|God Is Sovereign|
Elisabeth Elliot: We have to learn to carry within our hearts unanswered questions. But it all comes down to trusting God. Do you really think God knows what He is doing?
Lisa Barry: We don't like unanswered questions, do we? When a marriage fails, we want to know why. When a child dies, we want answers. It's this very thing that keeps scoffers scoffing. Remember the jeers that came from the crowd when Jesus was on the cross? They said, "If You really are the powerful Son of God, then come down off the cross. Prove Yourself." Isn't that what mockers are saying to us today? "If your God is so great, why does He allow suffering? Why do the guilty go unpunished?" Answers. They want answers.
Today on Gateway To Joy, Elisabeth Elliot talks about God's sovereignty and why we can trust Him, even when we don't understand His ways. Here's Elisabeth.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking again today about "He's got the whole world in His hands."
Yesterday I gave you some Scripture verses which support that view, certainly not my opinion but what the Bible says. Psalm 40:5 says, "Thy wonderful purposes are all for our good."
When that terrible bombing took place in Oklahoma City, did God know it was going to happen? Yes. Could God have prevented it? Yes. Did God prevent it? No. Has He still got the whole world in His hands? Yes. Are we faced with unfathomable mysteries? Of course we are. We are human. We are finite. Our vision is extremely limited. God knows exactly what He is going to do with this sin-cursed world.
Did God know before He created Adam and Eve that they would sin against Him and bring into the world death and destruction and sin? Of course God knew that. He is omniscient, which means He knows everything.
Do we know why He permitted the bombing in Oklahoma City? No. But let's remember, it's not all mystery. God does reveal Himself, as we've said, not only by His Word, but by His works, whether they're done solely by His hand or by the hand of man.
I read you a verse yesterday from Acts 4:28. "They did [speaking of Herod and Pontus Pilate] what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." Does this mean that Herod and Pontus Pilate could not help doing what they did? No. God created man with the freedom to choose, knowing full well that man would often choose wrong.
We have to learn to carry within our hearts unanswered questions. But it all comes down to trusting God. Do you really think God knows what He is doing? I don't have any question about it. Would I bother to be on the radio as I am, trying to help you to learn to trust and obey, if I had the slightest inkling that maybe it wasn't true, that maybe God is not on the throne, maybe He can't control the world? No. I have absolutely no question that He has got the whole world in His hands. He's got you and me, brothers, in His hands. He's got the tiny little babies in His hands. He's never taken by surprise.
So there's another verse in Acts. It's Acts 2:23, a little bit like the one in chapter 4. It says here, "This man [speaking of Jesus Christ] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross." He was handed over by God's set purpose and foreknowledge. God knew all along what was going to happen. He knew before He created man that it would be He Himself who would have to bleed to death on a cross because of that man's sins, because of your sins and my sins.
"You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to a cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him." It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. We have a miracle-working God.
As the hymn says, "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm. Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain. God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain."
So we learn through what happens to us the sacraments of His will-the visible events and signs, which speak to us of invisible and unfathomable realities.
After the bombing had taken place in Oklahoma City, the BOSTON HERALD sent three reporters there. Did you hear this story? All became Christians as they witnessed Christians' response, because these reporters had fanned out and gone into several different churches where Christians were singing hymns and praying, in spite of the terrible disaster that had taken place. So these reporters learned something that they certainly were not expecting to learn when they were sent there as newspaper reporters.
Was God at work in the salvation of those three men? Of course. Could God have saved them some other way? Well, we don't really know the answers to things like that, do we? We would say, "Yes, of course He could have, because He can do anything He wants to do." But we're not really dealing with mysteries as we should, recognizing that we don't have the answers.
Nothing is meaningless. Nothing is for nothing. Everything is designed, assigned, apportioned, allotted, ordained and/or permitted for our learning. If it hadn't been for the bombing, those three reporters would not have had the opportunity they had to become Christians.
So here is a prayer that someone else wrote: "Teach me to maintain a perpetual contentment under Thy allotments." We need to stand in the counsel of the Lord. In other words, be quiet before Him. Recognize, no matter what is happening, that God does know what He is doing. He has got the whole world in His hands. He will sustain and bless us. God will take care of us.
Another reference from Jeremiah 23: "This is what the Lord Almighty says concerning the prophets: 'I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land.' This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you. They fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise Me, "The Lord says you will have peace." And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, they say, "No harm will come to you." But which of them has stood in the counsel of the Lord, to see or to hear His word? Who has listened and heard His word?'"
It's my prayer today that we may learn what it means to stand in the counsel of the Lord, to wait quietly before Him, carrying within ourselves the unanswered questions, the unpacable mysteries, the things that completely baffle us and shut our mouths and bring us before God on our faces. Our personal history-is it full of obstacles to achievement, hindrances, frustrations of the real purpose? No. All of it is a help and preparation for God's work in each one of us. His work-that we might become for His glory, broken bread and poured out wine.
I hope that many of my listeners have read the beautiful book by Glenda Revell entitled GLENDA'S STORY. The subtitle is LED BY GRACE. Glenda's mother was a prostitute. Not a very fortuitous way of being raised, but God in His wonderful grace and mercy saved Glenda. Glenda and her husband David have a beautiful family. They live in Virginia. She has written this lovely testimony.
All the way through her life, which was a terribly sad, difficult one as a child, she looks back and realizes that she was led by grace. If anyone's personal history was ever full of obstacles, hindrances, frustrations, it was Glenda Revell's. But all of it was help and preparation in God's mysterious way for God's mysterious work.
If it hadn't been for what she went through, we wouldn't have that beautiful book-that testimony to the absolute faithfulness of God to a little child, even when she was the only child who went by herself to church every single Sunday, sitting on the front steps until they opened the doors, sitting by herself on the front pew. No one asked her who she was or why she came. But she knew that she could meet God there.
A child in the school she went to told her that church means God's house. So she thought, "I want to be in God's house." Read the book. A lovely story of the sovereignty of God.
Lisa Barry: And I will concur. It is great reading. I remember the first time I heard about Glenda's life. I was in sheer amazement that she even survived such a life, not to mention holding onto hope in a way that she did. The statistics were certainly not in her favor, but that's where the sovereignty of God comes in. Odds, statistics and probabilities are no hindrances to God if a child seeks Him out.
Whether you need a little encouraging yourself or someone you know does, this would be a great story to do just that. If you'd like to purchase a copy for yourself, the title to ask for is GLENDA'S STORY. The cost is $11. That includes shipping and handling. We also have GLENDA'S STORY available on tape. If you'd like to purchase that, you can call our toll-free number for more information.
Here it is: 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Or you can write to us at Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
Well, are you going through a trial right now that seems useless and painful? Tomorrow Elisabeth reminds us that suffering is not for nothing and is never wasted. Find out more the next time we meet for Gateway To Joy.