There was a time a few years ago when I sat around a campfire in my backyard, watching the coals burning slowly and brightly, wondering if there might be more to God than I understood at that time. I wondered if there could be more to being a Christian than just being a servant and having a list of dos and donts? While I appreciated living in community I wondered if going to church and joining a small group were really the most that I would experience of God? I understood that it was good news that I would spend eternity in heaven instead of hell, but I wondered if there wasn't more to hope for in the time from now until I would enter into eternity? I wondered why we spend so much time teaching children the miraculous things that happened in the Bible, and then when children become teenagers and adults we spend so much time just teaching them to be nice? I wondered why my experiences of God didn't really line up with the songs I sang about Him on Sunday mornings? I know now that the Spirit was calling me; beckoning me to draw near. I think back to that night and I can almost hear God whispering in my heart, "Follow me. I want to teach you who I am." So, I did. And so began the adventure.
The first thing God taught me was that He is not in control of everything. I know. It rocked my world too. I know even just reading that will make some of you feel like you've sinned! I know some of you reading this will immediately dismiss it...it simply won't fit into your belief system. But I also know for others, you are going to set that belief system of yours aside and you are going to fall in love with God. I am so excited for you. Because I know from my own journey through this that once you begin to understand who God is and how He functions in this world, that's really just the beginning of experiencing Him and understanding who you are and how you are to function in this world.
So here's the deal. I'm sure if you have been around church for any length of time you are familiar with God as being sovereign. And it is true, God is indeed sovereign (supreme in power and authority). There is nothing or no one that is above Him. He is in charge. But being in charge and being in control are two different things. If you remember back to the beginning, God created all this awesome stuff, right? Animals and oceans and light and humans. And when He created humans He delegated authority to us. He commanded us to rule over His creation. It didn't take long for us to lose that authority in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. Enter into history the works of hell-disease and death and pain and decay. But because God is sovereign the story doesn't end there. He sent Jesus, His son, to earth who became sin on the cross so we in turn can become righteous. Authority was bought back by the blood of Christ. Then what did Jesus do? He gave us marching orders and took His place at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. He told us it was good for us that He leave so that the Holy Spirit would come and empower us; empower us with His authority. So now, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead resides in those who surrender their lives to Him giving them authority to destroy the works of hell on earth. Hallelujah!
There is no problem with God being sovereign. There is only a problem when people use God as being sovereign to claim that He is in control of everything. And when we believe God is in control of everything, we also believe that everything that happens is God's will, that He ordains everything, or that everything is His administrative choice. Not everything that happens is God's will. All believers understand it is God's will that none should perish. Yet people are perishing everyday. Clearly, things happen that are NOT God's will. Also, when we believe God is in control, we tend to link that belief with the belief that everything happens for a reason. Right? One of the first things you will hear from a Christian going through tragedy is, "But...I know God is in control and everything happens for a reason." Why? Well, because believing God is in control of everything means it is ultimately God that is responsible for everything that happens. Including the cancer your loved one was diagnosed with, the miscarriage you experienced, the car wreck you were in, the job you lost, the house that burned down, the spouse that left you, the father that was never there, etc. And believing that God is responsible for pain and death and disease and tragedy doesn't exactly put you in a position to trust Him, or praise Him, or love Him, or desire Him. So, we comfort ourselves with the thought that everything happens for a reason. And we pull scriptures that talk about God working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) to help us cope with this God. Really what is created is a stronghold. And suddenly we are pointing the finger at God for the work of the devil here on earth. Everything does happen for a reason. Actually, everything happens for exactly two reasons: Either 1) Stealing, killing, and destroying-which are ALWAYS works of the enemy or 2) Life and life abundantly-which are ALWAYS the works of God (John 10:10). So, we will always be wrong when we attribute anything that has to do with stealing, killing and destroying to God. It's immoral. It's unthinkable. And yet, it is so widespread in the body of Christ.
I want to take a moment and be clear that I do believe Romans 8:38 is true. I absolutely believe that there isn't anything in this world that can happen that God can't take and work for good in the lives of the people that love Him. God is in the business of redemption! But that has nothing to do with God causing those tragedies to occur. And I will be honest here and tell you that if you believe God is responsible for the pain and destruction in your life I do not believe that you can truly, truly worship Him with your life. I know I couldn't. And I didn't even realize it until I was freed from the stronghold.
Part of the devastating effect of believing God controls everything is that it renders the Christian powerless. We become disarmed. Disengaged. Our lives aren't used to fight the battle the way they are intended to. We assume what will be will be. Our prayers aren't even effective because we don't understand the will of God and what to ask for. If you're still reading this, I would encourage you to do something. Pretend you're sitting around a campfire, watching coals burning slowly and brightly. Think about what it is you believe about God. Think about the hardships you have experienced in your life. Have you made God responsible for them? Think about what would happen if you redirected the responsibility to the Thief that comes to steal and kill and destroy. Think about what it might be like to believe that in you resides the power and authority of the sovereign, almighty God. And that He comes through prayer, by your invitation. Ask Him to teach you who He is. Listen closely to see if you can hear Him whispering to you. Welcome to the adventure. Hold on, it's gonna be a wild ride.