed response time resulted in them running a red light and taking the life of a mother and her child.
But there was no grander narrative behind these moments, no deeper meaning to be discovered if we simply read the signs correctly. They happened, and there was a reason behind their happening, but that reason was mundane, not divine. In other words, these things were not part of God’s plan.
If you’re ever tempted to utter the phrase “Everything happens for a reason,” please stop and think about the following things: cancer, tornadoes, stillborn babies, earthquakes, fatal car crashes, tsunami’s and industrial accidents.
Now, let me ask you,
- Do you still want to say that all of those things happen for a reason?
- Do you truly believe in a God that kills children, destroys homes, and randomly extinguishes life so that others can “learn a lesson” or “change their ways”?
- Do you really want others to believe that God is in this business?
I realize it may seem as if I’m overreacting. Believing that everything happens for a reason helps us feel better about human existence, which sometimes seems capricious. But if we say that everything happens for a reason, we’re merely shifting the blame for bad things from the randomness of the universe to God.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that God is at work in our world and influences events. I know there are places in Scripture that suggest that God does indeed cause awful things like plagues and the deaths of children as divine retribution. I would even go so far as to say that God may indeed allow awful things to happen in our world.
I understand that it may make life less scary for us to believe that when bad things happen to us it’s just God giving us a dose of tough love. But when we take this argument to its logical conclusion, we’re left with a God that has our blood on God’s hands.
Of course, there is blood on God’s hands, but it’s not our blood. It’s not the blood of a child that has died too early, a town wiped out by a tornado, or a father dying from cancer. The only blood on God’s hands is God’s own blood.
If there is one thing that we can say for certain about God it is that God is for us. The cross has demonstrated that beyond a shadow of a doubt. We may not understand why awful things happen in our world, but we can be sure that this is not God’s intention for us.
The next time that you are tempted to say that “Everything happens for a reason,” stop and ask yourself, “What do I really mean?”
Do you mean that God is responsible for all the awful things that happen in the world, or do you mean to say that God is at work bringing even awful circumstances to the best possible outcome?
The Bible teaches that this is not a perfect world. Because there is sin in the world people do wrong things and suffering results.
The Bible is brutally honest about this. Ecclesiastes 8:14, “14 And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!”
What he’s saying here is that we don’t always get what we deserve. There are two mistakes that you can make regarding disasters that happen in this world or tragedies that happen to us personally.
- One is to think all the good things that happen to me prove I’m good.
- All the bad things that happen to me prove I’m bad.
That’s wrong. That’s just wrong.
In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus is talking about two tragedies that happened in His day. “About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. 2 “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? 3 Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. 4 And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? 5 No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
He said, “You know there were a bunch of innocent people up there worshipping at the temple and they came in, and they were brutally slaughtered. There was a tower that fell on eighteen people and killed them. Who sinned, that caused this tragedy?” In other words, was it a result of their sin?
Then He answered His own question. He said, “Absolutely not! Absolutely not!”
Now, that doesn’t negate cause and effect. Most of the problems we have in life are our own fault. Would you agree with that? We do reap what we sow, but not always.
Sometimes we suffer innocently. Not everything that happens is God’s will. When I hear people talking about terrible things that have happened, and they say, “Well, it must have been God’s will,” I have a spiritual term for that. “Baloney!”
It makes me want to puke. Can you say puke in church? Because it’s just not true! Don’t blame God for tragedy. When a tragedy takes place God’s grieving too. God’s will is not always done.
Let’s take the example of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that happened in America. Now God could have stopped the terrorist. Real simple. Just take away their free will, their freedom to choose. But to be fair, to have done that He would have had to take away your free will at the same time.
One of our greatest blessings in life, God’s giving us the freedom to choose, is also our greatest curse because we often choose the wrong thing. When I choose the wrong thing, innocent people suffer. Does that make sense? God’s will is not always done in this world folks.
That’s why, for instance, 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”
Do all repent? No. Do some perish? Yes. Why? God will never force His will on your will.
That’s why we’re to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Why? Because God’s will isn’t always done on earth. How is it done in heaven? It’s done perfectly.
We’re to pray, “God, just like your will is done perfectly in heaven, we want that to be done on earth”. If it was being done, we wouldn’t have to pray for it.
Haven’t we all looked at our lives at times and thought, “Can anything be made of this mess?” On the outside, at least, life at times looks bleak and chaotic. It often looked that way to people in the Bible.
Think of Joseph sitting unjustly in a prison cell, David on the run from a murderous Saul, or Hezekiah facing an overwhelming Assyrian army outside the gates of Jerusalem. How had things gone so wrong? Was God’s plan still on course, or had He taken a vacation?
One of the writers of Scripture addressed this issue in a most unusual way. The book of Esther never mentions God, yet it relates a part of Jewish history that has God’s fingerprints all over it. It’s as if the writer wanted to emphasize that God is active behind the scenes, even when things seem out of control.
Things definitely seemed that way for the Jews living in Persian exile. Being dragged off to a cruel foreign land was bad enough. Now, the king’s right-hand man had talked him into signing a decree to exterminate the Jews.
The details of the plan just happened to become known to a Jew named Mordecai living in the capital city. And this man just happened to have raised a beautiful Jewish orphan girl named Esther. Among countless candidates, Esther was the one selected as queen by the king, who incidentally had just demoted his previous queen.
This young woman—still a girl, really—had the inner fortitude to risk her life by approaching the king on behalf of her people. The king just happened to have been reading the records of the kingdom, where he discovered that Mordecai had never been rewarded for uncovering a plot against the king’s life.
So when Esther pleaded for the lives of her people, the king, who loved her, was now favorably inclined toward the Jews. Thus, the Jews were miraculously saved and their enemy sentenced to be hanged.
What a story of intrigue in the king’s court! What a story of a young woman whose faith caused her to trust in God’s providence, even when God’s plan for His people looked as though it would be permanently derailed.
The New Testament writers assure us that our Father does indeed have everything under control in our lives. Paul acknowledged that life in this fallen world can be a frustrating mess. In Romans 8:20-23 when he wrote, “20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.”
But jump forward just a few verses to Romans 8:28-30 where Paul wants us to be assured that God is using even the smallest details and most insignificant events to accomplish His good purpose in our lives. “28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn[n] among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.”
I would tell you that while God is not the author of all things, He is the master of all things. The Bible speaks of a God who works to draw out good in the midst of great evil and pain. He absolutely does that.
To live in that truth, to believe that God is in the business of redemption requires that we trust Him. That we trust that no matter what is swirling around us that God is in control, that He loves us and will never forsake us or abandon us.