As promised, I am now following up on my previous post on “Love for the Sovereignty of God”. This post will simply tell the story of how we come to develop "Passion for the Sovereignty of God".
Keeping it Real - Real Pastoral that Is
The type of question which I am attempting to answer with respect to God’s sovereignty is something like, “Is God in control of my personal history?” “Was God in control when that really bad thing happened to me?” If He is in control, “Why did He let this bad thing happen to me?” I am a pastor, and I am interested not in abstract problems but the real life concrete problems that greatly affect people’s existence.
For example, if a person is raped, how does this affect their view of God and their approach to life? If a person is abused, as I have discussed in previous posts, how does this affect that person’s ability to trust God and by faith love others and forgive others?
Often the traumatized person leads a life of self-protection and survival and cannot embrace the way of the cross, the way of unconditional love.
The deeply violated says in their heart, I will trust no one. This vow is epidemic in today’s culture. Rage is all the rage these days.
Sometimes the opposite happens and the traumatized say to themselves, “I am a victim. I will always be a victim”. Such self-loathing leads to further victimization, co-dependence, and all forms of dysfunction. Due to an inability to see clearly and to see God clearly, the individual is unable to embrace the existential experience of faith and enter into the morally beautiful life.
As you can see, my approach to the doctrine of sovereignty is not abstract at all, but instead, the individual’s understanding of the nature of God and how He intersects with our existence is part and parcel of the individual’s, the subjects, interaction with the world around them. My concerns are entirely pastoral and intimately related to the pastoral job of assisting people with their process of sanctification. The truth, in this case the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, is a vital tool in helping people become free and holy and beautiful.
In my previous post, I was attempting to show (my wife said she was lost) that belief in God’s sovereignty is not an easily understood position for us while we are in the midst of an exceedingly difficult time. The belief in God being both in control and all loving is not acceptable to our minds when we are in this place of difficulty. We may stand on the goodness of God, but simultaneously be confused about what is going on. Our faith, our worldview, is not mature enough for us to abide in an experience of our God being “in control”. Then, later, according to God’s sovereign timing, we come to see God anew and faith in His sovereignty is restored in our person.
The example of this experience in the bible is Job in the book of Job.
I see the book of Job as a play. The play begins up in the choir loft. In the opening scene, I see Job and the family going about their daily mundane tasks, while above their heads a scene develops in the “choir loft”.
Satan approaches God.
God says, “Where have you been”.
Satan, “Roaming on the earth. Messing with people”.
God, “Oh yeah, did you see Job.”
Satan, “Of course, that hypocrite totally bugs me. He serves you because you make him rich. I bet if you let me take all his stuff and I mean all his stuff, he will curse You. He is no different than anybody else. They all serve you for their own selfish ends”.
God, “OK, you’re on”.
The lights in the choir loft dim. The lights on the stage come up, and the play begins. The whole point is that Job is oblivious to the real motives behind the personal history he is about to experience, but God has a plan for His own glory. As the play continues, Job curses life, but He does not curse God. Job acknowledges all his pain and all the injustice of life, but He continues to confess the truth of God’s goodness.
“Though I do not know what is going on I believe God is just. One day my redeemer will stand on the earth. The LORD is my redeemer.”
Then, the big climactic scene arrives. God reveals His majesty and His sovereignty to Job. Job falls down and worships the LORD.
Job’s passion for God and His sovereignty grows and matures through His experience of God’s sovereignty. The entire experience and its meaning is hidden from Job while he is experiencing all the pain and evil of life. But it all ends in worship. God’s goodness and God’s majesty is restored in Job’s worship.
My Experience with God’s Sovereignty
I remember times in my own life when I read Job 3, when Job curses the day of his birth, and I have said, “I am with you Job. Been there; done that.”
Let me share my experience of God’s sovereignty.
In 1992, I was working at a church as an intern of sorts. During one two-week period, the church was having two back-to-back conferences. This meant that I was attending services three times a day for two weeks. I attended every time of worship which always began with about 50 minutes of worship through music. Needless to say, I was seeking God. I would keep a journal and write out my thoughts. After one worship time, I remember going off by myself to pray for the afternoon. My roommate was going to pick me up at about 5:00pm.
Quite frankly, I do not remember what the conference was about. I do not remember what scriptures I was reading in my prayer time, but I do remember what the Lord spoke to me that day.
As the late afternoon approached, I remember that the very painful situation of my parent’s divorce came before my mind’s eye. I began to weep. I began to get angry. I saw in a moment that my youth was completely void of any parental oversight. I saw that my punk rock heroes were my parents. I was an orphan. Years of alienation came to the surface. I remember saying to both God and my parent’s in my mind, “What did you expect me to do?” as years of shame and prodigal living were paraded before my eyes.
Then, in the midst of my pain and anger, the Lord said, “Forgive them. They did not know what they were doing.” Simultaneously, I saw my mother and the pain she had gone through during the time of the divorce, and I saw the pain my father went through for so many years. I saw my pain. I began to forgive. I went back and forth between waves of pain and anger, waves of forgiveness, and waves of worship of Jesus on the cross, the author of this forgiveness I was now experiencing. Pain kissed forgiveness in a way that can only be described as Jesus. I knew deep in my person that this is what Paul meant by sharing in the suffering of Christ. I was willingly entering into the forgiveness He had purchased for the sins of the world. My suffering was being redeemed, and I was entering into in a deep identification with Christ.
This experience is the life of knowing God. In this place of pain and forgiveness, I found passion for the moral beauty of forgiveness and came to understand more deeply the love of Christ for the lost and suffering world in which we all must live.
Then, I saw it. Through all these years of difficulty, God had intentionally brought me to this very place in order to bring me into the knowledge of Him. It was through this very stretch of personal history, which was filled with such experiences of sin and evil, that God was using to create love for His moral perfections. This entire path, every step, was God’s plan. The warmest affection for God rose up in me. The fruit of this experience was the light of love for God and intimae knowledge of the cross of Jesus Christ.
It is precisely the experience of a life of suffering and our experiences of the evils of this world that God uses to show us His love and His sovereignty. Though in the midst of such difficulties, God’s sovereignty is often most veiled. In due time, He shall rise in the morning with healing. Through the most treacherous paths of our personal history, the Lord births in our hearts a passion for His sovereignty.