Theological truth for a time may merely sit on the proper shelf of the mind. Truth has been carefully categorized, inventoried, labeled, and given the “theological nod” of mental assent before being stored away with little further thought.
This was true for me regarding the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in Providence. God… Sovereign… of course! No student of Scripture would deny such a core doctrine. Paying mere mental assent to a doctrine however is quite different than having that doctrine shape your thinking and and ultimately your decisions.
I grew up in an area of the country where the rugged individualists who were able to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” were admired and emulated. As a kid I loved TV shows like “The Lone Ranger”, “Gunsmoke,” and “MacGyver” – the rugged individualist who needed nothing more than a paperclip to get out of the most impossible situations.
I also grew up as an American being assured that I have rights and my culture expects me to stand up and demand them! I have the right to a good education, the right to affordable health care, the right to go where I please, the right to a good-paying job… the list goes on!
And then I moved to Africa.
Moving to Africa changed everything for me! Suddenly everywhere I turned I was running into problems that were impossible for me to fix. I could not solve them through my own ingenuity or hard work. I faced financial dilemmas that could not be fixed with a credit card because credit cards were not accepted. My sick children were given questionable diagnosis from experts who seemed unsure of what they were doing. On two occasions I wondered if my wife might die, and once my newborn daughter.
When I moved to Africa God orchestrated circumstances that were so far beyond my strength and competencies that probably for the first time I was brought face to face with the reality of my insignificance and inability. I found that I had no rights. The medical system was not what I left behind in America and my Visa Card was worthless.
It was then that God graciously re-introduced me to this life-rattling truth of the Sovereignty of God in Providence and made this truth part of my spiritual DNA. The truth of the Sovereignty of God in Providence is the rock of truth that I have desperately clung to through some very dark and discouraging days.
Here is what I have learned:
- God has a plan (Is. 46:10; Job 23:13) and He is constantly at work to bring that plan to pass. God’s plan is unchangeable, it must succeed and it will! God’s plan includes all things that come to pass (Ro. 8:28; Eph 1:11), and is ordered according to His own eternal knowledge, power and desire. (Acts 15:8).
- God uses everyone to accomplish His plan (Is10:7-11). Even the wrath of man glorifies God. Man through his own free choice is completely responsible for every ounce of sin and wrath and every act produced by that sin. Yet God controls and directs the heart of man allowing only the amount of wrath in man’s heart to be acted upon that will further His eternal purpose. The remainder of man’s sinful wrath, God restrains. Even Satan himself is a servant of God. (Job 2:5-6)
- In the end God will punish those who accomplish His plan but act out of wrong motives. (Is 10:12-16).
Though I cannot fully understand it, I know God rules in the affairs of men! I know that I am His servant and He has the right to tell me what to do. He has the right to send me anywhere He chooses. I know that no one can touch me without His permission! I know that I am invincible until He is finished with me. Though I may not have any rights, though I may be called to go into hostile territory – He who rules the universe is with me and will be with me to the end of the mission.
God is in complete control of my life all the time, in every situation! This life-rattling truth has become a daily reality. Confidence in this truth is the only reason I’m still in Africa after 20 years. SDG