Seventh Sunday After Pentecost: The Sovereignty of God
- Austin B. Tucker Online instructor for Liberty Seminary and Anderson University who resides in Shreveport, Louisiana.
- 2014 1 May
Joni Eareckson was an active teenager. She loved horseback riding, hiking, tennis and swimming. All that ended when she dove into a shallow place of the Chesapeake Bay and broke her neck. She permanently injured her spinal cord and was left paralyzed from her neck down. She learned to draw and paint holding her pen or paintbrush between her teeth. I once saw her draw a mountain scene with a chalet in the foreground. Then she suddenly slashed two broad vertical lines across the horizon as if to ruin the work.
Turning to the audience she asked, "Why would an artist do that?" After a thoughtful pause, she continued, "Do you trust me?" Then with a few more skillful lines she transformed those two black lines into towering pines to complete the scene.
Our text comes in a part of Paul's letter to Rome's believers who struggled to make sense of life under one pagan tyrant after another. Paul wanted them to see that trusting Christ and His indwelling Spirit would enable and empower a holy life. This ultimately would bring glory to God and blessing to them as God's beloved.
Two unalterable facts assure us that God is still in control.
All Things Work Together for Good
There is no stagnation of life and no mindless drifting. We are not cogs in a pointless wheel, helpless and hopeless to the point of frustration. God is at work on our behalf.
Joy and happiness are tools in the Master's hands, but so are suffering and sadness (see Rom. 8:18). To the Corinthians, Paul wrote of a thorn in his flesh that made life burdensome for him. In three special times of prayer, the apostle begged for release from that harassment, whatever it was. He found God's reply to be, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). God is at work in your life, and He is working for your good, as well as for His glory. The second fact is:
Only for God's Chosen Ones Does Benevolence Prevail
He does not say all things are good. There is evil in this fallen world. However, God causes good and bad things to fit into His pattern ultimately for our good. God set His heart on us before we were born. He marked us as His own special family. He is making us to become like His Son, Jesus. God the Father brought us into right standing with Himself through Jesus, His Son; and He will continue His work in us until we share the glory of that beloved Son.
William Hendricksen illustrated the truth of this text with the story of a beloved pastor who became gravely ill. The congregation prayed earnestly for God to restore his health, but he died. At the funeral, the minister said to the grieving congregation, "Perhaps some of you are in danger of arriving at the conclusion that God does not hear prayer. He does indeed hear prayer, but in this particular case two prayers probably were opposing each other. You were praying, 'O God, spare his life, for we need him so badly.' The Spirit's unspoken prayer was, ‘Take him away, for the congregation is leaning altogether too heavily upon him, not upon Thee.' The Father heard that prayer."
Joni is an overcomer. After her injury, she went on to earn her college degree and become an outstanding inspirational speaker and author of more than 48 books. Many of them are award winners. She is an artist and TV personality. In 1982, she married Ken Tada.
Joni would not say that what happened to her as an athletic teenager that day in Chesapeake Bay was good. Romans 8:28 does not say all things that happen are good, and it does it say all things work for good for all persons. God causes bad things to fit into His perfect plan for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. God may be asking you today, "Do you trust Me?"