How To Respond To God's Control
March 26, 2019
The sovereignty of God is perhaps one of the most difficult things about God to accept and digest. When people think of God’s sovereignty, it is not uncommon for people to consider some negative connotations. When people think about God’s supreme control over ALL facets of life in heaven and on earth, many people panic about the concept of free will and question what God is doing. If everything in this life were perfect, it is likely that everyone would agree with God’s sovereign control and accept the extent of His authority. However, things are not perfect on this world, so people often question God’s control. It is easy to look at challenging circumstances and question God’s supreme control. Common questions arise like, “If God is in control, why is He letting bad things happen?” To make matters more difficult, the scriptures often make it seem as if God is not just “letting” difficult things happen, but is often the cause of these things! How then do we harmonize the ideas of God’s love, grace, mercy, and goodness with the reality that He is controlling all things, yet so much seems wrong?
It is difficult issues like this that should cause us to approach the scriptures with great care. God’s Word is sufficient to deal with these matters. God is not afraid of answering our questions. God is candid about His control, His purposes, and the effects of those things on human life. He doesn’t have anything to hide. However, if we are unwilling to approach the scriptures with faith and humility, understanding God’s truths will be difficult, if not impossible. If we don’t approach the Word of God with the foundational understanding that God is right and good no matter how things appear to us, we will find it difficult to accept the goodness of God as He reveals it. This is why the testimony of Job is so valuable. The testimony of Job documents the difficulties of Job as well as his natural and human response. Job was a great man of faith, but had questions, doubts, and heavy concerns just as much as any other person. Job was considered a blameless and upright man, but struggled in his faith like all other people for the same reasons – He didn’t know and understand everything God was doing, nor did He realize how God’s control was producing a good effect in his lifetime. Still, Job never doubted God’s goodness regardless of how hard things were for him.
In Job 19:7-12 the Bible shows how Job dealt with the sovereign hand of God. Job wasn’t blaming God for his difficulties, but Job knew that God was the ultimate cause of his difficulties. Regardless of where the source of pain was coming from, Job knew that God had charge over everything in heaven and earth. At some point, God had to approve of Job’s condition and allow the trials of his life. The Bible shows that the devil was the cause of Job’s affliction. Still, God gave the devil permission to do his evil against Job. Job didn’t know that the devil had been sent to cause calamity, but that didn’t really matter. Job knew enough about God to know that He is in charge of all facets and all qualities of life. Whether physical or spiritual, carnal or eternal, seen or unseen, God is in charge of it all and is the cause of it all. Though Job suffered, he didn’t question God’s control. He confessed God’s authority and thus submitted to it.
Job first recognized that God had essentially muted his voice. Job cried aloud looking for comfort from his friends and family. Yet it seemed like no one heard. Job sought for refuge from his accusing friends, but was unable to find relief from anyone. Job did as much as he could to reach out to those who might have been helpful, but the help that Job sought was unavailable. It was like those who surrounded Job didn’t hear him. The pitiful condition of Job caused the people around him to ignore him. It likely seemed more profitable to those around Job to separate from him, whether to deal with their own personal matters, or to escape the threat of being affected by Job’s issues. Either way, Job was essentially alone. The only ones that were around Job were his “friends” that constantly accused him, mocked him, and condemned him. Job understood that these things were not coincidental. Job didn’t understand why God was causing this sort of discomfort and isolation, but he knew that God was the cause.
In the testimony of Job 19:7-12 Job confessed that God had fenced him into his circumstances. There was no escape. Here, it is important to notice that the things that God determines will come to pass whether we like it or not. Job was not happy in his condition, but knew that there was no escape from it. The only way that Job’s circumstances were going to change was if the sovereign hand of God would cause the change. Job did not have any strength, will, or ability to change anything. Since Job was isolated from help, no one could come to his aid. Since Job’s friends were against him, they would not provide benefit. Job understood that God made a determination against Job, and that determination was inescapable. This shows that we cannot run from God; we cannot hide from God; we cannot escape from God in any capacity. When Job was prosperous, it was because God placed him and bound him within the walls of prosperity. His prosperity was on account of God’s determination and positioning. Likewise, when Job suffered, it was because God walled him in with suffering. No matter the human condition, we will be in that which God has designed for us, and we of ourselves cannot change it.
Job recognized that this season of his life was set to be darkness. God Himself had set Job’s path for darkness. God Himself had stripped Job of his previous glory and prosperity. God Himself had taken the crown of glory and beauty from Job’s head as evidenced by the ways people looked at him. God Himself had broken Job down, even using the tool as His instrument to do so. The extent of Job’s suffering was as if God encompassed and surrounded Job with misery. Job didn’t like it. Job didn’t understand why. Yet, Job knew what was true. The obvious question then is, why would God do such a thing, especially to someone like Job? First, it is important to recognize Job’s attitude. He didn’t have understanding as to “why” God did what He did, but that never caused Job to doubt God, criticize Him, or curse Him. This shows that faith in the Lord is not dependent on our understanding why God does what He does. Our faith requires us to trust that God is right no matter what He does. Our faith requires us to trust that God is indeed in charge of all things, whether they seem good or bad to us, but that God is good no matter our observation of the circumstances. If anything, God did this work against Job to teach us this lesson through him.
Still, there is more to learn from Job’s suffering. For example, while it might be easy to say that Job was undeserving of his misery as a friend and follower of God, the same could be said of his prosperity. Some might ask, what did Job do to deserve such suffering? To ask that question demands that we ask the same thing of his prosperity? What did Job do to gain such favor with God to prosper the way that he did? Even Job was willing to confess that he had enough sin in his life to warrant suffering. He just wanted to know which sin he was being punished for. But he never tried to justify his prosperity. He never tried to explain how deserving he was of his previous riches. The Bible shows that even as God’s people, we do far more to warrant suffering rather than prosperity; yet Job was a recipient of God’s blessings. What difference does it make if we prosper first then suffer later or vice versa? The problem concerning our questions of God lies in this: Who do we think we are to feel we should receive prosperity from God all of the time without suffering of any kind so that we question God’s control when difficulties arise? Don’t we do plenty on a daily basis to offend God? Don’t we agree with the Bible when it says that God punishes us far less than we deserve? If that’s the case, then why is God’s sovereign control so frequently questioned?
The Bible clearly shows that God has the authority to bless and to curse, and will do either at any time He pleases. The Bible also shows that God’s work is always good and right. Consider the perception of Job about his suffering. He stated that his hope was uprooted like a tree by God. Job felt that he was being kindled in God’s wrath. Job felt like he was counted as one of God’s enemies. Job knew that since God has total charge and control in both heaven and earth, God’s armies were also against Job. If God wanted Job to suffer, all of heavens angels – good and evil – agreed. Thus, God had all of His hosts against Job. They encamped around Job and laid siege against him in order to ensure the will of God for Job to suffer was fulfilled. This seems extreme, but consider these statements in conjunction with other Biblical truths.
Job’s hope was not uprooted. Though Job had lost hope for his prosperity and comfort in this life, this life offers no true hope anyway. Job knew that. Job had already stated that his hope was for death so that he could escape the inevitable suffering of this life and be restored in God’s glory in eternity. Therefore, does God really uproot our hope in this life? If so, it is only to correct our perspective of the truth: That there is no hope in this life, and the only hope is in eternal life which only comes through faith in Christ Jesus. Job felt that he was being kindled in God’s wrath. However, the Bible clearly teaches that God’s people are not appointed to wrath. Those who trust in the Lord, and Job did, will not suffer the wrath of God. Here, it is important to consider the difference between God’s anger, and His wrath. God expresses anger against His people, but with restraint, so as to preserve their spiritual integrity unto the fulfillment of His promises. The Bible describes that God will not show restraint when it comes to His wrath, which is why His people will not suffer His wrath. God’s wrath will cause total destruction in order to purge all traces and forms of evil and darkness. This is so that He can administer His blessings without threats of corruption. Job was not a victim of God’s wrath.
Job did not have heaven’s armies pitted against him. Yet, this is how Job felt. What can we learn from this? If Job felt this way and suffered so greatly as a friend of God, how much worse will it be for those who are actually enemies of God? How much worse will it be for those who actually experience God’s wrath? How much more pain will come to those who do have to suffer the effects of heaven’s armies being sent against them? Though it is tough to see that God allowed and caused Job to suffer, his suffering is NOTHING compared to that which will come upon the unrighteous, ungodly, and unfaithful. So, if the suffering of Job frightens us in how God’s exercises His sovereignty, how much more should we fear God considering how He’ll exercise that sovereignty against those who doubt Him, rebel against Him, and despise Him? Though Job’s pain was extreme, he never felt this way about God. Therefore, God was able to use Job’s pain for good purpose, giving us all a good example of how we should deal with the difficulties of life that God permits and inflicts. This is what true faith in the holiness, righteousness, and goodness of God looks like.