On July 27, 2019, Dalton and Cheyenne, college students, married in Kanas City, Missouri. Three days later, while on their honeymoon in Florida, Dalton drowned. An ocean current pulled both of them out into the deep waters, while they were swimming. Cheyenne tried to save him, but he panicked and died. On Saturday, he said, “I do,” but now on Tuesday he had not breath. The new bride is left a widow, and their future dreams together have vanished as only the memories remain.
For people who believe that God is sovereign, these types of tragedies may tempt them to think, “How is God loving? Why did God plan for this husband to die? Why the pain and devastation after the joy of the wedding day? How can God love us if He is in control of disasters?”
In this last devotion, we will examine seven reasons why we should not believe these lies, but we should trust in God’s perfect, wise, and absolute love for Christians.
First, while God has a general love for mankind, he has a particular, salvific, and eternal love for His people. David writes, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” The objects of God’s steadfast love are those who fear him. To fear God is to repent of sin, believe in Christ, and follow Him as Lord.
Second, God demonstrated His love through Jesus’ crucifixion. The Apostle John reminds us in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The holy, pure, righteous, King of Glory voluntarily faced mocking, scorn, whips, nails through His flesh, God’s wrath, and death for sinners. Jesus paid a debt of sin, which He did not owe, to save rebels on whom God’s wrath abided.
Third, Jesus died for the wicked. In Romans 5:8, Paul writes, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus died for sinners in the present. We did not clean ourselves up to make us worthy of being saved. Jesus chose to save His people despite their vile condition. Paul describes a sinner before knowing the Lord in Titus 3:3, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” Would you die for this type of person? Would you die for the mass shooter at the Walmart in El Paso? Yet, God died for wicked men, women, boys, and girls.
Fourth, God has adopted believers into His family. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” As children of God, Christians have God not as an enemy, not just a friend, but as our Father. We have His inheritance, His love, and His care.
Fifth, as a Father, God disciplines His children for their good. Proverbs 3:11-12 warns, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” To protect us from greater sin and help us grow in the fruits of the Spirit, God wields the rod through trials, health problems, loss of a job, and/or church discipline to teach His children invaluable, eternal lessons.
Sixth, God’s love cannot be taken away from His children. Romans 8:38-39 promises, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you are a Christian, nothing can remove you from God’s love. It is permanent, secure, unwavering, and without end.
Seventh, as Lord over the universe, God lovingly exercises His sovereignty. Isaiah 40:10-11 teaches, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him… He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” God rules with power, and simultaneously He shepherds His people with compassion, empathy, and sacrifice.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus sovereignly and lovingly died for His sheep at the right moment in history. Yet, we can still doubt God’s love when sorrow strikes our lives. Jerry Bridges points out, “If God’s love was sufficient for my greatest need, my eternal salvation, surely it is sufficient for my lesser needs, the adversities I encounter in this life.”
If you are a Christian, take courage. Believe in God’s character and rest knowing that God is sovereign and exercises His power with wisdom and love. If you have not repented and believed in Jesus, take refuge from your sins in the one, true, holy, and merciful Lord.
Misery, fatigue, and frustration characterized my feelings in 2013. For four months, I had been working in the call center for the Illinois Department of Revenue. During the peak of tax season, I grew discontent and angry at God. As an introvert, the grind of taking one hundred calls a day and answering the same question, “Where is my refund,” sucked out my vitality. I thought to myself, “Why God did you give me this job? Couldn’t you have given me another position? Is this the best use of my skills? How does this work glorify you? How does it further the kingdom?” To my shame, I doubted God’s wisdom.
Jerry Bridges defines wisdom “as good judgment or the ability to develop the best course of action or the best response to a given situation.” A twenty-year employee, for example, may object to his new manager’s decision, because it would not be the best course of action. The manager has the power, but he does not have the right knowledge. In the same way, when individuals know that God is sovereign over every atom, we may be tempted to respond to difficult circumstances by doubting God’s wisdom.
Having established God’s control over everything in last week’s column, we will enumerate on five aspects of God’s wisdom.
First, God is incomprehensible. Isaiah 55:8-9 states, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Finite human beings who blunder daily cannot accurately judge God’s actions. It is foolishness. Moreover, Paul rejoiced over God’s wisdom in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” For a man to judge God’s actions is to proclaim, “I am wiser than God.”
Second, God’s wisdom is exhaustive. Psalm 147:5 teaches, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” God’s knowledge has no limits, unlike men. According to Jeremiah 10:12, God used His understanding to create the earth. “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” He has displayed His wondrous architectural work—everything contained in the universe.
Third, God acts in wisdom towards Christians for their good. To bring spiritual growth is God’s desire for His people—not merely wealth, health, and comfort. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” In His infinite wisdom, God plans every event in a Christian’s life to aid conformity into Christ-likeness. God will discipline His people as a parent does to a child to produce godly fruit (Hebrews 12:5-11). Additionally, Paul suffered with a physical illness according to the Lord’s purpose (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). After seeing the glory of heaven, Paul would be tempted to pride. God, therefore, humbled him through pain to keep him from sinning.
Fourth, God is good in the application of His wisdom. King David sings, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” God always uses His power and wisdom to do good. He is not a cruel, sadistic tyrant who sticks pins into our voodoo doll likeness for evil delight. Instead, God always makes the right, godly choice.
Fifth, God’s wisdom manifests His glory. Paul commands Christians to live with this supreme goal in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A Christian’s life is not about attaining selfish goals for manmade praise. On the contrary, a follower of Christ should sacrificially serve the Lord joyfully and without doubting His wisdom.
Six years removed from my first tax season at IDOR, I now rejoice over God’s wisdom. Through His providence, God provided a paycheck. He allowed me to save money to be used for future desires. He gave me opportunities to love my neighbor, to love my enemy, and to bless those who persecute me. Consequently, I grew by God’s grace in contentment, patience, and faithfulness. Today, while serving as a pastor, my experience prepared me to teach difficult topics with clarity, empathize with the frustrations of the secular workplace, and encourage believers to trust God even when they do not understand.
Friend, do not doubt God’s wisdom, but doubt your own.
In March 1942, Nazi Germany opened the most lethal of their concentration camps—Birkenau. As an expansion of the Auschwitz camp, Birkenau served two purposes. First, it housed prisoners for labor. Second, it facilitated the demonic murder of myriads of Jews through its four gas chambers. After arriving on a train, a Nazi doctor would evaluate each prisoner. He would point them either to the left or to the right. One way led immediately into the gas chamber which was disguised as showers while the other way led to the work camp. The doctor’s determination meant life or death.
Where was God at Birkenau? To protect God from accusations of doing evil, some people conclude that God is not sovereign. He does not have the power to stop evil. He, therefore, must be good, but He cannot act to stop the calamity. Others argue for a God who is in control of everything, but He is not good. What is the answer? Both conclusions present a false dichotomy. God is both sovereign and good. Jerry Bridges defines it as, “His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.
In this article, we will examine 5 Biblical reasons that God is in control. Next week, we will look at God’s goodness and wisdom.
First, God sustains the universe. Psalm 147:8-9 says, “He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.” Mother nature did not bring the flooding in the spring or the drought in the summer. It was God. He controls and maintains the weather, crops, animals, plants, and the earth’s orbit.
Second, God is sovereign over man. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Moreover, Proverbs 19:21 establishes, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Hence, God rules over man’s heart according to His desires and plans.
Third, God reigns over the nations. Regarding governments, Paul writes in Romans 13:1, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God created specific governments to accomplish His purposes and to restrain evil. In the cases of the Assyrian, Babylon, and Roman Empires, God raised them up and tore them down. Moreover, God controls the king or president’s heart. Proverbs 21:1 teaches, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
Fourth, God controls disasters. Isaiah 45:7 reminds us, “I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Natural disasters do not occur outside of God’s control. He governs hurricanes, tornadoes, and cyclones. The Lord controls cancer, car accidents, and death.
Fifth, God is sovereign over salvation. The disciples taught in Acts 4:27-28, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” God the Father planned before creation to send Jesus to die on the cross to redeem His people. Simultaneously, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews are guilty of murdering the Lord. God did not create evil, but he planned and used the evil of men for the greater good of salvation for all who repent and believe in Jesus.
How does this apply to the Birkenau concentration camp? Was God in control? Yes. Did God plan the number of days each person would live before the foundation of the world? Yes. Is God guilty of murder? No. Are the Nazis guilty of murder? Yes.
Why does this matter? If God is not in control, then we should not pray to Him. He has no power to help. Furthermore, if God is not sovereign over evil, then trials, suffering, and death have no purpose. Joseph, however, from Genesis 50:20, teaches both God’s sovereignty over evil and man’s guilt when addressing his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
Matt Bevin has served as the Governor of Kentucky since 2015. Before entering politics, he was a successful business man and evangelical Christian. He is a family man with ten children. Their oldest is Brittiney. She had a passion for missions. Even at the age of 14, she thought seriously about dedicating her life to the mission field. Her father encouraged her desires by taking her on mission trips to India and Romania. When she was 17, she wrote in her diary that she wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the broken. The next day she died in a car accident on Lexington road in front of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She had dreams of serving the Lord, but the Lord took her at the age of 17.
In moments of tragedy, people will ask themselves, “Can we trust God? Why didn’t He stop it? Is God good? Is He wise? Is He loving?”
In response to his own personal trials, Jerry Bridges wrote, Trusting God. He writes, “If we are to trust God, we must learn to see that He is continuously at work in every aspect and every moment of our lives. We, therefore, can only trust God if we see Him as being sovereign, wise, and loving.”
Is God sovereign? Sovereignty refers to having control or power over a sphere. Hence, as R.C. Sproul said, “There is no maverick molecule in the universe.” The Bible teaches this truth in Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Moreover, Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Chance and luck, therefore, do not exist. If they do, then God is not in control of everything. When facing this issue, people are tempted to either deny God’s sovereignty, which means God has no power to help them face their trials and their trials are meaningless, or they become angry with God, because He has not prevented the trial from happening. To do the latter is to question His wisdom.
Is God wise? God’s wisdom means that He knows everything that is to be known about everything, and He has always known it. Romans 11:33 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” When we face tragedies, we should not doubt God, but we should doubt our doubts. Did you create the universe out of nothing? Do you sustain it? Have you ever made a mistake? Well, God can answer yes to all three questions, and you cannot. Why would we trust our judgments over God’s?
Is God loving? God uses His sovereignty and wisdom to do what is loving for His people. After generations of idol worship, God removed Judah out of the Promised Land. He caused this trial to take place out of love for them. Lamentations 3:32-33 says, “though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Just as a loving parent does not spoil his children, but he assigns them chores and disciplines them when they break the rules, God brings trials into our lives to bring unbelievers to salvation in Christ and believers into greater maturity.
What are the consequences of rejecting these truths? When a person doubts God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love, he chooses anger, anxiety, worry, and depression. Why? Because God has given him a trial which he did not want, or God has withheld a desire which he wanted. In contrast, the individual who believes in these truths imitates Psalm 9:10. “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
Over the next few weeks, we will study the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love in more detail.
Pastor Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History, from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in Historical Theology in 2021 from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He is also an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. He is married to Karise with whom they raise Ian, Elizabeth, and Patrick. He is interested in history, especially Charles Spurgeon, and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.