“I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
You have no money. You don’t know how you are going to pay your bills. You need a job. You don’t know where you are going to live. How will you survive in the future? What will you do when you are too old to work? What will happen if you get sick or have an accident and you have massive medical bills? Your car is about ready to give up the ghost. Your boss or co-workers are a nightmare to work with. Your loved one is sick. You are a single parent. Your spouse just died. Your family hates you because you are a Christian, and so it goes. If any of that sounds familiar, then you are a normal believer in Jesus Christ! Welcome to the “living as a sinner in a sin cursed world” club.
If you are familiar with your Bible, then you probably have a variety of thoughts running through your head when opportunities to trust God and live by faith show up on your door step. Here are some of things that pop into my mind:
- The Bible says being anxious, worrying, and fretting is a sin.
- The Bible says I need to trust God and pray.
- The Bible says God is going to take care of me and my needs.
- The Bible says to observe the ant, save for the future, and not be a sluggard.
- The Bible says not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own.
- The Bible says it is the responsibility of parents to save for their children.
- The Bible says not to fix my hope on the uncertainty of riches.
- The Bible says it is the Lord that gives us the power to make wealth.
- The Bible says the Lord makes people rich and poor.
- The Bible says the hand the diligent is made fat.
- The Bible says not to presume upon the Lord.
- The Bible says the righteous man lives by faith.
I could go on. You get the picture. The fact is, the Bible says a lot of things and some of those things seem to contradict each other. You want to do the right thing. You want to trust God, but you have a nagging feeling that you should do something besides pray, so you say to yourself, “The Lord will take care of it,” and saunter along chewing on a blade of grass. Are you exercising faith or being presumptuous? Are you trusting in the Lord or being lazy?
Rest assured, the Bible does not contradict itself. You should trust God, pray, and do something. But how do your needs, God’s sovereignty, His promises, and your responsibility to obey the Lord work together in the predetermined plan of God’s eternal, sovereign, and unchanging decree? Remember, this is a blog post, so prepare to be disappointed if you are looking for a thorough explanation of how God’s sovereignty works in conjunction with man’s responsibility. God’s sovereignty is a deep well and for this particular occasion we have a short rope and a small bucket. However, let me try to give you a refreshing drink.
The Bible says God is absolutely, completely, and comprehensively sovereign (Psa. 22:28; 103:19; 115:3). Consider that in order for God to be absolutely sovereign, He must be all powerful (Gen. 17:1), all-knowing (Psa. 139:1-6), and everywhere present (Psa. 139:7-12). What this means is that nothing is impossible for God (Jer. 32:27). God knows all things actual and possible in the past, present, and future, and nothing escapes His notice for He not only is everywhere present, but has perfect knowledge of every place (Psa. 147:5). Selah, pause and meditate on these simple but profound truths in relation to your fears, anxieties, and troubles. God sees you! He is watching you! God knows what is happening to you! God is powerful to deliver you! Nothing in the universe, from an atom to an entire galaxy, is out of His sovereign rule and control. Your Heavenly Father knows all about your life and present situation. He has caused or allowed what is, has, or will happen to you and will use it for your good—if you love God and are called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28).
But let us get down to the bedrock of these truths. You have needs, fears of the future, impending doom on the horizon, struggles with your own sinful heart and the sins of others. How does the fact of God’s sovereignty and His precious and magnificent promises put money in your bank account or bread on your table? Or do they? How can what has already happened to you, evil, wrong, injustice, death, etc., find its remedy in God? Put yourself in God’s place for a moment. Yes, I know this is a futile exercise in some respects and a ridiculous request. But let’s just say you are God and you know all things and have always known all things from eternity past, from before the world began. You know ALL things. Nothing ever takes you by surprise. You exist at all times simultaneously and exist in the eternal “now.” You have planned, seen, and known all about the rebellion of Satan, the fall of Adam and Eve, the wickedness of man, etc. It is all before you all at once and you understand it all perfectly for you are working to guide history to fulfill the purposes you have intended for it (Isa. 46:8-11).
You have sovereignly chosen certain people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to be rescued and redeemed, to worship you and give you glory for all eternity. Your plan was to send your only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live a sinless life, to die on the cross for the sins of the world, and to rise again from the dead in order to conquer sin, death, and Satan (Rom. 5:6-9; I Cor. 15:1-4; I Pet. 3:18). Those you save you desire to give you glory, but they are sin-cursed sinners, who live among sinners in a sin-cursed world. In your infinite wisdom you know just what those individual sinners need to grow and become more like your Son. You know exactly what will help transform them from glory to glory into the image of your Son (2 Cor. 3:18).
You know combinations of blessings and trials, hardships and pleasure, suffering and ease will bring about the necessary growth that will allow your children to be more like your Son, give you the most glory, and bring them the greatest amount of personal blessing for all eternity. This plan, your decree, you have set in motion and nothing can stop it (Psa. 33:11; Isa. 14:24; 25:1). You will bring your plan to pass for you declare the end from the beginning saying that your purpose will be accomplished (Isa. 46:10).
Enough of pretending to be God—back to you and your life in this sin-cursed world. Here you are in your current situation with your current fears, trials, pains, and sufferings. Why? Because this is what God, being the infinitely wise, all loving, kind, merciful, gracious, compassionate God knows is what is best for you (Psa. 147:5; Jer. 29:11). If He could improve upon His plan, He wouldn’t be infinitely wise, He wouldn’t be God. But He is the infinitely wise God and that is why you are facing whatever it is you are facing in your life (Eph. 1:11). God loves you (Rom. 8:32). God wants to make you more like Jesus (Rom. 8:29). God is using life and death, infused with grace, to transform you into the image of His Beloved Son so that you can give Him maximum glory for all eternity (Jn. 1:16; Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:15). There you have it! That is the short answer to the common question, “Why is this happening to me?”
Now let us consider some of the statements mentioned earlier.
- The Bible says being anxious, worrying, and fretting is a sin (Psa. 37:1, 7-8; Mt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:6). The reason anxiety, worry, and fretting are sins, is they are a practical denial that God is sovereign and good. When we worry we are saying in effect, “God isn’t in control (He isn’t sovereign); what is happening to me is not right (God is not good).” Anxiety, fretting, and worry are a practical denial of who God is and that is why they are sins.
- The Bible says I need to trust God and pray (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:7; I Thess. 5:17; I Pet. 5:6-7). As Bingham Hunter rightly notes in his book, The God Who Hears, “Prayer is the means by which God gives us what He wants.” That is a most excellent definition of prayer. When we pray asking according to His will, He hears or answers our prayers (Mt. 7:7; I Jn. 5:14). When we don’t pray according to God’s will, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groaning’s too deep for words according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27). In order to pray, we must believe God exists, that He is sovereign, and that He can answer our prayers. We pray because we believe that God can answer our prayers, to demonstrate our trust in Him, to play a part in His sovereign work, and to amplify praise to Him.
- The Bible says God is going to take care of me and my needs (Psa. 38:9; Mt. 6:8, 32-33; Heb. 13:5). Over and over again the Bible teaches us God will provide for us, that He knows what we need, that we need to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and all other things will be added to us. God is even working to answer our prayers before we ask! He takes care of birds and flowers and yet, loves us even more. He did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all and therefore we can be assured He will freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32).
- The Bible says to observe the ant, save for the future, and not be a sluggard (Prov. 6:6-11; 10:5; 19:14; 31:25). We need to observe and work hard like the ant. And if the Lord gives us an abundance, we should save up for leaner times, for the winter seasons of life. Yet, if God has not given us seasons of abundance or has for a time, but then later has taken it all away, then we need to trust that He will take care of us. Job lost family and fortune, but the Lord chose to restore it again (Job 1-3; 42:12-17). Regardless of God’s plan for us, He will take care of us, for He has promised to do so, and He cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
- The Bible says not to worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own (Mt. 6:34). The future is unknown except for what God tells us in prophecy. There is a heaven and hell (Jn. 5:28-29). Jesus will return (Rev. 16:5; 22:7, 12, 20). And while prophecy tells us things about the future we can be absolutely sure about, most of the future is not revealed, but lies within the secret counsel of God’s eternal decree. Even though we don’t know what is going to happen, we do know that God knows all about it, and has planned it from from the beginning. It’s also true that God only supplies grace for the moment and tells us not to worry about the uncertainty of the future (II Cor. 9:8; 12:9; Eph. 1:3).
- The Bible says it is the responsibility of parents to save for their children (Prov. 19:14; II Cor. 12:14). This is also true. Parents normally work and leave some sort of inheritance for their children. But we must remember the Lord makes both the rich and the poor (I Sam. 2:7; Prov. 22:2). If the Lord does not give parents the ability leave an inheritance, and in His sovereign plan, does not impart an excess of wealth to them, that is His prerogative. If parents are wise and diligent in life, they will usually be able to leave something behind for their children, but there is no guarantee.
- The Bible says not to fix our hope on the uncertainty of riches (I Tim. 6:17). In fact, the Bible says not to weary ourselves trying to get rich and that riches can sprout wings, fly away, and disappear (Prov. 23:4-5; 28:20; Mt. 6:19). Contrary to the barking voices of the world, we are told that striving to get rich leads to painful consequences (I Tim. 6:9).
- The Bible says it is the Lord that gives us the power to make wealth (Deut. 8:17-18). If God doesn’t want you to be rich, you won’t be rich. He is sovereign over what you have and will receive. Everything you have—your life, your parents, your possessions, gifts, skills, talents, etc.—are all from the Lord (I Cor. 4:7; James 1:17).
- The Bible says the hand the diligent is made fat (Prov. 10:4; 12:24, 27; 13:4). One of the first gifts God gave man, even before the fall, was the gift of work (Gen. 2:15). The world says work is bad, God says it is good. The Bible tells us that our labors are a gift from God (Eccl. 2:24; 3:13; 5:18). Those who embrace work as a good gift from the Lord are blessed. You may not be blessed with earthly riches, but blessing will result. Diligent parenting produces children who are a blessing. If you are diligent to work on your marriage, your marriage will be a blessing. Work, contrary to what the world tells us, is primarily for the blessing of others not self. Work in itself is a reward and a blessing from God (Eccl. 5:19).
- The Bible says not to presume upon the Lord (Prov. 27:1; James 4:13-16). We make plans for ourselves but it is the Lord who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9). We don’t know what tomorrow holds and so we must say, “If the Lord wills,” acknowledging that the Lord must permit or allow our plans to take place (Prov. 20:24). We are not free to do what we want, but are restrained by the sovereign providence of God and we must trust Him, not ourselves (Prov. 3:5-7).
- The Bible says the righteous man lives by faith (Hab. 2:4; Heb. 10:38). Faith is both a mental assent to the truth, but more than that, faith is a volitional trust in the God of truth and His Word. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). And thus it is by trusting in the Lord, His character, and His promises that we cope with the trials, difficulties, and challenges of life. Trials, distilled down to their essence, are opportunities for us to believe, trust, and rely upon the Lord.
So, life has come upon you with all of its trials and difficulties. These trials and difficulties are real, painful, hard, uncomfortable, and unavoidable. It is time to counsel yourself from the Word, remind yourself of the truth, and trust in the Lord. Answer the questions below from the Scriptures and talk to the Lord about them.
- Who is sovereign, knows all about, and allows or causes your trials?
- Who is God and what is He like that He would allow or cause you to suffer trials?
- What is it you really deserve because of your sin against God?
- What is the ultimate reason for your trials from the Lord’s perspective?
- How will God use your trials concerning yourself?
- What promises in God’s Word relate to your trials?
- Who has promised sufficient grace for your trials?
- How does God want you to respond when you encounter trials?
Trusting God’s promises as you seek to obey His Word is not being presumptuous or lazy, it is being obedient and godly. Eventually the days ordained for you in this world will come to an end (Psa. 139:16). The Lord will call you home (Job 14:5). And in heaven you will be fully convinced of the truth of what the Apostle Paul wrote when he said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). You will see and understand the infinite wisdom of God’s perfect plan in your life and for all eternity you will praise and glorify Him for whatever He has ordained for you.