Monday, January 18, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 1: Who is in Charge?

I recently began teaching a Sunday School series based on the book Not By Chance, by Layton Talbert (order it here). The topic of the book is the providence of God. Each week I intend to put a summary of the week's lesson here on the blog.

What does the Bible say about the universal question, Who is in Charge? The Bible makes it very clear that God is in charge, and has complete reign and rule over the universe that He created. The question of "Who is in Charge" is directly rooted in the doctrine of God's sovereignty—his undisputed rule and authority over every aspect of His creation. As the book points out,

"God reigns" is a logical sequence from "God is."

Here are some of the clear Bible teachings related to God's sovereignty:

1. God Can Do Anything. Genesis 18:14 reminds us, "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?"
Other verses: Dan. 4:17, 25, 32, 35; Jeremiah 32:17, 27

2. God Makes Everyone. Exodus 4:11 speaks eloquently about this.

3. God Can Do Everything He Says. In Numbers 11, God promised to provide enough quail for the people of Israel for a month. Moses was initially skeptical, so God replies in vs. 23: "Is the Lord's hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not." Of course, it came to pass.

4. God Rules All Existence. Deuteronomy 32:29 tells us, "I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand."

5. God Rules All Circumstances. 1 Samuel 2:6-7 speaks to this point after the great blessing of a son was given to Hannah; Job 2:10 speaks to it after Job endures the lost of nearly everything he has. Job 42:2 and Psalm 68:20 also speak to this point. It is worth noting that the term "evil," as used in the Hebrew O.T. and in certain other verses cited in this post, often has the meaning of "catastrophe" or "calamity," and not necessarily the concept of that which is opposite righteousness.

6. God Does All He Pleases. Psalm 115:3 says it plainly: "But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased." See also Psalm 103:19 and Psalm 135:6.

7. God's Rule Is Unrivaled. The key passages for this point are Isaiah 45:5-7, Isaiah 46:9-11, and Daniel 4:35.

8. God's Rule Is Unquestionable. Amos 3:6 reminds us that God brings calamity at His own discretion.

9. God Cannot and Will Not Be Thwarted. Job 9:12 tells us, "Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, What doest thou?" Other verses on this topic: Job 11:10, 12:14; Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 14:27, 43:13; Daniel 4:35; Revelation 3:7.

For those who are inclined to think this is a doctrine limited to the Old Testament, be sure to consider Luke 1:37 and Ephesians 1:11b; almost the entire book of Revelation speaks to this truth in the future tense.

How should we respond to the fact that God is truly in charge of everything?

Some doctrinal points to remember:

A. Recognize that God is sovereign (Job 2:10, 42:2-6)

B. Place faith in His sovereignty and providence

C. Recognize that we cannot understand or comprehend the workings of a vast, infinite God (Isa. 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36)

D. Give glory to God (1 Tim. 1:17)

E. Magnify God

Some practical points to remember:

A. What practical impact does God want His words regarding His providence to have on my life?

B. What kinds of situations in my life does God want me to realize are under His providence?

C. What circumstances am I encountering right now that I have not really thought of as being under God’s control?

D. What effect does God desire His providence to have on my attitude and reaction to the circumstances of life?

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