(October 22, 2022) Neil Brightbard shares about feeling helpless…
Whenever we consider the sovereignty of God, we acknowledge God’s complete authority, His supreme rulership over everything.
He is sovereign over not only this world but the whole universe! Sovereignty of God means there are no limits to His rule. He is Almighty God! Take our troubled world for example, and everything that happens in it. We can feel helpless and frustrated, but He is never! He is God!
And whereas we can feel at a loss at times, He is never!
- Jeremiah declared, ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you’ (Jeremiah 32:17).
- Paul wrote about Jesus in 1 Timothy 6:15NASB, ‘He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.’
Still… the sovereignty of God can be a difficult subject to share about for two reasons.
1. God cannot be fully explained to the satisfaction of our curious mind!
2. We cannot ‘see’ God.
Let me explain this second reason… I don’t know what tragedies you’ve had in your life, nor you about mine. But we both know this… it’s often hard to see a sovereign God active in the midst of them, that is – our own history, let alone the world’s!
We hear so much bad news on the TV and we can wonder what’s going on? Things can go wrong in our own lives and we can be thinking ‘Where is God in all this?’
The reality is that it is so often only in hindsight that we ‘see’ the sovereignty of God in action.
Often, to really assess God’s sovereignty in all that’s going on, is to see it in retrospect. And one of the key words when considering the sovereignty of God is preparation.
Jesus declared in John 5:17, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.’ Preparation is often synonymous with working… as any chef, baker or busy wife will readily tell you! Or builder, construction worker – or preacher for that matter!
God is always preparing. Believe it or not right now, right now He is meticulously preparing the world for the next stage of history.
We should never divorce the word preparation from the rule and reign of God in world affairs. For example, for thousands of years He had been preparing for ‘the main event’, the coming of His Son Jesus, issuing in the age of the preaching of the gospel.
When we contextualise the centuries immediately preceding the advent of Jesus we are amazed at His meticulous planning. Take for example, the New Testament is written in Greek – the language spoken by most people throughout Palestine and the then known world when Jesus was here.
When Jesus gave His disciples the great commission of sharing the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20), the good news could be preached everywhere in a common language.
And how did that come about? Without going into it all, with Alexander the Great conquering most of the then known world, not only had Greek culture widely spread but also Greek as a shared language! Koine Greek had become the more dominant language of the Roman Empire in the East.
Thus the international use of Greek enabled Christianity’s spread and growth,as did the New Testament being in the Greek language.
Now it’s important to know that God doesn’t choose leaders to do wrong so that He can something right! In creating the world He gave humankind the ability to choose, expecting everyone to do the right thing. Unfortunately many have made many wrong choices ever since the Garden of Eden!
But it’s great when one recognises blessings, God’s plan, in the midst of tragedies! With Greek being the lingua franca of much of the Mediterranean region, we can ‘see’ God in action prepared the way for early evangelism and the foundation for His church of Christ.
God’s primary plan in reaching the world was preaching the gospel. Still is, there never was a ‘plan B’! With Greek a common language, the gospel spread like wildfire! Beyond church leaders and preachers like Peter and Paul, ‘ordinary’ Christians shared the good news. It’s been said that the early church gossiped the gospel!
One doesn’t have to be a preacher to ‘preach’ the gospel, it’s all about sharing. You do not needa pulpit and microphone… you can share Jesus over a cup of coffee with someone in a café!
In Matthew 5:45, Jesus taught about loving all people, neighbours and enemies, proclaiming the heart of God – ‘… that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’
This is ‘Common Grace’ – a theological term meaning God’s sovereign love to all people, Jew and Gentile, regardless of their spiritual condition. That He has left His fingerprints on history and is clearly evident on closer inspection.
With spread of Christianity progressing throughout the world, much has happened that has been a blessing to humanity, establishing godly principles and practices as the world and times moved on.
Merely skimming the surface of ‘seeing’ God at work in history, I mention –
- The abolition of slavery in England
Mainly through William Wilberforce, who in many of his ‘down moments’ was encouraged by John Newton, writer of Amazing Grace.
- The Methodist Movement
Established by the Wesley brothers who had a great social conscious, this movement had a great effect on the trade union (which was desperately needed because of the abysmal working conditions of the day… terrible sanitary conditions, child labour, poor wages). Interestingly enough, most of the early trade union leaders had a Methodist Movement background.
- Establishment of schools and hospitals all over the world.
- The nursing profession
Established by the godly young Florence Nightingale, a highly educated and intellectual lady in an era when such women’s lives were predetermined… marry well, spend the rest of life ordering the chambermaids. She sensed the call of God on her life to care for people, nursing them as patients. Breaking from family tradition, she choose a nursing career in a time when there was no such thing, going off to the horrors of war in Crimea. In time this ‘lady of the lamp’ became her country’s leading authority on hospitals.
- Christian leaders, doctors, physicists and others around the world over centuries who influenced their parties, professions, nations.
The contribution which the church of Christ has made to society over the centuries cannot be fully computed. Nevertheless, we can ‘see’ how God used His chosen ones to make right Christian decisions that have made a difference in their time.
Question: What has God put on your heart? What do you like doing? What gives you satisfaction? What’s your dream? I’m talking about godly matters… you could be used by God to influence the world in some area as you yield to His directions! And in retrospect we could ‘see’ God in action through you.
In all this, we must accept and trust in God’s sovereignty by childlike faith, otherwisein frustration of not being able to explain God’s sovereignty many Christians could develop a deist or semi-deist mentality.
What is this? you ask. It’s belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who doesn’t intervene in the universe. Some deists view God as observing humanity but not directly interested enough in our lives to do something.
Deism has its roots in ancient Greece philosophy, but it really became highlighted in 18th century France, and spread across the world. Many famous leaders were deists or semi-deists… Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, and a long list of other highly intelligent people.
Even some Christians wrongly think that, ‘Yes, God has a plan and a great big time clock, and it’s always moving, but He isn’t interested in what happens to His creation, or in getting involved. He stands aloof, just watching.’
Scripture powerfully refutes such heresy, giving us assurances that our God is interested in us, that we can ‘see’ Him active in our lives!
- ‘And the Lord is the one who is going ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not desert you or abandon you. Do not fear and do not be dismayed’ (Deuteronomy 31:8NASB).
- ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I make my bed in hell, behold you are there, If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me’ (Psalm 139: 7-10NKJV).
- Paul was very positive in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
- Peter too wrote about God caring much about His creation – ‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9).
I encourage you to know that God has a plan for you, that He is there to assist of us and will intervene when and where necessary!
We can ‘see’ – that is experience – God’s sovereignty profoundly in times of trouble, anxieties, sickness, disasters, weaknesses.
I recall a doctor friend telling of the time she was in hospital awaiting a major operation. Let’s call her Jane. Very anxious about it all as she knew the risks involved, Jane couldn’t sleep. As midnight approached, someone she had never seen before came into her private room. A nurse? Had to be… although Jane would say later ‘Maybe an angel.’
Interestingly she talked to Jane about the situation and turned to leave. Then stopped, and said, ‘It’s all out of your control, isn’t it?’ Jane looked up surprised and agreed, ‘Yes, it is, isn’t it!’ She never saw that ‘ angel’ again.
Suddenly the most amazing peace came over her, and she knew that it was all totally in God’s control. Oh, yes, God is very interested in our lives and often moves in supernatural ways or unusual ones to bring us through whatever we are encountering.
Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 12:9, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’
Weakness – that’s astheneia, meaning physical and mental weakness, from which we get the name neurasthenia, a condition similar to chronic fatigue syndrome.
But note… ‘ My strength.’ God’ s strength… that’s dunamis, which is so often linked with Holy Spirit activities, In other words, the very Spirit of God will assist us when problems arise! This again is where and how we can ‘see’ God active in our lives! And what does He do? As the Living Bible puts it, ‘… I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.’
The sovereignty of God means He is always in charge no matter what!
In these dark days, when diseases are still with us, crime continues rising, earthquakes happen, flood waters endanger many and one can be wondering what’s next, may we boldly take a stand proclaiming that our God, the God of power is sovereign, still in charge!
After all, His promise is that ‘… the Lord will not abandon His people, Nor will He abandon His inheritance’ (Psalm 94:14NASB).
Neil Brightbard worships at Norton Summit Baptist Church, Adelaide. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com
Really appreciated the insights in this article. In the words from a song we plan to sing in my home church family this Lord’s day — ‘He is the mighty king, master of everything’ — and this king knows my name!’