Is God Really in Control?
Is God Really in Control?
Do you sometimes wonder whether God is really in control? Maybe something has gone wrong with your health, relationships, job or some other situation in your life, and you wonder: Does God know? Does God care? Is there anything he can do about it anyway?
One of the things that I remember so well about Bishop Sandy Millar’s time as vicar of HTB is that whenever things seemed to have gone wrong, or we were facing some kind of crisis, he would always remind us: ‘The Lord reigns.’ God not only loves you, but he is also the sovereign Lord who is ultimately in control of your life. He is also in control of events and history.
As A.W. Tozer wrote, ‘God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare, and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it.’ The Lord reigns!
The Lord reigns from conception to deathPsalm 139:11–16
You do not need to worry about or fear death. God has a good plan and purpose for your life. Even before you were born, he planned all the days of your life (v.16). You are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (v.14).
Human life begins at the moment of conception. God’s sovereign love extends to those in the womb. This is where our personal history began:
‘You watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day’ (v.16, MSG).
God is in control from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death and beyond. Put your trust in him.
Lord, thank you for your sovereign love for every human being. Help us to extend that same love and protection to all.
The Lord reigns over every area of your life3 John 1:1–14
God wants to bring restoration to every area of your life today. The apostle John prays for his dear friend Gaius in a holistic way: ‘I pray for... everything you do, and for your good health – that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul!’ (v.2, MSG).
John was thrilled to hear that Gaius was making spiritual progress: ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth… They have told the church about your love’ (vv.4,6).
However, John's prayer extends beyond the ‘spiritual’ to the physical needs of Gaius. There is nothing wrong with praying for friends to enjoy ‘good health’ and that ‘all may go well with [them]’ (v.2).
Faith is made visible by love. Love is practical. Hospitality is an act of love. In providing ‘meals and a bed we become companions in spreading the Truth’ (v.8, MSG).
When you show hospitality, you are part of a long Christian tradition that goes back to the New Testament.
John warns Gaius about Diotrephes who ‘not only refuses hospitality to travelling Christians but tries to stop others from welcoming them’ (v.10, MSG). He ‘loves to be in charge’ and will have nothing to do with John, but spreads ‘vicious rumours’ about him (vv.9–10, MSG). Even the holy and loving apostle John did not win everyone’s approval.
He urges Gaius, ‘don’t go along with evil. Model the good’ (v.11, MSG) and he prays: ‘peace to you’ (v.14).
John deliberately does not put everything down on paper (vv.13–14, MSG). Some things are best reserved for face-to-face meetings.
Lord, today I pray for my family and friends… that they will enjoy good health and that all may go well with them.
The Lord reigns over events and historyZechariah 1:1–4:14
It is not just in your own life that things can go wrong and you can wonder whether God is really in control. Sometimes, as we look at world events and history, we wonder what on earth is going on. Does the Lord really ‘reign’ in all the chaos?
Zechariah’s original audience needed to be reminded that ‘the Lord reigns’. He was a priest and prophet, who prophesised to the people who had returned to Jerusalem devastated after many years in exile. Zechariah lifts their gaze to God with messages of hope and salvation. God reigns – and he has not finished with his people!
At the heart of this renewed hope are promises of renewed relationship with God, which are ultimately fulfilled through Jesus. Again and again in these visions we see glimpses of Jesus:
- God will return (chapter 1)
The book opens with a call to repentance, as God calls the people to return to him. Alongside the call there is a promise – ‘“return to me,” declares the Lord Almighty, “and I will return to you”’ (1:3). Returning to God means repenting and admitting our guilt (v.6).
God’s promise to return is illustrated by a vision of a man riding a red horse (v.8). God promises: ‘Everything’s under control’ (v.11, MSG). He cares about them (v.14, MSG). The Lord reigns, and he loves you.
It seems that the myrtle trees are a picture of the people of God then and the church now, and so it symbolises Jesus (the man riding the red horse) who stands amongst his church.
If this is the case, then it is Jesus who intercedes for the church (v.12). His intercession was answered: ‘I’ll see to it that my Temple is rebuilt’ (v.16, MSG). This had a literal, historical fulfilment in the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem but it also applies to the church.
- God will protect (chapter 2)
Next, Zechariah saw a man with a measuring line in his hand (2:1). Again, could this be Jesus? God promises that Jerusalem will be a city without walls but he will be a wall of fire around it and its glory within. The church is the new Jerusalem – a city without walls (v.4). It is the ‘apple of his eye’ (v.8). God’s Spirit lives among us (v.10).
He assures them, ‘Anyone who hits you, hits me’ (v.8, MSG). He promises: ‘I’m moving into your neighbourhood!’ (v.10, MSG).
- God will forgive (chapter 3)
I have a habit of putting pens in my back trouser pocket and then sitting on them, leaving a stain that seems impossible to remove however often the trousers are washed.
You cannot remove the stain of sin in your life. But Jesus can.
The angel of the Lord appears to foreshadow Jesus. Standing before Jesus, Zechariah saw Joshua the high priest and Satan, standing at his right to accuse him (3:1). The name ‘Satan’ means accuser (see Revelation 12:10).
But Jesus is more powerful than Satan. The Lord rebuked Satan and said of Joshua, ‘Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’ (Zechariah 3:2). This is an image that applies to all who have been rescued by Jesus.
Joshua was dressed in ‘filthy clothes’ standing before Jesus (v.3) who said, ‘Take off his filthy clothes… I have taken away your sin and I will put rich garments on you’ (v.4). Jesus cleanses and re-clothes you through the cross.
The Lord Almighty says, ‘I am going to bring my servant, the Branch’ (v.8; see Jeremiah 23:5f). It continues, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day’ (Zechariah 3:9) – the first Good Friday, when Jesus removed all our sin in a single day.
The result is: ‘In that day each of you will invite your neighbour to sit under your vine and fig-tree’ (v.10). This is a symbol of peace, security and prosperity.
- God will give you his Spirit (chapter 4)
God’s word came to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’ (4:6). Neither the temple nor the church is built by might or power: ‘You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit’ (v.6, MSG).
Are you facing a seemingly impossible situation? You cannot overcome by sheer willpower. Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit.
Do not despise ‘the day of small things’ (v.10). Don’t look at seemingly minor accomplishments as unimportant. Don’t despise apparently insignificant, humble, ‘small beginnings’. The kingdom of God starts with a mustard seed, which grows into a big tree. Small numbers make no difference to God. There is nothing small if God is in it. Everything big has to start small. Nothing you do for God goes unnoticed or unrewarded. You may not see the fruits but you are accomplishing God’s purposes. Don’t give up on your dream.
The Lord reigns. He is in charge of events and history. In his sovereign love, by his Spirit, from a day of small beginnings, the temple was rebuilt. Now you can trust him to keep building and rebuilding his church from small beginnings by his Spirit.
Lord, thank you that you have removed my sin and given me peace, security and spiritual prosperity. I pray that you will pour out your Spirit and rebuild your church.
3 John 1:2
‘I pray that you may enjoy good health and all will go well with you...’
This seems a very good prayer to pray for family and friends this Christmas.
Verse of the Day
‘… all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’ (Psalm 139:16).
A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, (HarperOne, 2009) p.99
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