God is sovereign over the most random things you can imagine. Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” How would we say that today? We would say, “The dice is rolled in Vegas, and every stopping of the dice with those numbers up is from God — all of them.” Or if you’re playing Scrabble at home and stick your hand into the bag and pull out your letters, God decides what letters you get. When you play Uno, God decides.
And lest you think that’s trifling, try this: Jesus says in Matthew 10:29–30, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” In other words, they are utterly insignificant. “And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” The roll of the dice in Vegas — every one of them — or in your board game at home or the tiny birds dying in a thousand forests are governed by God.
That’s Jesus’s way and Proverbs’s way of saying there aren’t any details too small for his control. If he were here today, he’d talk in terms of molecules. He’d say with R.C. Sproul, “There’s not one maverick molecule in the universe.” From worms in the ground to stars in the galaxy, God governs.
Take the book of Jonah. You got a very big fish, and the Bible says that God commanded this fish to swallow Jonah. And the fish obeyed. So fish do God’s bidding. If he says to them, “Do this,” they do it. And he commanded a plant to grow up to give Jonah some shade, “Plant, grow up.” It obeyed. Plants do the bidding of God. Then he commanded a worm to kill the plant to make Jonah hot and to scold him for his bad attitude about Nineveh. So the worm obeyed.
“From worms in the ground to stars in the galaxy, God governs.”
I take this totally seriously. Bacteria, tsetse flies, murderous viruses all do God’s bidding. They’re not free any more than the worm or the whale or the plant that just “happened” to grow up. God sees everything, and if anything is about to happen that he doesn’t want to happen, he just says Stop. And it obeys. If it didn’t stop, he didn’t tell it to stop, which means he’s got a plan for it. Or consider the stars. Isaiah 40:26,
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.
Why are stars where they are, doing what they do? He’s mighty in power. That’s why I’m totally not a naturalist. I see the fingers of God in the atom and in the galaxies all the time — every millisecond of history controlling everything. I don’t know what kind of God that you have who may be folding his arms, sitting back, doing nothing, letting the world run rampant. That’s just not the biblical God, and therefore not our God.
If he rules over the stars, how much more the weather, disasters, disease, disability, death! Psalm 147:15–18,
He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
I love living in Minnesota. Is that cold? That’s God. You haven’t felt cold yet, all you Californians who just arrived. Job 37:11–13,
He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world.
Whether for correction or for his land
or for love, he causes it to happen.
I love how clear the Bible is about the sovereignty of God over the natural world. Snow, rain, cold, heat, wind are all the work of God. And when Jesus finds himself in the middle of a life-threatening, raging storm, he stands up and speaks two words, “Be still!” (Mark 4:39) — and the wind stops and the waves go flat. He could have done it last Monday in New York City with the severe flooding. And if you say he couldn’t have, I don’t know what kind of Jesus you have.
Is he alive? Is he reigning? Is he the same Jesus today? Of course he is, which means anytime, anywhere on the planet, any wind can be stopped with a word from heaven: Stop. And it would obey.
And if he doesn’t say it, he has purposes. There is no wind, there is no storm, there is no hurricane, there is no cyclone, there is no typhoon, there is no monsoon, there is no tornado over which Jesus cannot say, “Be still!” without getting off his throne, and it will obey him. But if it blows, he intends it to blow and he has purposes for it that are better than avoiding it.
That’s what I’d preach if I were in the middle of New York right now, with the long six-hour lines at the gas stations, and so many dead, and new bodies being found everywhere. I wouldn’t preach, “My God is helpless.” I would not. I would not take away the hope of these people by saying you don’t have a God who can help you because he’s just too weak to stop a storm. How could he control the storms of your life? How could he help you at all if he can’t speak what Jesus spoke? I wouldn’t preach that way. I don’t preach that way. We don’t believe that way. And so it is with all the sufferings of life, with all its losses and pains and groans.
We are having a conference at the North Campus on disability called, “The Works of God: God’s Good Design in Disability.” That kind of language could get you shot in some places. How dare we have a conference with such a title?
So here is one of the verses that the conference is built on: The Lord said to Moses in Exodus 4:11, when Moses got all uppity about being unable to speak good enough, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” The person I’ve heard quote that verse most often is John Knight, who has a blind son. He was born blind with no eyes. That’s not easy. It wasn’t easy. It isn’t easy. We’re not saying disability is easy. Life is not easy.
“God ultimately decides whether we suffer, whether we live, or whether we die.”
First Peter 4:19, “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” First Peter 3:17, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” Suffering for doing good. God’s will. Really? Yes. So whether we suffer from disability, or whether we suffer from the evil of others, or persecution, God ultimately decides whether we suffer, whether we live, or whether we die.
Consider Deuteronomy 32:39, “There is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Or James 4:13–15,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Do you have a plan to travel anytime soon? You may not get there, and if you don’t, it wasn’t God’s plan. You may live until tomorrow, and if you don’t, that wasn’t his plan. It was his plan for you to go home. If the Lord wills, we will live. I will finish this sermon, if the Lord wills. If a wacko walks through the door and shoots me between the eyes, it was God’s will. So be sure you don’t say wrong things at the funeral; otherwise, my wife will stand up and correct you.
The roll of the dice, the fall of a bird, the crawl of a worm, the movement of the stars, the falling of snow, the blowing of wind, the loss of sight, the suffering of the saints, and the death of everybody — these are included in the word, “I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10).
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