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There Are No Accidents
Some days never go right–take the man who was late for work. He barely got up in time, rushed out the door, raced down to the subway station, and began to run so he wouldn’t miss his train. When he was almost to the train, he accidently bumped into a mysterious-looking man with a long coat. As he tried to collect himself, he remembered that he was in New York, and therefore, checked to see if he still had his wallet.
Suddenly he realized that it was gone, and forgetting how late he was, he quickly went after the man in the long coat, who was hastily making his way to a train. Just as he caught up to him, the mystery man stepped onto a full train with his back to the door, and the doors began to close behind him. But just before they shut entirely, the man pursuing his wallet just managed to slip his arm through the doors and grab onto the thief’s long coat. But now that the doors were closed, the train began to move, and finding that he was not able to open the doors, the man began to bash the thief’s body again and again against the doors to try and get his wallet back.
As he moved along with the train, both men began to scream for help, but no one assisted. And as the train quickly began to accelerate, the man began to run with the train, all the while trying to get his wallet back, by continually smashing the man with the long coat against the subway doors. But since he couldn’t pull the man off the train, he decided as a last resort to rip his long coat off in hopes of recovering his wallet. And through one big final effort, he just managed to rip his coat off as the train entered a tunnel.
Quickly he searched the coat, but did not find his wallet. Panting for breath, he ran to a phone to call his wife so that she could put a “hold” on his credit cards. When she answered the phone, she recognized her husband through his breathing and said to him, “Now honey, before you panic, I want you to know that you left your wallet at home!”
Can you imagine what went through the mind of the man who thought he’d been robbed? Or what about the man who used to own a long coat? What an unfortunate accident—or was it really? If you have surrendered your life to Christ, who made everything and holds everything together, can you believe in accidents? Can anything really happen by accident? What about when you hear . . .
“Class take out a clean sheet of paper, it’s pop quiz time”, or
“Your Mom and I have decided to get a divorce”, or
“Hello, I’m calling from the bank regarding your checking account”, or
“Sorry sir, it’s not a carburetor problem, your whole engine is shot”, or
“The principle needs to see you right now, and don’t bother going to your locker”, or
“Sorry kids, that wasn’t leftover stew, it was Alpo”
Are any of those really accidents? The question is this–is God in control, or do things like that happen by random chance? Many of us ask that same question, but say it in a different way. We ask ourselves . . .
“Why did my parents have to die just now?”
“Why don’t I have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or potential spouse?”
“What’s the reason I can’t find a good job?”
“Why are others promoted and I am not?”
“Where has the joy gone in my Christian life?”
“Why can’t I afford the things I really want? Why is life so hard? What is the answer?”
The answer ultimately has to be found in the sovereignty of God. The Bible tells us, without doubt, that God possesses total power and total autonomy as the master ruler, possessor and owner of all. Simply, God does as He pleases, only as he pleases, and always as He pleases.
In Deuteronomy 32:39 God proclaims, “See now that I, I am He, and there is no God besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” God states, only He has the power of life and death, only God has the power of sickness and health, only God can give victory in war or conflict.
Revelation 1:18 affirms that Jesus Christ holds the keys of death and Hades right now
Hebrews 9:27 tells us God appoints the death of every man–it’s not from a gun, a car wreck, a cancer or even war
I Samuel 2:6 & 7 says, “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.” God can and does reverse human circumstances. Even death and life are in the hands of God. When someone dies, it’s God’s will.
Psalms 47:8 says, “God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.” God is the ruler of the nations, He is running things and He has the right to do anything He pleases.
The Psalmist agreed in Psalm115:3, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” We can have confidence–God is in control.
And Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, [including Afghanistan] in the seas and in all deeps.” No place is hidden from His control.
Finally, in 1 Timothy 6:15-16, Paul tells us that God is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
God is the King of Obama and Romney. God is in perfect control of all that is happening. Being sovereign means He controls everything, His will is absolute, and He does whatever He pleases. You see, if our God is truly God, then His sovereignty must be absolute. His rule must involve total control of everything in His domain–every circumstance, every situation, every event, every person, and every conflict—everything, all of it.
Daniel 2:20-21 says, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.”
God claims responsibility for establishing and removing human rulers, however acceptable or unacceptable we may consider them to be. God is the one who will appoint our next president.
Proverbs 21:1 tells us that “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord, God turns it wherever He wishes.” God’s control means He either directly causes or consciously permits everything that happens in human history.
Paul said to the Romans in 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”
Paul taught the Ephesians in 1:11 that God works “all things after the counsel of His will.” God is in control–He is sovereign, which means that God does as He pleases, only as He pleases and always as He pleases.
Today, I want to share with you how God’s sovereignty must radically change your everyday life. We will take a small break from Mark before we start chapter 4–which is incredibly powerful. So what difference should the Son of God make in our lives?
ONE Since God is Sovereign
#1 There are no Accidents
It was no accident that a young girl was crippled while making a simple dive, because as a result, she became a spokesperson for the handicapped in the person of Joni Earikson-Tada.
I know in my own life, it was no accident that my wife and I needed to get a safe and reliable car. We couldn’t buy a car, new or used–we simply needed a car. So we prayed God would give us one for free. Two days after we started praying, I asked Jean what kind of car she was praying for–I told her I was praying for a Mercedes. Jean is much godlier, so she said, “With our ministry and our needs,” she was asking God for, in her exact words, “a station wagon, but not a big one.”
Three days later, I got a phone call from a friend who was trying to sell his car, unsuccessfully. He put it on six different dirt lots, and got tickets on his car each time. Finally, he said, “I think God wants me to give it away.” Then he told me that he wanted to give it to us. Then he said this to me, word-for-word, “Oh, I should tell you what kind of car it is. It’s a station wagon, but not a big one.” I fell over. That was no accident.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Let’s pick that apart for a moment.
“all things” means God’s sovereignty is all inclusive, every event, every circumstance, every situation that is intended (or) allowed by God is included under His control
“all things work” means God’s control is active and alive
“work together” tells us God is harmoniously controlling all the variables of life to accomplish His perfect plan
“all things work together for good” tells us God’s control is going to help you find God’s best in this life, even when we can’t see why it’s happening
“to those who are called according to His purpose”—everyone? No! Christians only. God’s sovereignty is like the lens in your camera or phone–it collects the light, focuses it, and records it digitally, but everything has to go through the lens first before you get a picture. God’s sovereignty means nothing gets to you until it is filtered through the character of God first. The sovereignty of God is like the coffee filter on your coffee pot, keeping the grounds out of your life and only letting the good coffee get through.
God’s sovereignty acts in the very same manner–nothing gets to you until it’s first been screened through God’s control (whether He actively brings it about, or allows it to happen to you). God controls events and people in such a way that nothing ever gets to you unless it’s God’s best.
God’s control means, everything that happens to you is also a reflection of all who God is. Think about that–God’s sovereignty guarantees that everything that happens to a believer is also a reflection of God’s love, wisdom, justice, grace, kindness–all of who He is. When I used to spank my kids–it was all of me. Never in anger–always patient, but it was all of me. That’s why it hurt me sometimes, other times they made me laugh.
Now make sure you avoid the extreme of seeing every situation as a message from God, or an indicator of what He wants you to do. Like choosing someone as your mate for life because their name is the same as your favorite childhood toy (Elmo, Nerf, or Lego, Call of Duty, Cindy Vader, daughter of Darth). No, we must trust in God’s revealed will–the Word of God, as the only guide to what God’s will is for your life.
Don’t read into your circumstances, but do trust Christ. When Joseph was tossed in the pit or in jail? No sign, but purpose.
Second, if God is sovereign, then . . .
#2 Pain has a purpose
Every trial, affliction, and suffering has a reason, and God is working it out for good. I know of a Christian who was dying of cancer. She was suffering, in great pain, but still mustered the strength to read her Bible every day. She couldn’t wait for her friends to come see her, because she wanted to tell them what God had shown her that morning.
When they came, she had them read Psalm 119:67 and 68. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word. Thou art good and doest good; teach me Thy statutes.” Then verse 71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes.” Then verse 75, “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me.”
When they finished, she looked up, smiled and said, “You know, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world–I’m right where God wants me to be, and it’s good.” Are you in pain, suffering, have been through horrible circumstances? God has allowed it to produce good in your life. There is something to be learned in every situation. For example:
When someone is unloving to us, we can learn what it means to love unconditionally
When someone hurts us or judges us, we can learn to forgive
When we’re struggling with someone in authority, we can learn to submit
When we run out of cash, we can learn to be better stewards
When we become bored with our life, we can learn to stay faithful
When we get sick, we can learn to thank God anyway
If God is in control, then there’s no more bad news. Now difficult events are good from God–I call them “God news”. He will even use bad circumstances to accomplish His will. Your past, your mistakes, your tragedies, your difficulties can all accomplish God’s purposes in your life. I remember breaking my glasses, and preaching the next day with an old pair. I couldn’t see my notes, so I ended up preaching the Gospel–Christ dying for our sin and rising from the dead about six times in my sermon instead of the two times I had planned. It just so happened it was a baptism Sunday, and two people getting baptized came up to me in tears, thanking me for sharing the Gospel so many times because their unsaved parents had come to church that day to see baptism. I couldn’t see my notes, but God had a plan to accomplish through it.
If God is in control, then there is nothing to complain about. To complain is to slam God’s rule. To complain is to assert that you know more and are wiser than the God who is all-knowing and all-wise. Listen to Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” God is sovereign, and the very next verse commands, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
Some visitors at a school for children who could not hear or speak were invited to write on the blackboard any question they desired the children to answer. One person was sufficiently thoughtless to ask, “Why did God make you deaf and dumb, while He gave other children speech and hearing?” There was tense silence for a few moments, and tears glistened in the eyes of some of the children. Then one boy took the chalk and wrote this sublime answer. “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” With a sovereign God, pain has a purpose, even when we don’t understand it.
Third, if God is sovereign, then . . .
#3 You are God’s best work (minus your sin)
You are exactly what God wants you to be. No matter what your circumstances of life may be, whether positive or negative, your trials, employment, weaknesses, appearance, family, and your personality (minus your sin)–you are exactly what God wants them to be. Apart from sinfulness and disobedience, every circumstance, every situation, and every aspect of your life is actually God’s best work. Students–even your body!
Is that how you view yourself? Others? As God’s best? I love what Paul said about himself in I Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” God is the one who made you what you are–not your sin. Yet even in that, He can make good even come from rebellion. “All things work together for good.”
That means some of you need to repent of your insecurities, worries, the focus on your poor health, obsession with your looks–because often that is just another way to focus on you. It is often pride–to say your concept of yourself or others is more accurate than God’s is pride. Who are you to condemn the work of God? Or who are you to have a different view of yourself than God does?
You’re a beloved child, a joint heir with Christ, a child of the King of kings–you are royalty. Eat your heart out, Prince William and Kate Middleton. They get sixty years of fame, but someday, see those ads, someday each of you believers will be the royal court.
Others of you need to stop being someone else, especially students putting on roles–too many in high school are playing a role. Maybe you are or you were . . .
the clown–life is a blast, but at home you are in depression
the non-emotional athletic stud—who wants to cry, but won’t
the tough chick–totally tender inside
the brainiac–with all the answers, and all the fears
the stereo-type cheerleader—“okay, okay, let me start over”, or . . .
the super-spiritual Christian outside–but not real inside
Start being yourself–be authentic, be genuine. Minus your sin, God made you the way you are. You are a unique masterpiece of God, but we will never see God’s work in your life until you begin to be genuine. If God is in control, then He made you just the way you are with your personality, gifts, experiences, looks, and abilities. By faith, accept the work God has done in your life, and be you.
Fourth, since God is sovereign . . .
#4 You have great questions to ponder
There are some questions that come with believing in a sovereign God. They are our questions to ponder, not God’s. Since we are finite and He is infinite, it is not unnatural to run into difficulties understanding every implication of sovereignty.
First The first question is practical
Our independent pride keeps both unbeliever and believer from submission to the sovereign of the universe. Submit means you do what God says–now, no delay. How good are you at taking orders from Christ? We find from Scripture, in 1 Peter 5:5, “All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Second The second question is theological
Is God sovereign, or is man responsible? Answer, yes
Is Jesus God, or man? Yes
Is the Bible written by God, or men? Yes
Is God in control, or are you responsible for your actions? Yes–both are fully true
Philippians 2:12 and 13 say, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, …, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” You work out, you do it, yet God is at work.
Christians live in the tension of God being completely sovereign in our salvation, our Christian lives, our growth in maturity, over evangelism, and in prayer. Yet you and I are fully responsible to respond to the Gospel, to aggressively pursue holiness in our Christian walk, to obey–even to the point of agony and exhaustion. We are to share the message of the good news as God’s chosen means to deliver His Gospel, and to pray God would act in all the affairs of our lives and the Church. Never use the sovereignty of God to excuse your responsibility–never! It is sin, wrong, error, and crippling to a Christian.
Third The third question is social
How can God be in control if there is evil and suffering in the world? Part of God’s answer was found in Romans 9:20 to 21, which says, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”
Questioning is not wrong, but eventually with some questions, God expects us to trust His character. When you go beyond this answer to find out what the Bible specifically says about why God allows evil, you discover God allows evil in order for Him to . . .
display more of His attributes
allow men to build virtues that can only be developed in a world with evil
let evil run its course, so that no one will ever try a rebellion again in the future
We also found that God allows suffering . . .
1 as a consequence of sin
2 to improve our moral character
3 in some instances, to punish sin
4 to declare this world is not functioning the way God created it to be, so that men realize that this world is not “right”
5 to warn men to repent
6 and to encourage our growth in Christlikeness
Fourth The fourth question with sovereignty is spiritual
How can God be sovereign when we Christians have the ability to disobey? The answer to the spiritual dilemma is found by observing the lives of two biblical characters: Jonah and Jochebed.
Jonah was disobedient, paid his own way on the boat, and God’s will was accomplished. He still went to Nineveh and preached.
Jochebed was obedient, God paid her wages, and God’s will was accomplished. She ended up caring for her own son, Moses, and was paid to do so.
Even in disobedience, we still play by God’s rules, and His sovereign plan will still always be accomplished. The only difference is, in disobedience we will pay the consequences of our sin and lose out on any blessing–whereas in obedience, we make it possible for God to pay our way and will experience the blessing of knowing we are in His perfect will.
Since God is sovereign, you always have a choice in every circumstance you find yourself–you can resist Him, grumble, complain, accuse Him of being unfair, and end up with a tension headache, an ulcer, or a heart attack. Or you can believe He will use your circumstances to fulfill His perfect purposes, then willingly yield to His sovereign will, and find inner peace and rest. Ponder those truths–think deeply about our sovereign God.
Fifth Since God is sovereign . . .
#5 He has a plan for you to fulfill
God is sovereign–He is involved in history to bring about His purposes for the world. He is doing it now. Listen, God didn’t gasp when the twin towers fell down. God isn’t shocked when governments change in the Middle East. The next international crisis will not cause God to say, “Oh, no!” God never ever says, “Oops!” An all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise God never says, “Sorry!”
God is working out His plan for the planet. What is God’s plan? First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We are to glorify God. Let me ask you a question–can we glorify Him better on earth, or in heaven? Answer: we will glorify God better in heaven, with a glorified body and a perfect nature. But if our purpose is to glorify God for all eternity, why doesn’t He just snatch us home right after we get saved so we can better glorify Him right now in heaven. In other words, why does God leave us here on earth?
The reason is, He has a mission for us here on earth, in this age, to further His glory here and now. And His plan for us is to imitate Christ in His mission of revealing the glory of God to mankind. In John 20:21 Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” What does that mean? We are here to be used of God to help as many people to become like Jesus in the shortest time possible.
God receives glory when His character is shown in a life, and proclaimed through a life. But He even receives more glory whenever people in rebellion to Him submit to Him–when they get saved. In other words, how we best accomplish our purpose for our existence while we are still on earth is to commit ourselves to Psalms 96:3, which says, “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” Or as Matthew 28 says, “Make disciples among the nations.”
That’s why you are here, now, at this point in history. Christians are not merely to grow, or to serve, or to pray, or to study the Bible, or take good notes, or even to attend church. All those things are essential. But the goal of the Christian life is to know Christ better–to be like Him in order to show Him to the saints, and share Him with the “ain’ts”. We are to know Him so as to be like Him, in order that we might show and share Him.
I love football–wreck the play, stick, pass, run, block. But the goal of football is not a good pass, a textbook tackle, or an interception. The goal of football is to make touchdowns and win the game. Bible study, prayer, church are all plays–but sharing the Gospel of Christ is the touchdown of the Christian life.
The Christian life is like a coin–you can spend it anyway you like, but you can only spend it once. You better make it count–score some touchdowns. Share Christ–sow the seed of the Gospel. That’s why we are here. Don’t let that priority drop–write a letter, make a phone call, invite them out to dinner, serve them, show compassion–and as you do, ask God to open up a door of opportunity to share the Gospel.
Sixth God’s sovereignty means . . .
#6 He has the right to rule your life
For the non-Christian, a sovereign God calls you to submit. For the Christian, He has the right to lead every aspect of your life. We have a problem in America with the idea of a sovereign ruler. In fact, the slogan for the American Revolution was, “We have no sovereign here.” So we developed and formed a government that was ruled by the people, each of us to some degree being our own sovereign.
Yet when we become a Christian in America, that independent “government by me” attitude of heart must go. You don’t control your own life. You are not the captain of your own soul. As God’s children, we must now be obedient to our King and give up our own rule. Have you? Is there any sin, any rebellion in your life that you continue to hang onto? Ask God, is there anything I need to deal with, any sin I have not repented of, any relationship I have hurt by my wrong-doing? He will bring it to mind the moment you ask. Trust Him with your future, your mate, your fears.
Jesus died so that you would no longer live for yourself, but live for Him, trust Him, serve Him, 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” God created you to live not for yourself but for Him. In doing so, you will experience love, joy and peace beyond what you can even imagine–His blessings will overwhelm you. The question is, will you bow before Him now–because even if you don’t, you will bow before Him later.
#1 Have you submitted to Christ–believing God became a man in the person of Christ, took the punishment we deserved for our sins on the cross, rose from the dead to give us new life? And now you exchange all that you are for all that He is. Real Christians follow Christ as Master–they serve Him like they are His slaves, they trust Him like a tender Father, they worship Him with all their hearts. Christ gave His life for them, and they in turn give their lives completely to Him. Do that today–pray for salvation, ask for forgiveness, tell Him you submit to His Lordship.
#2 Christian, when you start living 24/7, acknowledging a sovereign God, you’re going to see Him do incredible things around you, in you, and through you. To those of you in Christ, God’s sovereignty means you need Christ every day. Stay close, walk with Him as a child does his father—hand-in-hand. Let Him lead. God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, and always as He pleases–but He’s pleased to have you take part in what He is doing.
You are responsible to obey His leadership. The choice is up to you. If you live under a sovereign God, no accident will shake you, no pain will be without meaning. You will like being you. You will ponder great questions. God’s plan will consume you, and you’ll give up trying to run things and love His perfect leadership. Let’s pray.