|God Is Always in Charge|
Lisa Barry: Do you ever wonder if God's really in charge? We're usually tempted to ask that when we encounter a totally unwelcome situation that's beyond our control. "Why me, Lord? Why her? Why now?" So to rephrase the question, are there times in life when God is unable to control the outcome of a situation?
Elisabeth Elliot had a few harrowing experiences of her own that caused her to wonder if she had stepped out of God's watchful eye. Today on Gateway To Joy, we'll hear about a few of those events and learn what was really going on behind the scenes. And now let's join Elisabeth as she does a little more reminiscing about God's faithfulness. Here she is.
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 with you today about this question, "Is God still in charge?"
There are times when we actually feel as though God has completely forsaken us, and we're just not really sure that God is in charge. Well, you remember the story of Job, don't you? Poor Job who lost everything, including his wife, including his wife's dependence on him and his wife's love for him. He lost his cattle and his servants and his children and his house. Oh, it's just by far the most devastating story in the whole Bible--but well worth your perusal. By all means, read the story of Job, especially if you're having difficulties. You think you got troubles? Read about Job's.
In Job 10:8-9, this is what Job is saying to God, "Your hands shaped me and made me. Will You now turn and destroy me? Remember that You molded me like clay. Will You now turn me to dust again? Did You not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence You watched over my spirit. But this is what you concealed in Your heart and I know that this was in Your mind. If I sinned, You would be watching me and would not let my offense go unpunished."
Job was a man who suffered more than anyone else in the whole Bible history, perhaps more than anyone else in the whole history of the world. But who are we to say? We're just ordinary folks--you and I--and I've never had anything to compare with Job's sufferings. But I do confess that there have been some times in my life when it didn't seem as though God was really in charge.
I was asking myself, "Has He let go of me? Is this thing which has happened an accident? Is it mere chance? A mishap? A calamity? A misfortune? A disaster? A catastrophe? Is it something undesigned and unintended?" I ask myself all these questions. "Did I come here by accident? Am I in the wrong place? Did I miss the way? Could I have helped it? Is somebody else responsible for the mess I'm in? Am I responsible?"
I thought about Joseph's unavoidable situation. It was because of his wicked brothers who hated him and wanted to murder him. They decided to drop him into a pit and then sold him. They saw that they could make some money out of this young brother of theirs whom they envied. So they sold him to some Midianites who took him to Egypt. He was put to work in the house of the Prime Minister.
This woman, under whose law he was working, tried to seduce him. She didn't succeed and she got so angry that she lied about him. He fled from her. He did not do anything wrong, but she lied about him. She told her husband that he tried to seduce her and consequently, Joseph was put into prison. And he stayed there year after year after year, and there isn't a word in the Bible of God's bringing him any comfort during most of that time.
He was in an impossible position because of the wickedness of his brothers and yet, it was a sovereign God who was in the business of transforming evil. You and I do not need to understand or to know what God is doing. We need only to trust. Do you feel that you have come to the place where you are by accident? Have you missed the way? Could you have helped it? Is somebody else responsible for the mess that you're in?
It is the very place meant by God to turn your eyes to Him. It has been planned. Everything that happens, the Bible tells us, fits into a pattern for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose. In Psalm 16:5 we read, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure."
Is God still in charge? Have you worried about that? Don't be surprised. God is testing us in a variety of ways. If we feel as though everything has fallen apart and God has forsaken us, listen to this. This then is of faith:
"That everything, the very least or what seems to us great--every change of the seasons; everything which touches us in mind, body or estate--whether brought about through this outward senseless nature or by the will of man good or bad; it is overruled to each of us by the all-holy and all-loving will of God. Whatever befalls us, however it befalls us, we must receive it as the will of God. If it befalls us through man's negligence or ill will or anger, still it is in even the least circumstance to us the will of God.
"For if the least thing could happen to us without God's permission, it would be something out of His control. His providence or His love would not be what they are. Almighty God Himself would not be the same God--not the God whom we believe, adore and love."
Does that comfort you? I certainly hope it does. God is totally in charge. "That everything, the very least or what seems to us great--every change of the seasons; everything which touches us in mind, body or estate--whether brought about through this outward senseless nature or by the will of man good or bad; is overruled to each of us by the all-holy and all-loving will of God."
I can imagine that some of my listeners are saying, "Well, if Elisabeth Elliot knew the situation that I'm in.... And she's going to try and tell me that this has something to do with the all-loving will of God?" Yes, and the only reason that I can say that with confidence is because that's what the Bible says.
If you read the book of Job, he went through agonies unspeakable. But in the end he learned his lesson. You know, the Lord with great compassion, great wisdom and great patience wants to teach you and me how much He loves us.
You parents, when you spank your children, you can tell them "I'm spanking you because I love you." Now that little child doesn't understand that, but he needs to hear it. And someday he's going to understand it. God has to spank us, too, because He loves us. It's not because we've come to the wrong place or we missed the way. It's because this is the very place meant by God to turn your eyes to Him.
Joseph's position was impossible, without the wickedness of his brothers and the sovereignty of God who transforms evil. Can you get that through your head? I find it difficult, but it's the truth. If it had not been for the wickedness of his brothers who sold him into slavery and for the lying of that woman that he was put into prison, our sovereign God would not have had the opportunity to transform the evil.
Now don't suppose for a moment that I understand this any more than you do. The will of God and the will of man are two separate things. God has willed to do His will. And He has willed to give to man the privilege of doing His will, which man is often going to do wrongly.
My second husband Addison Leitch, who was a professor at Gordon Conwell Seminary, was asked every year by his new classes the same old questions. "What do you do with the sovereignty of God and man's freedom to choose?" And his answer was always the same. We drive in a stake over here on the sovereignty of God. We drive in another stake over here on man's freedom to choose. We will not get those two stakes together. We have to wait until we get to heaven for the explanation.
Saint Francis de Sales said, "When I survey the occurrences of my life and call into account the finger of God, I can perceive nothing but an abyss and mass of mercies. Those which others term crosses, afflictions, judgments, misfortunes--to me who inquire farther into them than their visible effects--they have ever proved the secret dissembled favors of His affections."
Will you love Him? Will you trust Him? Will you praise Him? God bless you.
Lisa Barry: Well, I'm sure you have a lot to ponder after today's program. And that's a good thing because we want to help you think on things above, to mull over the facts and chart a course for obedience. If you've got a story to tell about a lesson learned, we'd love to hear from you.
We also need to hear from those of you who feel God is prompting to support this program financially and prayerfully. We're not ashamed to say that we operate on a team principle. Using an analogy from the Bible, we might be the mouth of the body but you are the arms and legs. No body would be complete with a mouth only, and by the same token we are not complete without you. If God is speaking to you about Gateway To Joy, then I hope you'll answer that call and write to us today. Here's our address:
Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. Or toll free 1-800-759-4JOY. And if you'd like a tape of today's program, ask for the series entitled "Reminiscing" when you call. They'll give you the purchasing information. That number again is 1-800-759-4569. Have you found us on-line yet? You'll find everything there is to know about Gateway To Joy on our Web site at gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
Be with us again tomorrow, when Elisabeth wraps up this series with an important message about acceptance.