If I were to summarize the most personal lessons God has taught me about Himself, it would be these three truths:
- He is sovereign.
- He is good.
- He is enough.
Today’s world does not hold these truths to be self-evident.
Would anyone with this world’s perspective say there is a deity with sovereign authority over the physical universe? There is too much devastation caused by the powers of nature, too much death at the hands of man, too much unconquered disease. No. If there is anyone atop Mount Olympus claiming to be head god, the other gods are surely laughing at him. And/or planning a coup. And you say God is sovereign (Psalm 93)?
But suppose there is such a God. Would anyone dare declare Him good? If good, He should not let ISIS keep up its murderous rampage, nor violent rapists ravage women and girls, nor bloodthirsty thugs behead little children. He should not have allowed Ebola to wipe out entire villages, nor AIDS to have left generations of children fatherless. Most of the goodness in the world seems to be done by humans in response to the evils that the gods seem powerless to stop. Yet you Christians say God is good (Psalm 100:5)?
Such a God is enough (Philippians 4:11-13)? For what? Puh-leeze. I need things, people, pleasures to anesthetize me to the painful realities of life in a world gone mad. I deserve to be happy – you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Do you recognize this thinking as that which characterizes our God-rejecting world? You would never think that way, though, would you?
Or wouldn’t you? Just scale those examples back a bit into your own life, your own personal history. Perhaps you and I have been guilty of the same mistaken notions about God.
Three Truths We Must Learn
Truth Number 1 – God is Sovereign
Was there ever something God allowed in your life that caused you to resent His authority, His Kingship? “God, did you forget about me over here? Or am I too little for you to notice?” For me, it was, belatedly, my father’s death. The questions some years after his death were along the lines of, “Did you think through the implications for everyone affected by this? Are you willing to take responsibility for damage control? Because it’s not going all that well down here.”
Only God can see everything all at once (Jeremiah 23:23, 24). His perspective is all encompassing (Psalm 139:7-12). I cannot fully understand how one event affects one person, let alone how it affects everyone in the whole interconnected world. God made all the interconnections, His infinite mind does see every cause, every effect, every domino reaction (Psalm 33:11). And He has no problem with the responsibility that sovereignty entails.
Truth Number 2 – God is Good
Was there an event God brought into your life that caused you to think, “God, even Your Word says this is not good. I thought we were on the same page about this” (Habakkuk 1:13). Perhaps it was the moral failings of a spiritual leader, or an injustice in a work situation. For me, it was the belief (irrational though it was) that God’s allowing my brother to die was equivalent to murder. “If man kills someone, it is murder. How does God kill someone and still demand we call Him good?”
God is good. “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). That is not up for debate. His very essence is goodness. There is no thread, no spot, nor no hint of evil in Him. So we can be sure that all things that He allows in our lives, even those things that don’t feel good, even those that look bad, have passed through His good hands and will be used for our good and His glory. It is our perspective we need to realign, not our definition of God.
So what is our good? God, our maker, gets to define that.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28,29).
Our good is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son! (Note: We do not conform ourselves. This is not something we can achieve by self-effort.) Any metaphor I think of to describe the process of “being conformed” entails some degree of pain: we could be molded, carved, pruned, planed, sanded, refined by fire—and it’s usually not under anesthesia. So it turns out that the suffering we use to challenge God’s goodness is the means to Christlikeness. If we embrace that goal, we should be able to affirm that God is good.
Truth Number 3 – God is Enough
What do you feel you can’t live without? For me, it was my marriage. “Life will not be OK without my marriage, do you hear me now, God?” What if God actually did take your non-negotiable away? Or even one of your high preference items. Maybe you won’t realize it is a non-negotiable until He takes it away.
Sometimes God places us in circumstances we would have thought unendurable: financial devastation, terminal illness, a spouse’s unfaithfulness, infertility. Is God enough for you in these unthinkable circumstances? I most experienced God’s sufficiency when I lost my most important thing. As I let God become the most important thing, other things fell into proper priority.
Habakkuk was an Old Testament prophet in anguish over Judah’s apostasy. His book records his prayers and God’s direct, personal responses. Habakkuk had watched Judah forsake their covenant with God and descend into ever increasing sin (Habakkuk 1:2-4). He could not understand why God did not act. God assured Habakkuk that He was at work behind the scenes to bring judgment on Judah. Judgment would come by means of the Chaldeans (Babylonians).
Next, Habakkuk questioned why God would use an evil people to punish His own people, since He is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 2:13). God assured Habakkuk that at the appointed time, the Babylonians too would go down in judgment.
Habakkuk is buoyed up by His encounter with God. He finishes his book with these amazing words, which became my testimony of God’s sufficiency when God took my most important thing.
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Living These Three Truths
God’s sovereignty over history and over nations spans centuries. The horrors around us, worldwide and personal, are fully known to God and are under His control. He has not turned a blind eye. Though all we may see at the moment is evil, God will bring about His ultimate good.
Most of us will never be where all is lost. Many Christians in Syria and Iraq are there right now. Yet even in their desperate, devastating circumstances, they provide testimony to God’s sovereignty, goodness, and sufficiency. Some of their enemies, the very ones persecuting them, are asking for Bibles. They want to seek out the Christian God because they see something in these Christians that is hugely lacking in the false religion of the Quran.
Let’s live what we believe about God. Let’s bring Him into our conversations. It may be the way people decide to find out who He really is.