Believing and Perceiving the Sovereignty of God
Recently a new family came and visited our church. As we typically do I tried to connect with them for lunch. During the conversation my new friend talked about how he loved doctrine and was committed to church planting. I think we were both encouraged with the conversation and potential for ministry. However, when we left I did not know how deeply this doctrine had penetrated his soul and permeated his life.
Both would soon become evident. When God’s sovereignty is believed by somebody it is perceived by everybody.
There are several immediate areas where I was able to see that this man truly believed in God’s sovereignty. The first is, he prayed. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Among other reasons, we pray because we believe that God is sovereign. This man became a regular at our weekly men’s prayer meeting at 6AM. He came and called out to God to show himself powerful and good in our church, in our city, and among the nations. You don’t do this if you don’t believe that God is sovereign. Prayerlessness is as loud a theological statement as prayerfulness.
Secondly he jumped into the fabric of the church life. Community, mission, and training. The guy was everywhere encouraging people with the greatness of God. Again, you typically don’t do this if you think that the power behind your labor is only your own. If anyone has truly leaned upon the boulder of the human heart then they realize that we are ill-equipped to move it ourselves. We need a sovereign God who is willing to act!
At this point you may be saying, “I suppose, but someone could do these things earnestly for awhile and then fizzle, showing they hadn’t really been gripped by God’s sovereignty.” To this I would say, “You may be right.” In this narrative there is still more to the story.
A few months after being in our church this gentlemen called me to let me know that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. He told me to pray. I told him I would. With perceptivity, he pointed at me with eyes full of tears and said, “Before you pray for healing pray for our attitudes and actions. Pray that we would make much of Christ during this trial.” In so many words he said, “What good is healing if we dishonor Christ?”
I trust that you are beginning to perceive the theology that my friend believes. He had spent long hours in prayer, meditation, counsel with his own soul and his wife’s, and he had landed with both feet upon the Rock of his salvation. He was resting in the God who is both sovereign and good. He believed it and I perceived it. Faith in a sovereign God does not lie dormant in the dusty pages of a church creed—it lives powerfully in the souls of saints.
Within a short time there was surgery and my wife and I visited our new friends in the hospital. When we got there we were greeted by this man’s tearful smile and embrace. “They think they got the cancer! She is doing great! God heard our prayers. He is so good.” He then hugged us and told me to thank God in prayer.
This is just one snapshot in a few months of a man’s life. There are a million more snapshots on the heavenly bulletin board of God’s grace. The sovereign God shows himself to his people. These people believe him and other people perceive their faith.
It is incalculably encouraging to consider the twin facts that God is involved with his creation and powerfully sovereign over it (Acts 17.26-28; Ps. 115.3). You are only further refreshed when you steep this truth in the reality that he is also eternally good and for his people (Ps. 119.68; Rom. 8.28).
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.”
(Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken)
Erik Raymond is pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and he writes regularly at his blog, Ordinary Pastor.