The Absolute Sovereignty of God, Part 2
November 15, 2009 | Andy Davis
Sovereignty of God, Providence and Sovereignty of God
This morning, as we were driving into church, I looked up in the sky and I saw all these clouds and these wispy white things up in the sky, and four or five of them were going more or less in a straight line, right across the sky. Some of them were bigger and puffer, but they were tracing out a straight line. And then there were others that were like mares' tails or just kind of amorphous, just clouds. And I said, "Look at those clouds up there, those are amazing. They go in a straight line." And one of my kids said, "That's not a cloud. That's a contrail from an airplane." [laughter] I said, "Well, how do you know?" He said, "It's in a straight line." I said, "Exactly."
God’s Sovereignty over His Mysteries
God doesn't do straight lines. Can you find straight lines in nature? Alright, I've looked at lots of trees in my life, I've never seen any straight lines. We love straight lines. Look all around this sanctuary, you'll see them everywhere, everywhere. Look at the handrail right there, look at all those straight lines up and down. We like them. And if they're not straight, something's wrong, poor workmanship.
We live in a wonderful and wild world that we can't figure out. It's filled with what seems to us to be chaos, and we're not comfortable with that. We like straight lines, we like everything figured out, but there's a wildness and a vast unpredictability to the world that God has made, that has baffled human hearts from the beginning of history. You sit there, it's fall now, and you just watch a leaf be released from a topmost branch and it flutters down to the ground. Have you ever watched the entire journey? Sometimes I looked on it like a metaphor for life, birth and death, and all that kind of thing, but I won't go in there today. I'm just talking about just how it flutters, and how strange and unpredictable is the path, and who knows where it's going to end up with all the other neighbor leaves that have fallen before.
Who knows? God knows exactly where that leaf is gonna end up, but there's not a man on Earth that can tell you where it's going to end up. It's completely unpredictable. Clouds, as I've already mentioned, strange to us, I guess, random shapes, and some people like to find shapes in the clouds, and you do that, but they generally defy, really, that it looks kind of like such and such, but it's... And then these mysterious winds just blow them across the continent, and no one can really predict where they're going to go.
Even Jesus said the wind blows where it wishes, and you can't tell where it comes from or where it is going. You know, a waterfall goes over and there are twigs and leaves that have fallen in, and they just swirl, and there's this foam and it lands, and then there's this eddies and currents, and it goes off in some backwater and accumulates there for a while and then breaks free and flows down to the sea. And you just stand there and watch it for a while, and it just defies orderliness and organization and thinking. We can't figure it out, the turbulence, the swirly patterns.
Have you ever blown out a candle and then watched the smoke that just goes up from the candle, and it goes up in a straight line, but it doesn't stay in a straight line. It starts to do all of this dancing stuff, these swirling turbulent patterns. Physicists call it chaos. Actually, recent physicists have worked on theories of chaos, chaos theory, and they're trying to organize chaos for us. And one of these quantum theorists, Werner Heisenberg, as he lay on his deathbed, he said there were two things he wanted to talk to God about, ask him questions about. One was relativity, and the other was turbulence. And he thought God might be able to explain relativity, but not turbulence.
Now, I don't think he knows the God of the Bible. God can explain both. But turbulence, those forces on liquids and gases that make them do unpredictable things, chaos. Mathematicians call it probability, and they come up with rules of probability, whether the next coin flip is gonna come up heads or tails, or the next dice, but they can't tell you really what's gonna happen, just what's likely to happen. I'm not sure how to fit probability together with theology. I don't think they do fit.
God’s Sovereignty over Human Wills and Actions
Probability is really a human looking at the future, based on the past. Gamblers set odds, and they'll tell you the odds that something will happen, this team will beat that team, and all that. Nobody really knows. Probably most of sports talk radio is predictions about the immediate future. It's worthless, friends. No one knows what's going to happen in the big game. They can come up with their stone pipe lead cold locks, or whatever, and then nothing happens, like they said. They don't predict accurately 'cause no one really knows. Hindus speak of karma. Everyday language we use... We speak of luck. We wish people good luck.
Talk about that. One of the most common parting statements in daily life, "Good luck." Somebody's about to go for a job interview and we say, "Good luck." Hopefully, none of us says it, I'll get there in a moment, but good luck. Or somebody who's playing in a championship basketball game or giving a senior recital on an instrument, or going in for a big operation, good luck. Well, that's based, I think, on a concept that's foreign to the biblical worldview that I'm going to preach today.
What is luck? What is it? What is fortune? What is chance? This impersonal force flowing through the universe that affects outcomes in life. Good luck causes things to go well for you, as far as you're concerned. Bad luck is the opposite, causes things to go badly for you, as far as you're concerned. So, someone taking a college entrance exam, an SAT, doesn't know the answer and guesses. Gets it right. It's good luck. A lucky guess. A non-athlete picks up a basketball and just kinda throws it at the halfway from the length of the court, halfway into the other basket and it just goes swish, and we say, "That was a lucky shot."
People speak of leaving something to chance, that means just letting it happen. Your car breaks down in some highly-unusual way, you miss a flight or something happens as a result. It's just bad luck. We extend it to what we call chance encounters, like when you meet some old friend by chance in a crowded airport, or someone happens to leave the exact right amount of money to pay a bill when you didn't have your wallet, and that was just good luck that it worked out that way. Couple has been married for years, recounts how they, by chance, met one another at a college function. Some people go so far as to believe in lucky charms, good luck charms, like a four-leaf clover, or something like that. We all just survived Friday the 13th. Glad to see you made it through. [laughter] Were you worried? No? I wasn't either, barely noticed. It was just another day, another date, but others are troubled by these kinds of things, they're superstitious about this. Christians actually, knowing that they're not gonna go so far as to say, "Good luck," still use words like fortunate or misfortune. You know, it was my fortune to be standing on the curb when the cab went by on a rainy day and I got a shower on my new pants, and so it was just my misfortune.
This view of the universe that I've been describing is incredibly pervasive, it surrounds us all the time, and it is completely false. Friends, bottom line, there's either luck or there's God, the God of the Bible, one or the other, and you can't have both. Now, you may be in the habit of saying, "Good luck," to people, and all that. Change it, okay? Change the habit. Let's refer everything to God and to the goodness of God and the power of God and the plans of God, and not to some random force in the universe that swirls and moves, and no one has any idea. There's either luck or the sovereign plan of an infinite God whose purposes may be... I would say, are inscrutable to us, for no one can trace out the path of God. Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who has been his counselor? His ways are beyond tracing out, Romans 11 tells us, but still, there's a plan.
And his purposes are intelligent and wise and good and powerful. This is what the Bible teaches. Now, last time I preached on the Book of Proverbs, several weeks ago, we began to look at various verses and proverbs that teach God's absolute sovereignty. It's striking to me that some of the clearest verses on the sovereignty of God in everyday life are in the Book of Proverbs, but so they are. And so we started last time by looking at God's sovereignty over mysteries, over his mysteries.
Proverbs 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but to search out a matter is the glory of kings." God is able to hide things, and we are to search them out, and God sovereignly chooses these things. And so it's a good thing for us. It's a comforting doctrine. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. That idea is very comforting to us. But we are troubled by it, as I mentioned in the last sermon, that people... Yes, that is comforting, but it's also troubling too, because we know very well that lots of bad things happen in this world. Does God ordain them? Does God sovereignly choose those things? Why do so many evil things happen?
And if God is so sovereign over human decisions, then why does he or how can he hold us accountable for any decision we ever make? And if God's sovereign over human hearts and he chooses people by his sovereign will, then why doesn't he save everybody? Why does he send anyone to hell?
So these are troubling questions, and they bother us, but it doesn't mean that God's absolute sovereignty isn't taught in the Bible, it is. And so it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but to search out a matter is the glory of kings. And so we, as children of the king, sons and daughters of the living God, it's to us to search out what God has revealed. But we need to know the whole time there's many things he has not revealed, and it's his sovereign will to hold those things back. We also saw last time that God is sovereign over human wills and actions.
Proverbs 16:1, which you heard Tom just read, "To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue." It is a good thing. It is in the image of God for human beings to make plans. We ought to make plans, but all of our plans are subject to the will of the sovereign God of the universe, even the reply on your tongue, even the reply on your tongue. In Proverbs 16:9, "In his heart, a man plans his course, but it's the Lord who determines his steps."
So what you speak and where you walk, those things are sovereignly ordained by God in a mysterious way. Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails." We spoke of big, grand, life-shaping plans, like going to college or your career, who you marry, children, all of those big things. You make plans, many of those plans, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails.
And even down to the smallest detail level, what you're gonna do with your time on a random Tuesday afternoon? Those small details, should you go to Walmart first and then to Kroger? Vice versa? The Lord rules over all of those things for his own purposes.
God’s Sovereignty over the Hearts of Kings
We saw, thirdly, God's sovereignty over the hearts of kings. Very comforting doctrine, Proverbs 21:1, “the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a watercourse, whichever way he pleases.”
God is able to influence the minds of kings directly and effectively, to chart the course of human history. He is the mover and the shaker behind the movers and shakers in this world. He rules over them all, and we saw this in a number of biblical examples, Pharaoh, whom God hardened his heart so that he would chase the Israelites even into the Red Sea. Now, God hardened his heart to do that.
We saw the dramatic example of Nebuchadnezzar, who God changed his mind like that into the mind of an animal, and for seven years, he had the mind of an animal, and he ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven. And just like that, God changed his mind back and he was the sharpest, clearest-thinking, most powerful leader on the face of the Earth. God has that kind of power even over a human mind.
Clearly, the most significant and important example of all was concerning the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and how there were important movers and shakers. There were human leaders that made decisions about Jesus. The church assembled together after those same leaders began to persecute the church, and the church was genuinely threatened, even with death, by these same leaders. They assembled together for one of the great corporate prayer meetings ever, in Acts Chapter 4, and they gathered together and they started to quote scripture. And they were quoting scripture about God's sovereign control over human leaders. And this is what they said in their prayer, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant, Jesus. They did what your power and will had determined beforehand should happen. So God directed their hearts like a water course to kill Jesus.
You might say, "Why would God the Father do that?" Because it says in Isaiah 53:10, "It was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, so that he would be a guilt offering for us, that his blood would be shed for the forgiveness of our sins." And so he ordained the death of Jesus. He orchestrated the death of Jesus in the hearts of Annas and Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. Pilate did everything he could to set him free, wanted to set him free, but there were certain factors at work in Pilate's heart and in the situation, and Jesus was condemned.
We've seen it. We see it in secular history not so that we can say definitely this or that or the other, it's just too complex for that. I think sometimes what they call providential history can be a bit dangerous and a little simplistic, but I know this, that God sovereignly overrules the flow, the course of history, even after the end of the Book of Acts. Amen? And he's been ruling over that ever since, and I think it's just like the Book of Esther, where God never even appears, the name Lord or God doesn't even appear, but he is so clearly orchestrating the events of that book. There's no doubt about it.
The king just chanced to happen to read such and such a book about how Mordecai had saved his life, and it just... Look, I mean, we know that that was orchestrated by God, but he's never mentioned. And I think that's our stance toward history, we know that God is controlling it, but we don't know exactly how.
God’s Sovereignty over Seemingly Random Events
And so that's how it works. Alright. So I want to extend that today to talk about a few other areas, and I wanna go to this verse that supported the way that I began this message today, God's sovereign control over seemingly random events. Look at Proverbs 16:33. It's printed on the cover of your bulletin or you can look in your Bible, but there, it says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord."
Well, what does this mean? Well, the lot was the ancient way of rolling dice. It's a random event, a casual tossing of the lot into the lap was a way that whoever tossed it cut themselves free from direct influence over the outcome so that you can make a decision in a matter. So they throw it and just let the lot decide, that kind of thing, 'cause they couldn't control it, the human being can't control it. But this proverb says it may be that a human being isn't controlling it, but there is control over it. Every dice comes up the number God ordains.
It represents, I think, as all proverbs do, they go beyond just their language to go teach a principle about life, that there are no random events in life, that God's sovereignty, his plan, his purpose overrules all of it. There are no seeming... There are no chance events. They are seemingly chance to us, but God rules over everything.
We see it at work in the Book of Jonah, how Jonah is running away from God, and he's asleep under the deck, and God, in judgment on Jonah, brings a storm on that ship of pagans that are sailing to Tarshish. And so they, believing that some God is behind the storm, which it's true, some God is, the only true and living God has brought that storm, but they cast lots to find out whose fault it is that the storm and the lot just happened to come up on Jonah. So that is this proverb at work, right in the Bible. It identified Jonah, rightly so.
So there is no such thing as luck. Luck doesn't exist. There's no chance. There's no fortune. Las Vegas is a whole city devised and built on so-called games of chance. I have never been there. I hope to never go there, alright? But if the Lord wills and if the SBC is there some year, or something, who knows? I might end up in Vegas. [laughter] What will I do in Vegas? No idea. But the roulette wheel, I guess, rolling, the ball clatters around, and it ends up 19 red, and money exchanges hands. Somebody's happy, everybody else is sad, and that's kind of how it works, games of chance. According to this proverb, though, the ball just ends up in the right slot and color that God wills. And you might say, "Why would God care?"
Some have criticized Christian football coaches for their involvement in prayer as God... God bless our endeavor, and like... God really cares, like the Almighty really cares about the outcome of a football game. Stop right there, dear friends, he does, but not like you and I care.
God's not a fan. It's not like he's got your team's banners up on the wall. It doesn't work like that. If it worked like that, sports would be ruined, that team would win every game by the infinite perfect score. But God uses these things all the time. He uses a college football game or the Super Bowl to bring about changes. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, he's using that in people's lives. He's even using it in people's lives who are... Who don't even care about the outcome of the game, but the outcome of the game did affect their lives in certain ways that they couldn't have known about.
And you're telling me God doesn't care about the outcome of a football game? He cares whether a sparrow falls to the ground. If he cares whether a sparrow falls to the ground, then he cares about the outcome of every football game, frankly, of every game. How many games do you play depend on the roll of a dice? Many of them. I don't say all, but many of them. Some have other randomizing things that... Like have you ever played Candy Land? I bet I may be the only person. I don't know if there's other weird people, but I actually Googled on Candy Land strategy. [laughter] It's true. And there actually was a website that gave the following answer, "There is no strategy for Candy Land." [laughter] The next card comes up red and you go to the red square. The only thing you can do is cheat, friends [laughter] That's the only thing you can do. And maybe some of you parents have cheated to accelerate the game, but we won't tell our kids about that. I'm not saying I've done that, not saying whether I did or not, but the fact is, the next card comes up and you go to that square.
But what I'm saying is the next card comes up the color God ordained, and you might think again, why does God care about the order of a stack of Candy Land cards? Well, he does, I think, 'cause he cares about atoms that make up the universe, alright? But he cares about everything and he's ruling over everything, and so, therefore, stop getting frustrated when you lose a game. When the dice rolls up and it comes up, God ordained that for his own purposes. Be happy, as happy as if it'd come up for you. It's the truth. It's just a whole different way of looking at the world. There's an intentionality and a personality behind it, a good purpose, a loving purpose.
Now, that doesn't mean that we should cast lots to make decisions, as the early church did to replace Judas Iscariot, they cast lots and lot fell on Matthias. I think the Lord... I'm not saying whether they should or should not have done that, but I think the Lord has given us better ways of making decisions, searching his face in prayer, studying scripture, getting godly counsel. We can make wise decisions. You don't need to cast the lot.
Kevin DeYoung wrote a book on determining God's will called 'Just Do Something'. And I love the subtitle, 'How to Make Decisions Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc.' So, basically, we, I think, should seek the will of the Lord through more intelligent means than that, but still the proverb is true, that the Lord controls even seemingly random events.
God’s Sovereignty over Battles
We also see, in the Book of Proverbs, God's sovereign control over battles. Military conquests are controlled by the Lord, and I don't just mean the ones like Joshua conquering the Promised Land. God rules over all military battles for his own purposes, and therefore, he rules over history, to a large degree. Large degree, history is made up of military conflicts that define lines on the map, and who's gonna rule over what land. And so it says in Proverbs 21:31, "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord."
Well, what does this mean? Well, it is for men to prepare, it is for God to decide. The commander gets his mightiest weapons ready. The horse was the mightiest military weapon on the battlefield, really, for most of human history, really, up until the end of the 19th century, when mechanized and machine guns and other things started coming in, then the horse became obsolete, militarily, but it was a terrifying thing to see a bunch of horses stampeding towards you, very, very, very scary, very powerful.
So the horse symbolizes the best a man can do to get ready for battle, the most advanced technology. A general can get his army as ready as he wants, with the most overpowering technology available, but the victory does not depend on his weapons or his battle plan or his reserves or, ultimately, on anything but the will of the Lord. Now, that doesn't mean that our friends at West Point shouldn't study old battles and learn how commanders did this and that. They should, actually, but ultimately, it's the Lord that decides.
A parallel verse teaches Psalm 33 very clearly. Psalm 33:13 and following says, "From Heaven, the Lord looks down and sees all mankind. From his dwelling place, he watches all who live on the Earth. He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army. No warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance. Despite all of its great strength, it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait and hope for the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him, our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name." It all has to do with reliance and confidence.
God warned Israel not to trust in their military prowess. He said if they turned away from him, he would turn away from them on the battlefield, and he predicted this through Moses, the song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32, "How can one man chase a thousand? How can two men put ten thousand to flight unless their rock had sold them, unless their Lord had given them up?"
So what are the implications? Well, it doesn't mean that the army shouldn't train or prepare. Psalm 144:1 says, "Praise to the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war." David wrote that there was a training process. He even spoke about that when he was about to kill Goliath. He said, "I learned how to use the sling when I was a shepherd."
So there's a value to that. Even Jesus talked about it. He said, "Suppose the king is about to go to war against another king," Luke 14:31, "Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able, with 10,000 men, to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000 men?" And if he is not able, he will send a delegation to the other while the other is still far off and ask for terms of peace. But what this proverb does teach is that the final outcome of every battle in history that there has ever been depends on the plan and the will of God. That's what it means.
God controls the battlefield, and through it, God controls human history. The boundary lines for the world have been forged in battle, and Acts 17 shows the sovereign power of God over the battlefield. He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live, Acts 17:26. Therefore, America should not rely on the overwhelming technological superiority of our weapon systems, our advanced tactical fighters, nuclear subs, cruise missiles, smart bombs, aircraft carriers, M1A1 Abrams tanks with reactive armor and laser-guided missiles, because none of those things, which are the modern version of the horse, will avail at all if God turns away from the nation.
God can easily defeat all of that if he so chooses. Rather, a people's security, any people's security has always been this, we trust in the Lord, and in his name we go.
God’s Sovereignty over His Enemies
And then, finally, God's sovereignty over his enemies. Listen to these two proverbs. Proverbs 21:30, "There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord." Wow. Let me read that again, "There is no wisdom, there is no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord."
Another one, Proverbs 16:4, "The Lord works out everything for his own ends, even the wicked for a day of disaster." So what do these proverbs mean? Well, it means that God is omnipotent. God rules over all. All power is really his, including Satan's power. Why? For, in him, we live and move and have our being. Romans 11:36, "For from him and through him and to him are all things."
If Satan and all of his demons and all of his people on Earth assembled in one place at one time to fight against the Lord, they would lose. You know what? I actually think that is gonna happen. It's called Armageddon. I think that's the final battle, that's exactly what he tries to do, the second coming of Christ. And Psalm 2 depicts this, why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain, the kings of the Earth take their stand, the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Let us break their chains, they say, and throw off their fetters. The one enthroned in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them, then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath.
I've often marveled at what Satan was thinking in taking on God. I mean, I've wondered about that. There is no plan, there's no purpose, there's no intentionality that can succeed against the Lord. I don't think he believes that, clearly, but I think the test case was always, Satan, what are you gonna do with the incarnate Christ? It's a test case on this very proverb.
What are you gonna do with Jesus? Now, through Peter, he spoke, at one point, concerning Jesus' crucifixion, "Never, Lord," he said, "This shall never happen to you." And Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan, you're a stumbling block to me." There, Satan was tempting Jesus not to go to the cross, to not die. And yet, later, Judas Iscariot takes a certain piece of bread from Jesus, accepting his role as the betrayer, and Satan entered into Judas and he went out and betrayed Jesus to death.
What is going on with Satan? Satan doesn't know what to do with Jesus. He doesn't know whether to kill him or not to kill him. Do I kill him? Do I not kill him? What should I do? There is no plan. There's no purpose. There's no will or intentionality that can succeed against the Lord. You know what Satan does? He does what we always do. He reverted to his nature, and Jesus told us Satan's nature, he was a murderer from the beginning. And so what did he do to Jesus? He did his own nature, he murdered Jesus, and in so doing, he destroyed himself. Amen. There is no plan that can succeed against the Lord.
And so God sovereignly ordains the defeat and death of his own enemies. The Lord works out everything for his own ends, even the wicked for the day of disaster. This is kind of the mirror image verse of Romans 8:28, where it says “God causes all things to work together for good, for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.”
Proverbs 16:4 and Romans 8:28 are just two sides of the same sovereign coin. God works out everything for good for his elect, and he works out sovereignly the day of disaster for his enemies. It's what God does. And so, therefore, what are the implications?
Do not fear the awesome power of the wicked. Fear God. And do not be one of Christ's enemies. Do not be against him. And here's the beauty of the Gospel, dear friends. This is the incredible beauty of the Gospel. The Gospel has the power to change enemies, Christ's enemies, into his friends. Saul of Tarsus can wake up in the morning, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord Jesus, and that evening, go to bed, go to sleep, praising Jesus for his own salvation. He can do that in a human heart.
A thief can be nailed to the cross and be hurling insults at Jesus at the beginning of the crucifixion, but by the end, he's saying, "Remember me, Lord, when you come in your kingdom," and hearing, "Today, you'll be with me in paradise." God is sovereign and he can change enemies into friends.
It says in Colossians 1:21-22, "Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior, but now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight without blemish and free from accusation." You were once enemies, and now look at you, you're friends, friends of the living God. But I think not all of you, I think not all of you. I trust that actually God brought some of his enemies here today to hear this message of grace, that God is standing and holding out his arms to you and urging you to be reconciled to God, to come to faith in Jesus Christ and lay down your weapons of revolt against his sovereign power, and come, and take Jesus' kingly yoke upon you, and follow him because he's gentle and humble in heart.
And so I beseech you stop rebelling against Christ, stop fighting against him, stop kicking against him, stop sinning against him, and come to Jesus and just know his forgiveness and his mercy.
Friends, in two sermons, we've seen God's sovereignty over his mysteries, what he chooses to reveal and what he chooses to conceal, his sovereignty over the words and actions of human beings, his sovereignty over kings' hearts, directing them like a water course whatever way he chooses, his sovereignty over seemingly random events, even the roll of a dice, his sovereignty over the battlefield and even his sovereign power over his enemies. So what’s the application?
First, rest confidently in God's power. Do not fret because it seems like the world is chaotic or out of control. It isn't. It isn't. It may seem like there's a madman in charge of Iran and another madman in charge of North Korea, and some may worry what if those madmen get nuclear weapons? Do not fret. Do not be anxious. Do not worry about those things, because God rules over all things. Yes, there are jihadists, terrorist cells plotting your demise right now, and mine. Al-Qaeda's still at work. There's still evil in the world. Do not fret or be anxious, for God rules over these things.
Secondly, pray for the sovereign power of God to be unleashed in the direction that the Bible says is its natural direction, the building of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. That's where the sovereignty of God heads or trends. "All authority in heaven and Earth has been given to me," said Jesus, "Go and build my kingdom." So pray, and that's the beauty of this doctrine of sovereignty, is it just unleashes your prayer life. You just pray to the sovereign God for the advance of the kingdom. Say, "Lord, I pray for this or that leader to open up that country, to open up North Korea, to open up Iran."
I actually had the joy and privilege this week of meeting an Iranian Christian who has been persecuted by the secret police. He and his wife, threatened with death, were out of the country. As he sat in my office, we prayed together. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Iranian Christians right now.
The church is growing and getting stronger in our end. Praise God, there's sovereignty at work for you, there's sovereignty at work, but just pray that God's power be unleashed and people's hearts would be open to accept this good news. God has power over human hearts. And when you pray, don't imagine that God would ever say to you, "I don't get involved in that kind of thing." That's below my pay grade, I don't do that kind of thing. No, God does everything. God is in charge of all things.
So go ahead and pray right before you roll the dice in the next chance game you play, "Lord, I pray. I need a seven right now, okay?" You can go ahead and pray, but let God be sovereign. Let him decide what he will do. And when it rolls up seven or it rolls up three, or whatever, the bottom line is, God was sovereign over that, whether you threw it or someone else did.
And when adverse things happen to you, bring them back to God in prayer. I've really been delighting in that song, 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus', and what it says there is it says take it to the Lord in prayer. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Bring it to Jesus. We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer. Were you discouraged this week? Is there something discouraging you now? Take it to the sovereign God in prayer, and he will welcome you, and he will draw you into his power, into his plan, and he will answer your prayers.
Take it to the Lord in prayer, and when you are in trials and adverse circumstances, don't forget to ask, "Lord, is this coming to me because I've sinned in some way? Are you disciplining me, Lord?"
The Book of Job teaches that not every adverse circumstance comes directly as a result of the sins of the people that come on it. We know that, but the opposite isn't sure, that it never happens that way. Sometimes it does. It could be that you're sick or going through something because there's sin in your life. Bring it to God and say, "Lord, have I sinned?" James 5 says that, "If he has sinned, he'll be forgiven." Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other.
That's what it says. So go and say, "Lord, this thing is happening to me. Have I sinned?" And when blessings come, thank God for them. They're not random, accidental events. They're not. So we should be having a super-phenomenal Thanksgiving in a few weeks, should have one later today, have one right now. Thank God for the blessings of your life. You guys should be happy. I really think you should be happier than you are, so should I. We should be happy people.
People should see our happiness and our joy because we are abundantly blessed, and we have so much to thank God for, and they're not random, chance things. They have been given to us by an intelligent force that wanted us to have these things. And do not make too much nor too little of human decisions and human will.
Andy Winn came out to me right before I preached and said, "Are you gonna talk about just the whole complexity of free will decisions and all that? You know, like the Wool E. Bull thing." I said, "What do you mean the Wool E. Bull thing?" You say, "Well, you know how you go to the game?" Have you ever seen Wool E. Bull, and he races a little kid every game. And Wool E. Bull both starts out one direction, the little kid starts out the other direction, and they run, and Wool E. Bull always loses, always.
And many have thought, gee, wouldn't it be fun if he would just kinda, "I'm sick of this job. I'm gonna beat this kid"? [laughter] You know, I'm tired of this. I'm gonna beat this kid just once. I know it would be my last race as Wool E. Bull, but I'm gonna beat this kid, alright? Imagine the kid just sitting there, sitting down and crying, and momma coming and getting him. That Wool E. Bull is finished, we're getting a new Wool E. Bull.
But what Andy is asking is is there real freedom in life? Are we making real decisions or is it all just foreordained? Well, I believe it is foreordained, and I believe we make real decisions, and I believe I cannot figure that out. I can't. I could think about that the rest of my life, and I'll not be able to figure that out, but I'm not gonna shrink back from what God's revealed. He said these things and I believe them. And I think we have real freedom to make real choices and we're really, really, really accountable for those choices, and he will hold them to account... Hold every person accountable.
I think the beauty is that God... I think God teaches that we choose according to our nature, according to our heart, but God has the power to change evil hearts and make them sweet and good and loving. So pray for that.
Don't make too much of human free will. Don't make too little of human decisions. Don't be like the open theist, who say that God cannot even know what human beings choose in advance. He can't even know so he's just kind of flying by the seat of his pants. That's not the God of the Bible, he has willed and ordains things.
And then, finally, when you play board games, when next you play Candy Land, rejoice, no matter who wins [laughter] Even if you're right about to win and you get Mr. Plumpy, and you get sent back to the beginning, praise God for that. Close with me in prayer.