Friday, February 27, 2009

Sovereignty - Initially Painful, Ultimately Comforting

In recent weeks I have been brought face to face with major grief in the lives of dear friends. What compels me to write this post is that the long term grief these people are experiencing has a common root. Grief is not wrong in and of itself, but when it is caused by a lack of teaching on God's absolute sovereignty over everything it becomes deadly.

In recent years I have been brought face to face with preachers at funerals who would rather embrace open theism (that God is not omnipotent and therefore tragedies can happen contrary to His will) than point to the ultimate comfort of resting in God's sovereignty. That God ordains all things according to His purposes and that all things, ultimately, work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.

Think about it for a moment. Telling a parent who has lost a young child that it was not God's will or that the Devil took them. Making someone's healing entirely contingent on the level of faithfulness we can attain to in prayer for them. Claiming ambitious promises by quoting Scripture out of context. Initially these things may alleviate some pain from a tragedy. But what about the long haul of life - lying awake at night running endless permutations and scenarios through our human brains. Contemplating the "what ifs" - what if I prayed more, what if I didn't catch that plane, what if we went to the doctor 6 months earlier . . . Brothers and sisters, this thinking and understanding of God is not only wrong, it also wreaks havoc on our faith and understanding of Who God is.

Here is two of the many things the great evangelist and Bible Scholar AW Pink had to say on Sovereignty:

As a Supply of Comfort in Sorrow
The doctrine of God's Sovereignty is one that is full of consolation and imparts great peace to the Christian. The Sovereignty of God is a foundation that nothing can shake and is more firm than the heavens and earth. How blessed to know there is no corner of the universe that is out of His reach! as said the Psalmist, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee" (Psa. 139:7-12). How blessed it is to know that God's strong hand is upon every one and every thing! How blessed to know that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without His notice!

How blessed to know that our very afflictions come not by chance, nor from the Devil, but are ordained and ordered by God: "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto" (1 Thess. 3:3)!

But our God is not only infinite in power. He is infinite in wisdom and goodness too. And herein is the preciousness of this truth. God wills only that which is good and His will is irreversible and irresistible! God is too wise to err and too loving to cause His child a needless tear. Therefore if God be perfect wisdom and perfect goodness how blessed is the assurance that everything is in His hand and molded by His will according to His eternal purpose! "Behold, He taketh away, who can hinder Him? who will say unto Him what doest Thou?" (Job 9:12). Yet, how comforting to learn that it is "He," and not the Devil, who "taketh away" our loved ones! Ah! what peace for our poor frail hearts to be told that the number of our days is with Him (Job 7:1; 14:5); that disease and death are His messengers and always march under His orders; that it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away!

As a Resting Place for the Human Heart:
The One seated upon the Throne of Heaven, the One who is Governor over the nations and who has ordained and now regulates all events, is infinite not only in power but in wisdom and goodness as well. He who is Lord over all creation is the One that was "manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). Ah! here is a theme no human pen can do justice to. The glory of God consists not merely in that He is Highest, but in that being high He stooped in lowly love to bear the burden of His own sinful creatures, for it is written "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). The Church of God was purchased "with His own Blood" (Acts 20:28). It is upon the gracious self-humiliation of the King Himself that His kingdom is established. O wondrous Cross! By it He who suffered upon it has become not the Lord of our destinies (He was that before), but the Lord of our hearts. Therefore, it is not in abject terror that we bow before the Supreme Sovereign, but in adoring worship we cry "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (Rev. 5:12).

Here then is the refutation of the wicked charge that this doctrine is a horrible calumny upon God and dangerous to expound to His people. Can a doctrine be "horrible" and "dangerous" that gives God His true place, that maintains His rights, that magnifies His grace, that ascribes all glory to Him and removes every ground of boasting from the creature? Can a doctrine be "horrible" and "dangerous" which affords the saints a sense of security in danger, that supplies them comfort in sorrow, that begets patience within them in adversity, that evokes from them praise at all times? Can a doctrine be "horrible" and "dangerous" which assures us of the certain triumph of good over evil, and which provides a sure resting-place for our hearts, and that place, the perfections of the Sovereign Himself? No; a thousand times, no! Instead of being "horrible and dangerous" this doctrine of the Sovereignty of God is glorious and edifying, and a due apprehension of it will but serve to make us exclaim with Moses, "Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Exo. 15:11).


pastrjon said...

Thanks for posting this! As a pastor myself, and one who's been dealing with cancer for the last 3+ years, Pink's quote does my soul good, and I'll share your post on my own blog. Keep up the good fight or truth!

Anonymous said...

I think the only way this doctrine can be perceived as "horrible" and "dangerous" is when viewed by;

a heart that rebels against surrender to God;

a heart that designs to manipulate circumstance through humanistic reasoning and misquoting of scripture;

a heart that desires not His will, but its own;

and a heart that has re-created God as one stripped of His authority and placed in the position of "the good fairy".

Interesting post.