I was thinking about just a few people I know whose lives didn’t seem to be going right. Two guys I know were just in a terrible car accident – but they’re alive, and doing remarkably well. Yet for the rest of their lives, they may carry many scars from that accident. I thought of some people I knew through work – they’re in trouble at school, they’re at odds with their parents, they’re wrestling with where they live, their girlfriends or boyfriends, or who they are. Things just don’t seem to be going right for them.
My heart is heavy for them, and I have found myself often wishing that I had spoken to them differently when they told me of their heartaches and trials. I wish that I had spoken to them about the truth that has challenged me over the past few weeks. God is sovereign. God has each of our days planned. He is not caught off guard. He is not unaware of our circumstances. That has given me great comfort – and has brought me much conviction.
First, it has given me great comfort. If I lived in a world where any decision was based on the human will, I would be terrified. Our will is bent only towards sin. If God was unable to control everything, how could I make it through life?
Now Tim, you’re thinking to yourself, are you implying that we don’t have free will to make decisions?
God’s Plan in Salvation
No. I believe we have “free will.” We obviously make choices. However, the will has the freedom to choose whatever it desires. Our will is a slave to sin, so we desire only sin. When it comes to Salvation specifically, I believe that “all human beings desire to flee from God unless and until the Holy Spirit performs a work of regeneration. That regeneration changes our desires so that we will freely repent and be saved.” (1) Additionally, I must agree with R.C. Sproul when he says:
“To be sure, for us to choose Christ, God must change our heart. That is precisely what He does. He changes our heart for us. He gives us a desire for Himself that we otherwise would not have. Then we choose Him out of the desire that is within us. We freely choose Him because we want to choose Him. That is the wonder of His grace.”
Or let’s look at what God’s Word says:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44, NIV)
“He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:65, NIV)
“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36, NIV, emphasis mine)
God’s Plan in Life
That encourages me because for those who have been called, we are called to live worthy of that calling. Our will has been changed. We are no longer slaves to sin. So, when I speak to fellow believers, I can encourage them to endure the suffering they now face. I can encourage them to live “worthy of the calling,” realizing that God does have a plan. I can encourage them that God has not only planned the end, but also the means.
For those who have not yet been called, I need to respond with the gospel. I need to pray that God works in their life, and pray that he can work through me. I want them to see that whatever situation they’re in is within God’s plan. My desire is that it would be part of his plan to call them to salvation.
God’s Plan of Conviction
Secondly, it has brought much conviction in my life. C.J. Mahaney has had a huge impact on my life in a number of ways. I was especially grateful last week as God used him to convict me of my sin of complaining – which has everything to do with what we’re talking about. Essentially, any time I respond to a situation with the words “I see no reason for this,” (2) I question God’s sovereignty. I tell him that I donâ€™t believe that his plan is truly the best plan. I tell him that if I were in charge, I’d do it “oh so differently.”
I wouldn’t place those small, annoying moments in my life – like losing my pen, getting locked out of my car, stubbing my toe, or bleaching my favorite colored shirt. When those things happened, I often respond with “Come on!” or “You’ve got to be kidding me” or my famous line: “oh man!” It could be a sigh, a moan, a groan, or an angry outburst. They’re all telling God that I don’t believe in his plan or in his sovereignty.
And as C.J. pointed out last week, it’s only by grace that God doesn’t respond to our moans and groans with “I see no reason for you!”
That’s convicting to me. I constantly respond by saying “I see no reason for this” or “come on” or “you’ve got to be kidding me.” God isn’t kidding. It’s for real. And someday, we will see the reason. On that glorious day, when we finally see our savior, we will know why even those seemingly small and annoying things were placed in our life. We’ll know why the big things were placed in our life as well. And we will all glory forever in our redeemer. God will be glorified for all eternity.
1 – Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, by R.C. Sproul, page 180.
2 – Sustaining a Pastors Soul, C.J. Mahaney, Together For the Gospel 2008