Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Do We Really Believe God is Sovereign?

It seems that for the past several years "sovereignty" has been one of the buzzwords in church community. It's the belief that God is governing all things, holding all things in his hands and working out all things according to his will and good pleasure. 
But I've discovered that it's much easier to talk about God's sovereign rule over all things than it is to actually trust in it--and it's even more difficult to submit to it. I read a story this morning that reminded me of what submitting ourselves to God's sovereign reign really looks like, and it's found in 1 Samuel 24.
David is a well known Bible character-he wasn't the 1st king of Israel but he was the greatest. The man who preceded him, a guy called Saul, was incredibly jealous of David and spent a great deal of time trying to catch him so he could kill him. In one instance David and his men had taken shelter in a cave. Saul, not realizing they were there, went into the cave to relieve himself. David's men told him, "Now's your chance! God has anointed you to be king and the guy who is trying to kill you is before you, completely defenseless." The Bible records in 1 Samuel 24:4 that David arose and cut off a corner of Saul's robe, an act likely intended to embarrass the king. But the next two verses are striking. The Bible records, "And afterward David's heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul's robe. He said to his men, 'The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed.'" 
David is convicted by his seemingly harmless act; why? Because it was an affront to the king, a man called to that position by God. Saul was certainly not acting in a God-honoring way but that didn't change the fact that God had given him his position. David recognized that dishonor to the king was actually dishonor to the one who appointed him. And so he submitted to the leadership of the king, even though that king was trying to kill him!
Now how could he do this? How could David be willing to honor God by honoring the king? I think the answer is found back in chapter 16, when David is anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as king of Israel. How would that make a difference? I think the answer is this: David trusted that God's promise for his life would come true. No one-Saul or anyone else-could stop what God was going to do. And understanding that allowed him to continue to honor Saul, even though Saul sought his life. 
This, I think, is what it truly means to trust in the sovereignty of God. It's easy to believe he's in control when things are going well. But what about when things aren't? What about when there are leaders who are opposed to you? What about when brothers and sisters in Christ hurt you? What about when church leaders fail you? Are we still willing to submit to God's sovereign rule in our lives? 
Don't misunderstand, this isn't a call to fatalism. But it does mean that we should rethink how we approach conflict in our lives. We should rethink what it means to really believe that God is really ruling over all things in our lives and that we can really trust him. If I believe God is sovereign, that will impact every area of my life. If it doesn't, then I don't really believe that he's sovereign.
If we jump ahead to the New Testament we see that Jesus perfectly exemplifies this confident trust in the sovereign control of God over all things. Luke 23:46, "Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last." Having secured salvation for all who would believe, his mission accomplished, Christ lays down his life and commits his spirit to the Father. I Peter 2:23 reminds us that this was the case throughout his life; "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."
What do these verses have to do with trusting God's sovereignty? Isaiah 53:10 tells us; "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief..." The Father was pleased to crush the Son. In other words, it was God's will, his good pleasure to pour out his wrath for sin on the sinless Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. And that's what makes Jesus' words in Luke 23 so incredible. Jesus commits his spirit to the one who has crushed him! He commits himself to the one who has poured out his wrath on him, treating him as a sinner. Before committing his spirit to the Father, Jesus would cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" 
David illustrates what it looks like to really trust that we have a sovereign God who controls all things. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of that trust. He shows us what it means to not just say we believe God is sovereign but to truly rest in that sovereign care over all things, to say with Job in 13:15, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him..."
Trust in God's sovereign care over all things gives us a robust hope, a joy with which we can face life with confidence. We know that our God is in the heavens and does whatever he pleases and that nothing--storms, persecution, hardships, even difficulties from his own hand--none of that has any influence on our standing with him in Christ, on the certainty of our salvation, and on the fulfillment of his promises. 
Don't just talk about God's sovereignty; believe in God's sovereignty! 

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