I have been asking you a very important question in this series; What does God expect from us? Does He expect anything? Yes! He expects us to trust Him. There is no way our relationship to God can be pleasing to Him unless we trust Him, because apart from faith, we cannot please God. To verify the truth of this statement and show you how important faith is, I refer you to the apostle Paul:
Romans 14:22-23 (NKJV) Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
Everything that does not come from (ek, "out of") faith is sin.
I have described faith or trust as the act of assenting to something understood that is not provable by empiricism or rationalism. Faith is trusting God's word, it's believing what He has said even though we cannot prove it. What does it mean to trust someone? It means to believe in them or have confidence in them in a certain area. There are different levels of and different areas of trust. Some people we trust in certain areas but not in others. Some people we trust more than others. I think we also do this with God. We trust Him for our eternal salvation, but we don't trust Him in our daily lives. We need to learn to trust Him in and for everything. He is trustworthy!
I trust Pete Griffin. And I trust him as a pilot. I trust him because I know him. I know that whatever he does, he does to the best of his ability and unto the Lord. He is a man of integrity and character, and I trust him. But if he were to say to me, "I will fly you safely to your destination." Can I trust in him to do that? No! Why not? There are too many things beyond his control. We may run into extemely bad weather, no matter how much planning he does. We may be struck by lightening, or blown to our destruction. A bird may crash into the plane causing it to crash. Pete may get sick and pass out or have a heart attack or stroke. The plane may suddenly quit for no apparent reason (that is very unlikely though :o). I can't trust him when he says, "I will fly you safely to your destination." I can't trust him to do that because to many things are beyond his control. I trust that he will do his best but his best, might not be good enough.
But with God it is different, God is sovereign and because He is sovereign, He controls ALL events making sure that what He promises comes to pass. I can trust God because God is Sovereign. Do you understand that? If you don't understand the sovereignty of God, you will not be able to trust Him. If you know Him, you will trust Him.
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.
In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith. And just as the faith of salvation comes through hearing the message of the gospel (Romans 10:17), so the faith to trust God in adversity comes through the Word of God alone. As we learn of God from the Scriptures, we grow in our faith of Him. You can't trust Him if you don't know Him. You cannot trust God to care for you if you do not understand His sovereignty. If God is not absolutely sovereign, then you can't trust Him to care for you because He might not be able to.
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. So, in this study we are attempting to know God better.
We saw in our last study that God rules over the plant and animal creation and He rules over people. Today we're going to look at God's sovereignty over the nations and governments and over nature.
GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE NATIONS:
Romans 13:1-2 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
"The authorities that exist" -- all authorities, parents, pastors, bosses, generals, city authorities, state authorities, federal authorities, and any other authority that exists has been "appointed by God." The freedoms we have or the laws that restrict us are given to us by "authorities" who are under the sovereign control of God.
The governing authorities are not puppets with no will of their own. They make choices, they do exactly what they want to do, but in doing so they carry out the sovereign will of God.
Acts 4:27-28 (NKJV) "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
Herod and Pilate did to Jesus just what they wanted to do, yet they did exactly what God planned that they do.
John Newton, known for his familiar hymn "Amazing Grace" wrote: "The kings of the earth are continually disturbing the world with their schemes of ambition. They expect to carry every thing before them, and have seldom an higher end in view, than the gratification of their own passions. But in all they do they are but servants of this great King and Lord, and fulfill his purposes, as the instruments he employs to inflict prescribed punishment upon transgressors against him, or to open a way for the spread of his Gospel.... They had one thing in view, he had another."
We know that God rules over all authorities because the Bible tells us he does. And thus, we should see the events reported in our daily paper as the sovereign out workings of our great God. No matter what happens in our nation, we can trust that God is in control and working all things together for our good.
God appoints the good and powerful rulers as well as the weak and foolish rulers. God appoints the Ronald Regans as well as the Bill Clintons.
Daniel 4:17 (NKJV) 'This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.'
God not only determines who will rule, he determines the time of their ruling.
Isaiah 40:23-24 (NKJV) He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. 24 Scarcely shall they be planted, Scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.
God not only determines who governs and how long they govern, He also rules in the decisions that they make.
Proverbs 16:33 (NKJV) The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.
"Every decision is from the Lord" -- The sovereign God controls the decisions of our authorities for His glory and our good. Even their bad and stupid decisions are under God's control. Absalom chose to follow Hushai's bad advice instead of Ahithophel's good advice. Why?
2 Samuel 17:14 (NKJV) So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel." For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom.
Absalom disregarded the good advice because God caused him to do so.
God works in the hearts and minds of rulers and authorities to accomplish His sovereign purpose. We must learn to trust that God is working through our authorities.
Scripture also teaches that God rules in the victories and defeats between nations on the battlefield.
Proverbs 21:31 (NKJV) The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the LORD.
1 Kings 20:28-29 (NKJV) Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, "Thus says the LORD: 'Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys," therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'" 29 And they encamped opposite each other for seven days. So it was that on the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel killed one hundred thousand foot soldiers of the Syrians in one day.
2 Kings 5:1 (NKJV) Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.
2 Chronicles 13:14-16 (NKJV) And when Judah looked around, to their surprise the battle line was at both front and rear; and they cried out to the LORD, and the priests sounded the trumpets. 15 Then the men of Judah gave a shout; and as the men of Judah shouted, it happened that God struck Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 And the children of Israel fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hand.
America is, without a doubt, the most powerful nation in the world today, but we are not to trust in our nation's military but in God.
Psalms 20:7 (NKJV) Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
Psalms 33:16-17 (NKJV) No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.
America is great because God made it great, and if we continue to turn from Him, He will judge America just as he has judged other nations that have turned from Him.
In Isaiah 5, God speaks through the prophet and tells of the forthcoming invasion of the Assyrian army. Notice what he says at the end of verse 27.
Isaiah 5:26-27 (NKJV) He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, And will whistle to them from the end of the earth; Surely they shall come with speed, swiftly. 27 No one will be weary or stumble among them, No one will slumber or sleep; Nor will the belt on their loins be loosed, Nor the strap of their sandals be broken;
In this last statement, we see the absoluteness of God's sovereignty, it covers every detail. Nothing is left to chance. God says that not even a strap of their sandals will be broken.
Believer, if we understand God's sovereignty, we can trust in Him in the midst of the worst possible circumstances. Could our country suffer form a nuclear holocaust or a chemical or biological warfare attack? Maybe, but if it does, it is under the sovereign control of God and not the whim of a mad man. Osama bin Laden may plan terrorist attacks against the United States, but apart from the sovereign will of God he can do nothing. We may not trust our president to make the proper decisions concerning our nation, but we can trust our God who controls the decisions of kings.
Could the Y2K computer problem cripple our nation and cause wide spread looting and rioting? It is possible, but if it happens, it happens because it is part of God's sovereign plan for our nation.
God rules over our nation and all nations. He is in control of its authorities and all their decisions are in His hand, we can trust Him. What a comfort and joy to know that our nation is not run by Bill Clinton but by our sovereign God.
God not only rules over the Nations, HE ALSO RULES OVER NATURE:
In September 1985, an earthquake struck Mexico City killing some 6,000 people and leaving more than 100,000 homeless. Was this earthquake a random act of nature or was it under the sovereign hand of God?
Rabbi Kushner, in his book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," reminds us that insurance companies refer to earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and various other natural disasters as "acts of God." Then he says: "I consider that a case of using God's name in vain. I don't believe that an earthquake that kills thousands of innocent victims without reason is an act of God. It is an act of nature. Nature is morally blind, without values. It churns along, following its own laws, not caring who or what gets in the way."
This is how a deists may view the world, but certainly a Christian knows better. Is God powerless over nature?
Remember what we have said; If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God's sovereign control, then we cannot trust Him. How can His purpose be fulfilled if there are things out of His control. And if His purposes cannot be fulfilled, how can we trust Him?
The Bible clearly teaches that God controls the weather.
Job 37:3 (NKJV) He sends it forth under the whole heaven, His lightning to the ends of the earth.
Job 37:6 (NKJV) For He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth'; Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength.
Job 37:10-13 (NKJV) By the breath of God ice is given, And the broad waters are frozen. 11 Also with moisture He saturates the thick clouds; He scatters His bright clouds. 12 And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance, That they may do whatever He commands them On the face of the whole earth. 13 He causes it to come, Whether for correction, Or for His land, Or for mercy.
Please note here that God uses the weather for correction, or for blessing. The weather brings judgment on some people by ruining their crops, flooding their possessions, and drowning them. Other times the storm clouds water the soil and thus demonstrate His love.
Psalms 147:8 (NKJV) Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
Psalms 147:16-18 (NKJV) He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; 17 He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? 18 He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow.
Jeremiah 10:13 (NKJV) When He utters His voice, There is a multitude of waters in the heavens: "And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries."
Amos 4:7 (NKJV) "I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered.
The Scriptures teach us that all weather-- good and bad-- is under the direct control of God. Whether it be a devastating hurricane that kills hundreds or a gentle spring rain, it is an act of God. The Bible teaches us that God controls all the forces of nature, both destructive and productive, on a continuous, moment-by-moment basis.
In light of the fact that God controls the weather, all weather, who is our complaining directed against when we grip about the weather? Ouch! That may seem like a small thing to you, but God hates murmuring and complaining. When is the last time you complained about the weather? Maybe we should tell God to check with us so we could tell Him what we want the weather to be like. How arrogant is that? It is no more arrogant than complaining about the weather.
Matthew 5:45 (NKJV) "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
The Bible is clear, God causes the sun to rise and he sends the rain. Let's trust Him with the weather and stop complaining about it.
Illness and physical affliction is another area in which we struggle to trust God. We struggle when we see our friends or loved ones struck down with terminal diseases. Is God sovereign over this aspect of nature? Is He in control of the disease and physical infirmities that affect us? According to the Bible he is:
Exodus 4:11 (NKJV) So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?
This verse strikes at the heart of the health\wealth gospel which says that sickness and disease are not God's will for His people. I have heard a health\wealth preacher say that it is God's will that all His children be healthy based on:
Mark 1:40-41 (NKJV) Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." 41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed."
Because Jesus said, "I am willing," the preacher said that it was God's will to heal everybody. The problem with this is that Jesus is speaking to a specific leper, God's will for this leper can not be applied across the board to every believer. If it was God's will that none of his children be sick, then none of them would be sick.
I'd liked to see a health\wealth preacher try to explain that God wants everybody healthy and wealthy, to the apostle Paul. Paul was neither healthy nor wealthy but he was consumed with living in the moral will of God.
God specifically says, in Exodus 4:11, that these physical afflictions are His work. These physical problems are not merely the result of defective genes or bad luck. God causes these things.
Donald Grey Barnhouse said this: "No person in this world was ever blind that God had not planned for him to be blind; no person was ever deaf in this world that God had not planned for that person to be deaf..... If you don't believe that, you have a strange God who has a universe which has gone out of gear and He cannot control it."
This God who is the God of deafness, muteness, and blindness is also the God of cancer, heart attacks, arthritis, mental retardation and all other afflictions that come to us or our loved ones.
In order to trust God, we must determine if He is in control, if He is sovereign over the physical area of our lives. If he is not-- if illness and affliction "just happen" -- then there is no basis for trusting Him. But if God is sovereign in this area, then we can trust Him without understanding "why" things happen. Trusting God in the midst of our pain and heartache means that we accept our pain, disease, trial, or disaster as from Him. Trusting that He knows what is best for us.
Hundreds of years ago the prophet Habakkuk struggled with the question of "Why is God allowing all this evil?" He finally came to the conclusion that, though he did not understand what God was doing, he would trust Him.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NKJV) Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls; 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk's affirmation of trust in the midst of a world falling apart around him, would be a fitting example for us to follow as we struggle with God's sovereignty over the problems we face in our lives. God is sovereign over everything and we can trust Him. Our trust in Him will strengthen us in all the circumstances that we face.
Psalms 125:1 (NKJV) Those who trust in the LORD Are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
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