“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” Hosea 4:6a
Is God “in control”? Is healing based on His timing? Does God “allow” things to happen? Does everything “happen for a reason”? Good questions! I’m glad you asked. I pray that this post would take the sword from your sheath and put it into your hand.
God is in charge, not in control.
There is a phrase that is so commonly used in Christian circles, it’s even used in the world! I hear it all the time, and we even put it in our songs! “God is in control”, I am not a heretic when I say, no He is not. God is not “in control”. This phrase is not in the Bible, it is not scriptural.
So, what do I mean when I say, God is not in control? All I am saying is, God is not divinely deciding who lives and who dies. He is not allowing the devil to do whatever he wants. God does not want you to live in sin. God does not want you to go to hell. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
God does not want you to be sick. But guess what? A lot of people are sick, dying, living in sin, and going to hell. Is that God’s fault? NO! God will only ever be blamed for sending His son to die for us while we were sinners. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Well why are bad things happening? “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” Psalms 115:16
We are the key ingredient in this divine recipe! We were made in the image of God. He gave the Earth to us. The stewardship of this planet belongs to us. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28
One of the most destructive phrases tossed around in the entire world (not just the church) is “well God allowed it to happen…” or “Why did God allow that?”
The question we should be asking is, “why did we allow that?”
God is not the author of evil. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Jesus is putting a difference between God and the enemy right here. Jesus brings life, the devil brings death, loss, and destruction. Put these two things in their proper categories.
Stealing, killing, and destroying: the devil.
Life, and life more abundantly: God.
We have responsibility! I’ve heard people say, “God doesn’t need us, he just wants to use us.” I completely disagree. This is the way God set this whole thing up. He has made everything in such a way to where He needs our involvement. He won’t do most things without us. Now I do understand that He does move sovereignly at times, that’s part of what makes Him God. But if you think that He is calling all of the shots, you’ll put a ceiling over your head and the power of God that is available to you. You have a sword! You have been given the kingdom of God. So many of the promises in the New Testament hinge on wether or not you believe! Check out these amazing verses, they speak for themselves:
“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19-20
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” John 20:21
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” John 14:12
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:17-18
The primary issue with taking the sovereignty of God to the extreme is that it removes responsibility from you, and puts it on God. The kingdom is in our hands, and Holy Spirit is more than capable. Will you trust Him?
What about Job?
Without fail, when I talk to people about healing, or the power of God, someone will say “What about Job?” My response to them is always the same, “What about Jesus?” Let’s be childlike and realize this; we aren’t following Job, we’re following Jesus. We don’t even know what covenant Job was under. Each covenant had different promises from God, none of which Job had. We are under the New Covenant, the one that was started by the blood of the spotless lamb of God, Jesus Christ. “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” Hebrews 8:6
“Well God allowed Job to be attacked” No He did not. Satan did not ask for Job. God mentioned him. And Satan said that if God took away Job’s blessings, he would curse God. Notice how God never said “well, I might just do that then.” God never negotiates with the devil. God says “all that he has is in your power.” Stop right there. This is where we think God allows Satan to attack Job. Read it, “And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person. ” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.” Job 1:12
Why is God saying this? Is this Satan’s permission slip? NO! Remember the garden? We were given the keys to the earth. And who did we give it to when we ate from the tree? Satan! God was only telling the devil, you could have done this a while ago. When did we get the keys back? When Jesus died for us and rose again! “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus said HE now has ALL authority! And guess who he commissioned with HIS authority? US! This will put integrity in you, and fire will rise up in you. Do not be run over by the devil. You are MORE than a conqueror through Jesus who loves us. God is for you and not against you. Take your sword, and fight! “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10
So what’s the point?
A belief about the sovereignty of God that leads you to a lack of responsibility is not the gospel. Jesus gave us His word, His Spirit, and His authority. You have all that you need. Go and walk in victory!
4 Comments Add yours
Lee, this gives the reader much to ponder, and I’d like to process some of my reflections.
First, thank you for writing with the edification and good of your readers clearly at the forefront of your mind. It seems that you’re chiefly concerned about a particular subset of Christian, which is the one abdicating personal moral and evangelistic responsibility—or just keeling over at the devil’s schemes in their life!—in the name of God’s sovereignty. I agree with you that this is a lamentable fruit of a theological disposition held by brothers and sisters of mine, but I want to cautious against painting with broad brushes. Though it makes your own color and shade on these attributes of God look well defined and vibrant, it misses the nuance of those who may hold a different view. Someone like John Piper, for instance—no slouch when it comes to rigorous holiness and evangelism—would heartily affirm that God is very much “in control,” not merely “in charge,” which I recognize as a phrase championed by a prominent leader in the charismatic/dominionist movement. 😉
God’s sovereignty—an autonomous control of events and circumstances within time, effected from an eternal position outside of time—also enjoys many reference points and example across both the Old and New Testament, which hold together as a unified witness of the same God. In your pastoral effort to warn against a passivity and abdication of responsibility that can result from a high emphasis on God’s control, I would encourage you to not let the poorest examples of a theological position disprove the substance of that theology.
In a similar vein, do let the book of Job speak for itself, and in so doing, let God speak for Himself (which He does, and quite forcefully so!). Job is lauded, for example, in the book of James. Job is, by all accounts, a literary (important to note it’s high literary style) and theological masterwork, and it should be handled with care. Job’s confession of faith, “for I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25), is nothing we should quickly dismiss, nor should we quickly skim past a passage like 42:1-11, where the author makes no apology for writing “[Job’s brothers and sisters] showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil [or disaster] the LORD had brought upon him.”
I agree with you that an interpretation of Job that concludes the enemy has a right to steamroll present-day Christians (and that those Christians might as well expect it and put up no resistance) is unhelpful and not at all the point of the book. But that does make us consider what the point of the book of Job is. You’ve rendered the initial interaction between God and Satan as, “God was only telling the devil, you could have done this a while ago.”
I think this may be too narrow of a frame through which to view Job. Could it be, rather, that Satan is convinced that the people of God don’t actually love God for God’s sake, but they love Him for His blessings and promises? This seems to be Satan’s suspicion expressed in 1:9-11. And could it be that God is going to subversively prove Satan wrong through Job’s endurance in trial (even in spite of Job’s “multiplied words,” self-justification, and other identifiable follies) to provide for the people of God for centuries to come an example of a man who will love God for God’s own sake?
A final note on John 10:10. Be attentive to the context, as it was just this past year that I read an eye-opening commentary on this very passage. Whereas I had always assumed the thief was our adversary, Satan, it seems that Jesus is contrasting His self-identification as the Good Shepherd with the thief/robber/stranger. The text reads, “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them” (vs. 6). Who is they but the Pharisees engaging in dialogue with Jesus just a few verses before (see 9:39-41). The reaction among the listeners in 10:19 would further suggest that Jesus is casting the self-righteous Pharisee, who should be a shepherd of the people, as the thief, robber and stranger that is in fact harming the people. Finally, these images reach back into a well known prophetic utterance of Ezekial, in which he charges the supposed shepherds of Israel with “feeding themselves” on the sheep. Talk about killing and stealing and destroying! See the full context here for more rich analogies to Jesus’ role as the Good and true Shepherd:
LikeLiked by 1 person
Dude I appreciate so much this input. I don’t disagree per-say, and I think you know that. I’m leaning more on one side. I think that’s why I love your input, it’s just not the focus of this post, and I don’t want it to go on forever. 😆 because there’s so much to say, and I want to say what will put a fire in people.
Love you man!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Please guys: always remember that Adam sinned, and when he did, he had to become the slave of the one he obeyed. This meant tht God who had given him total authority over this world, had to give this authority to his new master. So the devil is in chrge of our world, and certainly not God. Don Roth email@example.com