Do you believe that God is absolutely in control over every single detail of your life? On Wednesday nights in the youth group, we have been studying through the book of James. We came to a familiar section in James last week, James 4:13-17: Come now, you who say, “ Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “ If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Coming right off the heels of rebuking our prideful hearts (James 4:6-10), James gives his readers a great test of their humility in 4:13-17 by how they view their lives, their plans, and their future. While some well-meaning Christians think you can just slap, “If the Lord wills,” on every sentence dealing with future planning and thereby be in compliance to these verses, I believe the true meaning of this passage goes much deeper than merely our speech. It targets the heart! James is setting up a sniper rifle shot straight to the biggest evidence of pride in our lives: our belief that we are ultimately in control of our lives. But James tells us that this is not the case (14a), that this is truly a foolish way to think about your life (14b), and that this is ultimately sin (16).
Why is this so? Is God really in control of every single detail of my life? Does God really care? Doesn’t He have more important things to deal with? There are SO MANY questions that are raised about God’s sovereign control over all of life, all of which I believe are answered explicitly and clearly in Scripture. I believe the Bible rings loud and clear that God is in control over everything, both on a macro scale (He knows every single star in the universe and calls each one by name, commanding their path, their gravitational pull, etc. Ps. 8:3; 147:4) and on a micro scale (He knows the numbers of hairs on your head, which for some changes more drastically and more often than others! Matt. 10:30). There is no maverick molecule in the entire universe! There are no rogue regions in the galaxies. There is no speck of atomic matter in the entire universe over which God does not say, “MINE!” And the Bible speaks clearly and in abundance over this issue. It is a truth that is so clearly seen as you devour the whole of Scripture and it is a doctrine that I have come to cherish and love! But the greatest question in dealing with God’s sovereign control is this: is God in control over evil? Is He still in control even when bad things happen?
This is a very difficult question to deal with, not because Scripture is silent on this issue or isn’t clear about God’s hand in the evil that goes on in this world. Rather, it is an extremely difficult question to deal with because it is such an emotionally charged question packed with pain, with sorrow, and with grief. Therefore it is a question that one must take great care to compassionately answer. But in looking at Scripture, it is a question that is answered very clearly. Here are just a few verses that show God’s control over both good and bad situations and circumstances.
Deuteronomy 32:39 –
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.
Job 12:9-10 –
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?
Psalm 104:29 –
You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire and return to their dust.
Exodus 4:11 –
The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
Isaiah 45:7 –
The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
Lamentations 3:32 –
For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.
These verses are just the beginning of how detailed and clear God’s Word is about His control over every single aspect of life! There are two quick points I want to make and then I’ll save the rest for another post. First, the Lamentations 3:32 verse is so crucial! God causes grief in the lives of those He calls His own for the expressed purpose of their greatest joy! As we stare at all that God is for us in Christ, as we are made to stare at Him alone in the midst of our trials and grief, we are most satisfied in Him alone and our joy is made full in Him alone! So, He causes grief for the expressed purpose of causing greater joy! Read John 11 where Jesus does not go to heal Lazarus but instead lets him die out of His love for Lazarus, Mary, and Martha! (John 11:5-6)
Second, God’s greatest purpose in suffering is His glory and this is for our greatest good! As we are made to see and savor the goodness and glory of God, we are satisfied beyond anything we could possibly comprehend. We were made to be satisfied by God alone and as Augustine said, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God alone! So in the midst of suffering and grief, remember John 9 and the man born blind. It was not his sin or his parents’ but rather God created him blind so that God’s glory would be on display! Consider the cross. At the moment of greatest grief and suffering, beyond anything that we could possibly even fathom, as the entirety of God’s wrath was being poured onto Christ, the greatest joy possible was being reconciled and redeemed because of the suffering and grief.
So, God is in control of everything, the good, the bad, the in between, and He is causing all things to work together for our greatest joy in Christ, our greatest conformity into the image of His Son, and His greatest glory! And this is the most comforting news we could possible in the midst of suffering and grief! And this is the reason why we hold our plans loosely and say, “not my will but Yours be done,” as we look toward the future.
May we rest in the sovereign control of God over all things this day and find our satisfaction in Him alone!