There is a grounding effect that happens in our lives as we understand our place in the universe before the holy God. God is not only our sovereign Authority, but also our greatest Treasure; if He is only our sovereign Authority then our faith will be oppressive and marked by duty & obligation. If you see Him as both, your faith will be marked by delight and joy; the latter is the picture the bible paints of authentic faith.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13 ESV)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44 ESV)
For many of us, we have made peace with the idea of God’s Sovereignty in unbiblical ways. We use phrases like “God didn’t mean for this to happen, but he can work it for good!” and “God didn’t cause this, but he sure can turn it around!” In saying (and thinking) these things, we think we’ve found comfort and peace, but if stretched to their logical conclusions, this way of thinking offers neither. We will have created a God who is absent and/or powerless to stop hard things, but is good and strong enough to make it all work out in the end. We will have created the kind of God who can offer us neither comfort nor peace. Thankfully this is not the God of the Scriptures.
Instead, the Bible speaks much differently about God’s character and his authority over all events. Here are two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.
In the book of Job, God seeks Satan out and lifts Job up as an example of faithfulness. Satan asks God to allow him to afflict Job in increasingly horrific ways, in order to prove that Job’s faithfulness is only hinged on God’s material and physical blessings. God tells Satan that he can do anything except kill Job. Over time, Satan kills his livestock, his children (and their families), and afflicts Job with disease. At the end of this sequence of events, Job’s wife says something that we would all likely want to say. Notice Job’s response and also the inspired writer’s comment:
“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job 2:9-10
Do not miss what Job said there. Even though Satan has been the direct cause of Job’s suffering, Job rightly attributes all of it to God. Lest we think he was mistaken, the Bible confirms that “Job did not sin” in all that he said. Satan was the agent, but he is on a leash. God was the one behind Job’s suffering.
In the book of Acts, Peter is preaching to a large gathering and makes this statement about what happened to Jesus.
“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
Even though Herod, Pilate and all of the people who participated in the murder of Jesus were the direct cause of Jesus’ death, Peter rightly attributes all of it to God. It was planned in advance, and carried out by the willing participation of all involved. People have sinned against Jesus in murdering him, but they are on a leash. God was the one behind Jesus’ suffering.
God does not take lemons and make lemonade. To say that his interaction for our good begins after the fact is not faithful to scripture nor is it comforting. If God has no wisdom, thoughtfulness, or power in what suffering I experience, how can His wisdom, thoughtfulness, or power be trusted to work it for my good? Instead, the Bible calls us to trust that all suffering is from Him and is intended to make us more like Christ. It calls us to believe that God will cause all of these things to work together for our eternal good.
May we be so full of faith that we can say with Job, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Praise God that He makes the lemons and the lemonade.
Contributed by Mike Marquez