Is God Really in Control Right Now?
by Dale Reeves
Yesterday we celebrated the first birthday of one of our grandsons, Miles Sudkamp. It’s hard to believe he was born at Bethesda North Hospital just a year ago, as he gave his momma some challenges in getting here. It was wonderful to witness him on Sunday as he got to eat his own personal cake (he ate more of the whipped-cream topping and rainbow chocolate chips than the actual cake itself—and I am right there with him on that strategy)! His two cousins (both under the age of three) enjoyed seeing which of his birthday gifts they would get to play with first. God has blessed my wife and me with three very active and healthy grandsons, and we thank him for these precious gifts weekly.
I am not by nature a worrier. But I have to confess that over the past several months, I have spent some time worrying about the world these priceless baby boys have been born into. And what will our country and world look like when they are my age—if Jesus doesn’t return first? Several prominent pastors and authors (such as Max Lucado and Bob Russell) have been saying in their bloggings and podcasts the past few months that they believe we are getting closer to the time when Jesus will come and take the redeemed believers out of the world to escape the tribulation to come upon the earth (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13—5:11). Do you believe we are living in the last days?
Do You Believe It?
When we want to sound spiritual at church or to our friends and neighbors who are God followers, we often say things like:
“I’m not worried, God is in control.” . . . or . . .
“I’m not losing any sleep, God is still on the throne!”
But do we really believe those words? What about when we hear something from the news or in social media that really bothers us about the anarchy we see taking place in America’s cities? What about when we get the news regarding what school is going to look like for our kids this fall? What about things we hear in the political arena that we don’t like as we draw closer to a November election in our country?
One thing is certain, what we are experiencing right now in our country and world is not just about a physical virus. It’s much more than the mask vs. no-mask debate. It has a spiritual dimension to it, and I believe the forces of darkness have been strategizing against God’s people for quite a long time. Former NFL and Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy, has said:
“Today we are a divided country, and Satan is laughing at us because that is exactly what he wants. Dysfunction, mistrust, and hatred help his kingdom flourish. We have to realize we are not fighting against other people. We are fighting against Satan and his kingdom of spiritual darkness.”
The apostle Paul reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).
Who’s in Charge?
In the pages of wisdom from the Old Testament, King Solomon said, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases. People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart” (Proverbs 21:1, 2, NLT).
God controls the hearts of rulers. Does that mean that every decision an earthly ruler makes is the best one for the people with whom he or she has been entrusted? Should we submit to earthly rulers when they make bad decisions? We know there have been many evil rulers in the world throughout history. There were righteous kings and wicked kings who ruled over Judah and Israel in the Bible. There were many pagan rulers throughout the Bible whom God used to accomplish his purposes. Pharaoh, Xerxes the Great, King Nebuchadnezzar, and Pontius Pilate immediately come to mind. And God still calls us to submit to our earthly rulers even though we may not agree with all of their decisions. Is there ever a right time for civil disobedience or “peaceful protests”? Of course. Discerning when those times are and how far to take them is the challenge.
Why Trust Anyone Else?
Stuart Hall serves as director of student leadership and leadership networking for Orange (ReThink Group), and speaks to thousands of middle school, high school and college students, as well as parents and youth pastors every year at numerous camps and events. In March of this year, the 52-year-old father of three had a blood clot, likely triggered by COVID-19, that cut off much of the blood flow to his heart, causing him to have a heart attack. He landed in ICU at Northside Hospital in Forsyth, Georgia, and fought for his life for nearly a month while his wife Kellee and their three kids were at home in quarantine. His family enlisted the support of thousands of prayer warriors on behalf of Stuart while they were unable to visit him in person.
Just a month ago, pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia, interviewed Stuart and Kellee as part of their Sunday worship experience. You can watch the whole interview with Stuart and Kellee Hall here.
Stuart gives all praise and credit to God and the people of God who interceded for his life for over a month. In their discussion, Andy asked Stuart about the providence and sovereignty of God and Stuart said, “The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t say your circumstances are. He doesn’t say your marriage will be. He doesn’t say your health will be. He doesn’t say your children will be. He doesn’t say your country will be. He doesn’t say the economy will be. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So the question becomes, ‘Why would I lean my life on anything but him?’ Do I think that God made this happen? It’s such an interesting tension because to believe in an all-knowing God is to believe that God knows everything. I don’t know if God made this happen, but I do know that God wants to make it matter. And because of that we’ve got to join him in whatever it is he is trying to do, because of what he’s done in our life.”
Stuart goes on to say in the interview that he doesn’t understand why God brought him back from the precipice of death when so many other people have not been so fortunate. That is something none of us will ever understand this side of Heaven, and we may never understand it in eternity either.
I also don’t have an answer for what kind of world my grandsons will grow up in, or when Jesus will return to earth to take his church to live in God’s presence in Heaven forever. But I can agree with Stuart Hall. After what God has done in my life, why would I want to trust anyone else with my present and my future? I do believe that God is still on the throne, and I am looking forward to worshiping him around his throne with myriads of angels someday. What a day that will be when all sin and suffering and evil have been vanquished.