Pastor David B. Curtis

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Trusting God - Part 2

God's Sovereignty

08/02/1998

I asked the question last week, "What does God expect from you?" We saw that God wants us to trust Him. Apart from faith we cannot please God. So, apart from faith it doesn't much matter what we do. Many Christians go to church and some even give money to the church; they may even read their Bibles and try to live in accordance with God's will as outlined in the scriptures, but they don't trust God. And because they don't trust God, they are not pleasing Him. Trusting God is of major importance in the Christian life. God was angry with the Israelites because they would not trust Him:

Psalms 78:21-22 (NKJV) Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel, 22 because they did not believe in God And did not trust in His salvation.

We defined faith as understanding and assent to a proposition. Belief is the act of assenting to something understood that is not provable by empiricism or rationalism. A person is said to have faith in something if he has believed it without having had a physical demonstration of it or a logical explanation of the truth behind it. Saying this another way, a person who has believed something without having it proved to him has exercised faith. Faith is, therefore, distinguished from the two other methods of learning, empiricism and rationalism.

Empiricism is a technical word which refers to the using of scientific methods to learn something or to prove something. The scientific method relies on the five senses for the proof of propositions. And each experiment produces either verification or refutation of the idea or point of view. A child who does not believe his mother's word that the stove is hot may attempt empirical proof by touching the stove himself. He receives immediate experimental verification of the truth of his mother's statement.

The term rationalism is used to describe the method of arriving at proof through the logical method. This is proof by logical process of reason. In rationalism, logic produces documentation or refutation of a point of view. Both empiricism and rationalism are very useful in learning; but neither is equivalent to faith.

We enter the Christian life by believing what God has said to us in His Word about salvation. We can't prove we are saved by empiricism or rationalism, we accept it by faith. Trusting God for salvation is just the beginning, we need to learn to live by faith, trusting God in each and every area of our lives.

All believers have faith, but they don't all have strong faith, nor do they all trust God daily to care for them. Faith is something that we are all to grow in. How can we grow in our faith? There are two main factors which determine the strength of our faith. First, is our knowledge of God. The second element is the application of what we know.

We need to learn to trust in God because faith pleases God. God is angry when we don't trust Him. And we need to trust Him because life is uncertain. Who knows what tomorrow holds? You might feel good about your financial security, but how secure are you if you're only trusting in your money? The stock market could crash. You could loose your job. You could loose your health. Who knows what tomorrow holds? Tomorrow your wife or husband could leave you. Tomorrow you or a loved one could be diagnosed with cancer. Tomorrow you could loose your job. Tomorrow you could be robbed and killed. Tomorrow a hurricane could destroy your house and kill your family. Who has any guarantee of tomorrow? Many look at Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, and think, "If only l had his money, all my troubles would be gone." But despite all his money, Bill Gates' future is also uncertain. He can't buy health or life.

Proverbs 27:1 (NKJV) Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
James 4:13-15 (NKJV) Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

We do much to protect against uncertainties by purchasing insurance but there are some things you can't insure against. What if meat you bought at the store is contaminated? The food you eat could kill you. What if the pool you are swimming in is contaminated? Several weeks ago over twenty children were hospitalized from E.coli they

caught from being in a wading pool at a water park. I saw a news special last month about a child who contracted E.coli from eating salad. With all the uncertainty in life, how do you keep from living in fear? David gives us the answer:

Psalms 9:10 (NKJV) And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

"Those who know Your name"---i.e., those who know God's character. To know God's character is to be able to trust Him. Do you know God well enough to trust Him? Do you know Him well enough to have such confidence in Him that you believe He is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power? Do you trust Him? God wants our trust. In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith. Faith pleases God. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.

Psalms 20:7 (NKJV) Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

What the psalmist is saying is that we are not to trust in our own strength, but in God. We are able to trust in Him when we remember His name, i.e. His character.

Isaiah 50:10 (NKJV) "Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God.

Isaiah exhorted the Servant's to walk by faith, trusting in the name of the Lord, trusting His character.

I used the illustration last week of someone telling you, "The check is in the mail." If you believe that, you are exercising faith. You can't prove it. Now, what determines

whether you believe the person when they say, "The check is in the mail?" Wouldn't your belief or disbelief of that statement be based upon the person's character? Sure it would. You would believe some people who said that to you, but others you would not believe. If you knew the person to be of good character, you would believe them.

If we really know God's character, we will trust Him even when he chooses to send poverty, sickness, and family problems, even while your heart is aching with each beat, you will say, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

As we study the Word of God and learn of God's character, we will grow in our trust of Him. Most Christians don't trust God because they don't know Him! How can we trust Him, believing His promises, if we don't know Him or His promises?

If we are going to walk by faith, and thus please God, we must have our thoughts formed and our actions regulated by the Scriptures. We won't believe His promises if we don't trust Him.

Psalms 50:15 (NKJV) "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me."
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Who is the one making these promises? It is the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe! And every promise of God is backed up by His perfect character, His name. Our thinking about His promises can be related to His divine attributes, for example: Sovereignty: God is in total control of every event that happens in time. Righteousness: God is perfect goodness, so anything that happens to us will be good for us. Justice: Guarantees that His plan for us is fair, that we will always be treated justly. Love: we know that every situation in life is governed by God's love for us. Omniscience: God knows all my needs and pains; and He has already planned what to do about them. Omnipresence: God is always present and available to help. Omnipotence: God is all-powerful so He always has the capability to carry out his promises and to provide help in time of need. Immutability: God never changes in His attitude toward us, and all of His characteristics remain the same, forever. Truth: God never lies; therefore what He has promised, He will perform.

The more we know God the more we can trust Him and the more we trust Him the more He is pleased. Can you trust God in the uncertainties of life? Knowing God is not just a matter of theology, it is crucially important for the living of our lives. All conscious behavior is preceded by and arises out of our thoughts. Can you trust Him in the calamities of life? You can if you know Him. I believe that the first and foremost thing we must know about God is that He is sovereign. But most of the church today denies the absolute sovereignty of God. Christians speak of accidents, or of things just happening by chance.

We will have a very hard time trusting God in the midst of trials and adversities if we don't understand his sovereignty. And the church today doesn't see God as sovereign. In 1981 Rabbi Harold Kushner's best selling book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good Peopie", swept the country. It was described as a book all humanity needs. I have a problem with the book just in reading the title because there are no "good" people.

Mark 10:18 (NKJV) So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

Since his presupposition (there are good people) is wrong, the book is bound to be wrong. In the book, Rabbi Kushner concludes that the author of the book of Job, "forced to choose between a good God who is not totally powerful, or a powerful God who is not totally good . chooses to believe in God's goodness." Kushner says, "God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even He can't bring that about. lt is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims."

What do you think about that statement? If red flags don't go up and bells don't go off in your theological mind, then something is wrong with your theology. Kushner is in effect saying, "If God is both powerful and good, why is there so much suffering, so much pain, so much heartache in the world? God is either good and not all powerful, or He is powerful and not all good. You can't have it both ways." Well, Kushner is wrong. The Bible from beginning to end teaches the absolute goodness and sovereignty of God.

The Bible clearly teaches that God is Sovereign. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purposes, or resist His will. The sovereignty of God is absolute, irresistible, infinite. God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases: whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed in eternity. Is this too strong for you? If it is, you do not understand the God of the Bible. The Scriptures affirm these truths:

Psalms 115:3 (NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

How could He do whatever He pleases if He is not sovereign? Left to ourselves we tend to immediately reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. The control of God seems to be an underlying theme of the positive confession movement. Kenneth Copeland has said, "You don't have a God living in you; You are one." Ruth Carter Stapleton says, "God is wholeness; and you are God. In you He lives and moves and has His being." E. W. Kenyon teaches that we are to walk as Jesus walked, without any consciousness of inferiority to God. Ken Copeland said, "We have all the capabilities of God. We have His faith." They have a wrong view of God. Their god is not the God of the Bible. Pink summed it up this way, "The god of modern religious thought no more resembles the supreme sovereign of the Bible than does the dim flickering of a candle resemble the glory of the noon day sun."

When we say that God is sovereign, we're saying that God has an absolute right to rule over everything.

I Chronicles 29:11-13 (NKJV) Yours, 0 LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, 0 LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And YOU reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 "Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.
Psalms 47:7-8 (NKJV) For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. 8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.

God did not simply create the world and then walk away. He constantly sustains that which He created. 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 devices. Many Christians are practical deists. They act as if God has left the world to run on its own.

Isaiah 46:9-11 (NKJV) Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all Mv pleasure.' ¶1 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

Every breath we breathe is a gift from God, every bite of food we eat is given to us from His hand, every day we live is determined by Him. Did your car break down when you could least afford the repairs? Did you lose your job? Did a loved one come down with a terminal disease? The God who created and controls the world also controls the machinery on your car, your boss, and every virus, germ or disease. Jesus taught that God exercises His sovereign control in very minute events- even the life and death of an almost worthless sparrow.

Matthew 10:29-31 (NKJV) "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Fathers will. 30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 "Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

If we are going to trust God, we must understand that He is in control of every aspect of our lives. The doctrine of God's sovereignty clearly affirms that we can trust Him.

Lamentations 3:37-38 (NASB) Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?

No one can act outside of God's sovereign will or against it. Centuries ago, Augustine said, "Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen: he either permits it to happen, or he brings it about himself" God calls ALL the shots, He rules over all. Why is that? Because He is God. The sovereignty of God is asserted, either expressly or implicitly, on almost every page of the Bible.

Rather than being offended by the Bible's assertion of God's sovereignty in both good and ill, believers should be comforted by it. What ever it is that we are going through, we may be sure that our Father has a loving purpose in it. We need to learn to trust God even when we don't understand. Faith pleases God. Do you know Him well enough to trust Him no matter how painful or catastrophic a situation may be?

Let me give you a biblical illustration of a man who trusted God in the midst of his darkest hour. Eli was the high priest of Israel. In I Samuel 3, we learn how God revealed to the young child Samuel that He was about to kill Eli's two sons for their sinfulness. The next day Samuel communicates this message to the aged priest. It is difficult to conceive of a more difficult message for a parent to receive. The message that his child is going to be suddenly killed, under any circumstances, would be a great trial for any father. Yet, this was the message to Eli. What was his response when he received these tragic words from Samuel? What did he say when he heard the awful news?

I Samuel 3:18 (NKJV) Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him And he said, "It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him."

Believers, that is faith! He knew God and he trusted God. He didn't argue with him or try to talk God out of his plan. He simply bowed to God's sovereign will in humble trust.

Another biblical example would be that of the life of Job.

Job 1:1 (NKJV) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright and one who feared God and shunned evil.

This was a guy who is "blameless and upright," according to God. If ever there was a man who might reasonably expect Divine providence to smile upon him, it was Job. For a time things went great for him. The Lord blessed him with seven sons and three daughters. He prospered him in his business until he owned great possessions. But suddenly things changed. In a single day Job lost not only his flocks and herds, but his sons and daughters as well. News arrived that his cattle had been carried off by robbers, and his children slain by a cyclone. How did he receive this news? Notice carefully his reply to a catastrophe that is beyond what we could even imagine:

Job 1:20-22 (NKJV) Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mothers womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Have you ever suddenly received real bad news? I have. On August 5, at 3:00 in the morning I was awakened by a phone call. When I answered the phone, my brother said, "David, Dad died." I was devastated! I hurt worse than I ever had. I had just lost my father. But, Job lost ten children and all his wealth.

Notice, that Job traced his afflictions back to their first cause. He looked behind the Sabeans who had stolen his cattle, and beyond the winds that had destroyed his children, and saw the hand of God. He said, "The Lord has taken away." But not only did Job recognize God's sovereignty he rejoiced in it. Job trusted God because he knew God. He knew that God was sovereign, and in this, he rejoiced.

When loss after loss came Jobs way, what did he do? Did he cry about his "bad luck"? Curse the robbers? Murmur against God? NO; he bowed before Him in worship. Believer, we, like Job, must learn to see the hand of God in everything. But for that, faith must be in constant exercise. Faith is resting on the sure Word of the living God, and therefore says, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." (Romans 8:28); and therefore, faith gives thanks "always for all things".

Let me give you a non-biblical illustration of a man whose knowledge of God allowed him to trust God in the midst of a very dark time. Adanirum Judson- was the first American missionary to be sent over seas- Berma. Fourteen years after leaving America all he had to show for his labor were graves of his wife and all his children. He was alone, he experienced imprisonments and life threatening situations, he contracted diseases of a dangerous nature. Yet he was faithful to remain, he never quit. He said, "lf I had not felt certain that every trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings." He didn't see his situation as "bad luck" or an attack of the devil. He saw all his trials as "ordered by God." His theology gave him strength. He understood God's sovereignty and he trusted Him.

Years ago, a military officer and his wife were aboard a ship that was caught in a raging ocean storm. Seeing the frantic look in her eyes, the man tried unsuccessfully to alleviate her fears. Suddenly she grasped his sleeve and cried, "How can you be so calm?" He stepped back a few feet and drew his sword. Pointing it at her heart, he said, "Are you afraid of this?" Without hesitation she answered, "Of course not!" "Why not?" he inquired. "Because it's in your hand, and you love me too much to hurt me" To this he replied, "I know the One who holds the winds and the waters in the hollow of His hand, and He will surely care for us!" The officer was not disturbed because he had put his trust in the Lord.

Strong faith trusts God in the worst circumstances understanding that all occasions of pain and sorrow are under the absolute control of God. Strong faith has the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God's eternal plan and He brings into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.

Psalms 61:1-4 (NKJV) HEAR my cry, 0 God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. 4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

David found comfort in the character of the Lord and so will you. Get to know your God by spending time with Him in the Word. As you grow to know Him, you will grow to trust Him.

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