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Is God Truly In Control?| July 24, 2024

 

 

Introduction  

 

For those of you who were present when I spoke on the 3rd Sunday in February, I told you that God wants to order your steps as it pertains to this transition and you identifying your next Pastor. I told you that even though the Bible says God wants to order your steps in this process, you must be willing to allow Him to do so because if you don’t, it is very possible for you choose someone God has not chosen to be here then. But He will honor your choice and you will have to live with the consequences. Now, if you accepted what I told you in that message, you already possess the foundation for this lesson and that is, God is not controlling everything that is happening in this world. He knows what He wants to see happen in our lives, but He cannot force it into being for one simple reason: He has given each of us free will to make our own choices. This lesson will focus on providing Scriptural proof that God is truly not in control of everything. In this lesson we will examine how we process things that happen in our lives and how we often place the “blame” for those things happening on God. When we assign to God the responsibility for everything that happens in our lives, it changes how we view God and, in some cases, becomes the reason why we become angry with God. Let’s begin with Genesis chapter one.

 

Genesis 1:1, 26-28:  “(1) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….(26). Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ (27) God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (28) God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

 

In these verses we see God creating the heavens and the earth. When He made man in His image, God gave man the authority to rule on the earth. This is important to our understanding of how we answer the question: “Is God controlling everything?” But, for now, I want you to keep these verses in mind because we will come back to them later in the lesson. I want to begin this lesson by telling you about an incident that happened two years ago in my hometown.

 

A son stabbed his parents to death. In the aftermath of this tragedy, people wondered how God could allow something like this to happen. How could a good and righteous God not protect good parents from a son who desired to do them harm? Could our all-knowing God not have done something to either stop the son or protect the parents before this happened? Even after they were stabbed, couldn’t God have stopped them from dying? The general questions that are asked in situations like this are “Why did God allow this to happen?” Or “Why didn’t God do something to stop it?” The idea is that God could have done something to stop the event from happening.

1.    If you visited this family after this event and they asked you these questions, how would you respond?

 

 

2.    Do you think that our loving Father would “allow” such a thing to happen because it was just these parent’s time do die? Do you believe that through this event God just “called” them home?  

 

 

Do you remember some pastors and people in leadership positions in the Church said after Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane hit Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in 2005 causing over 1800 fatalities and $125 billion in damages? Some said God was punishing New Orleans (one of the hardest hit cites) for its sin. Some actually said that God was in control and that He was pouring out His judgment on the city for all of the wickedness and perversion the city is known for.

 

3.    If God was punishing New Orleans for its sin, why wasn’t the damage and deaths limited to just those who were unbelievers? Why would a righteous God destroy His servants just because they happened to live in a city known for sin?

 

 

 

One final thought to really get you thinking. How many funerals have you attended where the deceased was either very young or died at a young age due to a sickness, accident or some horrible way? When you attended the funerals, how many times did the officiating minister say that “God called the person home”? Or “God needed a new angel.” Or “We might not understand but God had His reasons.” As you sat there contemplating what you had just heard, did you think “How can someone be comforted when they lose a loved one and are told that it was part of God’s master plan?”

 

4.    If you believe that God is controlling everything what Scripture(s) do you base this belief on?  

 

 

 

The issue of God being in control is never or rarely vocalized when good things happen. It’s  only when bad things happen that we all of a sudden do not understand what God is doing and therefore cannot explain it. When we say God is in control it’s our way of trying to explain or make sense of something that we don’t understand. We say things like “God has His reasons.” Or “We don’t always understand the ways of God.” Or “We just have to trust that this was God’s will.” Or “God is using this to teach us a lesson.” The theology surrounding God being in control is that He controls everything that happens, and nothing happens without His permission. But is this true? And this leads to a related question: “If God is in control, do we actually have freewill?”

 

5.    How do we explain freewill if that freewill is doing just what God wants – whether we want to do it or not? Doing something because we choose to do it is freewill. But if God is controlling us, doesn’t that mean our freewill is null and void? 

 

 

This lesson will address questions like these and hopefully by the end you will know with certainty that there are things happening around us that, while God is not controlling them, He is actively involved in getting us through them as we see in First Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” We will examine what God said from the beginning while also looking at passages that seem to teach that God is in control and that He allows Satan to do evil in this world based on the story of Job. We get a firsthand glimpse of how God operates and how Satan operates when we look at what happened to Job, which we will discuss. Finally we will need an understanding of the role sin plays in the ungodly things we see happening in the world today. But we must begin by examining the term sovereignty.

 

 

I.         The Meaning of Sovereignty 

 

First Chronicles 29:11-12: “(11) Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and Yours it is to be exalted as Head over all. (12) Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hands are power and might; in Your hands it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

 

David proclaimed God’s sovereignty in following ways: (1) He is the fountain and center of everything that is bright and blessed. (2) His greatness is immense and incomprehensible; and all others are nothing in comparison with Him. (3) All the power belongs to Him, and it is almighty and irresistible and is the source of life for all creatures. (4) His glory is His own and He shares it with no one. (5) He transcends and surpasses all and conquers and subdues all things to Himself and His victories are incontestable and uncontrollable. (6) God, Himself, is sovereign dominion, the rightful owner, and possessor of all and everything is at His disposal, by the indisputable right of creation, and as supreme ruler and commander of all.

 

When people say “God is in control,” they seem to believe that He is in control of everything, including the decisions that they make. It almost seems like they believe that they are nothing more than puppets on strings who are doing what they are made to do. Many also believe that God can stop people from exercising their freewill to follow through on destructive decisions. Could it be that the reason for this line of thinking is because there is a lack of understanding the difference between “sovereignty” and “control”? Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Webster) defines sovereignty as:

§  Supreme power especially over a body politic (Webster defines “supreme” as the highest in rank or authority; ultimate, final as in “the supreme sacrifice.”)

§  Freedom from external control: AUTONOMY

§  Controlling influence

 

Sovereignty is enjoyed by the one who is “sovereign” and I am making this distinction for a reason. Webster defines sovereign as

 

§  Possessed of supreme power, as in a sovereign ruler

§  Unlimited in extent: ABSOLUTE

§  Enjoying autonomy: INDEPENDENT

§  Relating to, characteristic of, or befitting a supreme ruler: ROYAL as in a sovereign right

 

 

6.        Based on this definition of sovereignty and sovereign, do you believe that because God is sovereign that this automatically makes Him in control? 

 

 

We know that God is sovereign. He is THE supreme power. God answers to no one. He has complete, absolute, and unquestioned authority and autonomy everywhere – in the seen realm, our world, and in the unseen, the spirit realm. James 2:19 says “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons (the unseen) believe – and tremble!” The Amplified Bible says it this way: “You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]!” This is the God, the sovereign One, and the supreme One that we are discussing in this lesson.

 

Before we continue, let’s see what God says about Himself in chapters 43, 45 and 46 of the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 43:10-11 we read, "(10) You are My witnesses," says the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. (11) I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior.” The following is recorded in Isaiah 45:5-6, 18, 21-22: “(5) I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, (6) That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.” … “(18) For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” … (21) Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. (22) ‘Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.’” And in Isaiah 46:9 we read, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.”

 

Now let’s look at some examples in Scripture where God exercised His sovereignty and an example where He did not exercise His sovereignty. Let’s start with the very first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Creation was a sovereign move by the One who has complete, absolute, supreme and unquestioned authority and autonomy to do so. Before God created them, the heavens and the earth did not exist. That’s the power of THE sovereign God! We see His sovereignty on display throughout this first chapter of Genesis. We’re going to read parts of key verses in this first chapter because it’s important to see the scope and magnitude of God’s power and authority as being the ONLY ONE who is sovereign. Let’s begin at verse three.

 

“(3) Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light….(5) God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’ And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (6) Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters….(8) And God called the expanse ‘heaven.’ And there was evening and morning, a second day. (9) Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. (10) And God called the dry land ‘earth,’ and the gathering of the waters He called ‘seas’; and God saw that it was good. (11) Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and the fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit according to their kind with seeds in them’; and it was so….(14) Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and they shall serve as signs and for seasons, and for days and years; (15) and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. (16) Then God made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also….(20) Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.’ (21) And God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, according to their kind; and God saw that it was good. (22) And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth….(24) Then God said, ‘Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kind: livestock and crawling things and animals of the earth according to their kind’; and it was so. (25) And God made the animals of the earth according to their kind, and the livestock according to their kind, and everything that crawls on the ground according to its kind; and God aw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:3, 5, 6, 8-11, 14, 16, 20, 22, 24, 25)

 

Here in Genesis 1, we see God sovereignly moving, primarily through His words, to bring into existence what we see today. Only God has the power and authority to bring into existence what we read here in Genesis. I find it completely laughable when people say that God is at war with Satan. Seriously? God created him too and we see this in Ezekiel 28:15 – “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you.” God has no equal! People are confused about who is at war with whom. We are the ones in a battle and God is the One Who has already equipped us to win the battle. But, the decision to use what He has made available to us is totally ours. He can’t make us fight and He can’t make us use the tools to fight with and this brings us to how God exercised His sovereignty once He created man. This is the reason that I know that God is not in control the way many believe that He is.

 

One additional point needs to be made; God has given us everything we need to deal with every situation we face! We diminish ourselves when we think less of ourselves than what God thinks and we are going to see who He created us to be as see that He exercised His sovereignty differently with man than He did with every other part of creation. Let’s read verses 26 through 28. “26. Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  27. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  28. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26-28)

 

 

7.        What did God do differently with man than He did with His other creations?

 

 

In these verses, we see God sovereignly “delegating” dominion of His creation to man to govern. The word “dominion” means to rule, to have dominion, to subjugate. It conveys the notion of exercising domain, whether legitimate or not, over those who are powerless or otherwise under one’s control. Here in Genesis, it identifies God-ordained relationship to His creation. When God gave His creation (the husband and wife) the authority to rule, He delegated and thus limited His right to govern His creation to the authority the husband and wife would freely give to Him. In other words, God limited what He could do here on earth without input from man. Seems strange, doesn’t it? Herein lies the result that came with God instilling within man freewill.

 

We see in verse 26 that God said, “let them rule….” Even though God is sovereign and has all power, in other words, He’s omnipotent, when He created the man and the woman – the husband and his wife – He sovereignly chose to self-limit His power by delegating His authority to them in the Garden of Eden. He said they were to subdue and rule over the earth. God made man responsible for what happens here on earth. When I think about the conversation God had with Adam, this is what I hear – “Adam, I am making you the manager of My creation. Whatever needs to be done to take care of it, you have the authority and freedom do it. My creation is now in your hands.”  Now here is what we need to remember, when God delegated His authority to man to rule the earth, it meant that God made the decision to only intervene when we invited Him into the situation. What God essentially did with Adam was made him “god” over His creation – the “god of this world”.

 

 

8.        Consider this in the natural world. If you are a supervisor and you “delegate” a job to be done by your direct report, do you stand over them and direct everything they do? What happens when we delegate authority? 

 

 

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God removed man (the human race) from his position of dominion or his rulership over creation – even after man sinned and rebelled against Him when he ignored His command to not eat of fruit from the forbidden tree. And we see an example of God not exercising His sovereignty to take back the dominion in Genesis 18. This is the record of the Lord and two others visiting Abraham and Sarah before they go to Sodom and Gomorrah. It is in the Lord’s conversation with Abraham that we see that man retained his dominion in God’s creation after Adam and Eve sinned against Him. Let’s pick the record up with verse 17. “(17) The LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, (18) since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?…..(21) I will go down now, and see if they (Sodom and Gomorrah) have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know. (22) Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. (23) Abraham came near and said, ‘Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (24) Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? (25) Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’ (26) So the LORD said, ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.’” (Genesis 19:17-18, 21-26)

 

9.    How was Abraham's interaction with God different from the accusations the Church leaders made against Him?) 

 

 

In this interaction Abraham appealed to God’s righteousness, to His righteous nature. And not only that, he also reminds God that He is the Judge who deals justly with His creation. These are points that we oftentimes miss in Abraham’s appeal that Sodom and Gomorrah be spared. We know the story. Abraham appeals to the Lord again and again until he finally asks salvation for Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous people are found in the city. The Lord agrees. Now, why would the Lord make Abraham privy to His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Is it possible that He knew Abraham would use his authority to intercede for that wicked place – and that is exactly what the Lord wanted Him to?  Again we go back to what is recorded in Ezekiel 18:23 where we see God’s heart for the wicked. The Lord asks “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” Of course, the answer is “no” otherwise He would not have asked the question. And as we discussed earlier, in First Timothy 2:4 Paul writes “Who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

In Ezekiel 22, as I mentioned a moment ago, the Lord is ready to pass judgment on the Children of Israel because of their sins against Him. But look at what He does. “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30) God gave man dominion over His creation, over the earth, and because of that He has obligated Himself to seek out people who understand His heart and what He truly wants to see happen who are willing to say “Lord, please don’t do this. Please spare them.” Is this not the call Christians have today? Are we not supposed to stand in the gap for those who don’t know God by praying that they will have an opportunity to choose salvation or not choose it?

 

God sovereignly made a decision that requires Him to “bring us in on such conversations.” We are even encouraged to pray that His will is done on earth as it is done in heaven in the Lord’s Prayer. Luke 11:1-2 records the following: “(1) Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. (2) So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….”  God cannot sovereignly force His will on the creation that He has given to man to rule. He needs man to partner with Him to bring His will to pass on earth. Now let’s examine why sovereignty is not the same as control.

 

 

II.        The Meaning of Control 

 

Webster’s dictionary defines “control” as:

 

§  To exercise restraining or directing influence over: REGULATE, as in ‘“control one’s anger.”

§  To have power over: RULE, as in “A single company controls the industry.”

§  To reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels, as in “control an insect population” or “control a disease”

 

The person who is in “control” has the ability and freedom to choose to act or not choose to act. When God sovereignly gave man dominion over His creation, He sovereignly relinquished His ability to control what man does with His creation and in His creation. Remember how Abraham referred to God as righteous and just? If He were to usurp man’s authority on earth, He would not be righteous or just. God is righteous and just because He gave His Word to man and has refused to change His mind because of the way man’s ungodly behavior towards Him and his mistreatment of His creation. And that’s the real point here: every single day people are making decisions with or without external input because they are in control of their lives and no one else. Assigning control to God, particularly when bad things happen, means that the person who actually commits the wrong – that person’s responsibility is minimal. It reduces the person’s accountability for their actions/decisions and the actions/decisions of others. 

 

Some of you may be thinking that God was in control when He caused the flood and destroyed the tower of Babel. If you are thinking this, then you would be correct that God took action because of the choices man was making. But look at what He did. With the flood He saved a righteous family because had He not done that and wiped out the human race, He would have voided His word in Genesis 3:15 when He told Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” Had God wiped out all of man in the flood, then all of man would have died without having the opportunity for forgiveness that only comes through Jesus Christ. And, if you recall, because He started over with Noah and his family, all of the language was the same and because of this, it was easy for man to communicate and devise ways to sin. Nothing that they could imagine was off limits. So God chose to do something within His control without overriding man’s freewill. Genesis 11:5-7 records the following: “(5) The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. (6) The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. (7)  Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech.’” When God confused the language, He did not stop man from communicating. They would just have to work harder to communicate with those who did not speak their language. This act did not override man’s ability to choose or his will and God did not control the aftermath. And neither did any one lose their life.

 

In the situation with the flood and the tower of babel, if God was in control then He didn’t have a problem with all of the sin and, if that was the case, He would not have taken the actions that He did. When we understand the difference between being all powerful and having no equal, which is sovereignty, and being able to do something because you can, which is control, then we gain a better understanding that a righteous and just God, Who can do anything He pleases, will not take from us the ability to make free will choices – no matter how much they may break His heart

 

10.     When you think about the definition of control – the power to rule over – do you see now that this is not what God is doing in our lives UNLESS we first choose to yield to Him?

 

 

11.     Do you believe that God can “force” you to do anything that you do not want to do? 

 

 

Now let’s transition and look at some of the Scriptures that people quote as proof that God is in control of everything. We will examine references that seem to prove that God is controlling all events, and then we will take a step backwards and see if there is another explanation (interpretation) for how these Scriptures could/should be viewed. In other words, we will need to be open-minded about how we have traditionally thought about these verses of Scripture. Now, if your belief that God is in control of everything is based on “word of mouth” then I hope that you are open to verifying whether or not what you have heard and believed thus far has a Scriptural foundation. We will not cover every Scripture pertaining to God not being in control, but I want to give you enough to get you started in this lesson.

 

III.       Impact of the Fall of Man 

 

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, they traded the sinless life of light that God had given to them for a life of sin and darkness that Satan deceived them into accepting. And when this happened, because their spiritual life, their spiritual nature, now contained sin, opened the door for Satan to have complete access to the authority that God had given to them. Because of Adam and Eve’s deliberate rebellion against God, Satan replaced Adam as the “god of this world” – as ruler over creation. Remember when Satan offered Jesus all of the kingdoms of this world in Luke 4:6? “And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.’” What did the devil offer Jesus? He offered Him the authority and dominion he has over the world’s systems – how it operates – which he influences and manipulates through man’s sinful nature. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he plainly says Satan is the god of this world.

 

In Second Corinthians chapter four, verses 3-4 read as follows, “(3) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, (4) in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (Second Corinthians 4:3-4) Finally, when Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray, He told them to pray “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) So we see that God originally gave man authority over His creation and He never took it back. Man abdicated his position of power and authority to Satan through the sin nature when he rebelled against God in the garden. When man fell, Satan gained the legal right to wreak havoc in the world, especially where people’s lives are concerned. And get this, he does it by blinding them to the truth and keeping the unbelieving in darkness. This is why Jesus directed His disciples to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If God was in control of everything on earth then His will would be done. Think about it. Who could stop Him? 

 

If a person believes that murders, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. are God’s will, then they probably believe that God’s will is being done. But, Romans 8:20-21 says, “(20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” All of the weather patterns causing death and destruction that we see are because our world is corrupt and it has been corrupt since Genesis chapter three. Who subjected the creation to futility? Adam. Since Adam is responsible for the present state of creation, which is a slave to corruption, who is truly responsible for the terrible things that we are witnessing today? Adam. He is the one who unleashed sin and death into God’s creation and we see this in Romans 5:12. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” 

 

The things that happen on our planet – floods, hurricanes, droughts, etc. – are the results of the sin Adam released on God’s creation in Genesis 3 and Satan is gleefully using it to deceive people about the goodness of God, including Christians. We know that God is not controlling these things because His word says, “(5) My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My Name.” (Malachi 2:5) Also James 1:16-17 says, “(16) Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (17) Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James tells us that everything God does is good and that there is absolutely no variation and shifting in how He operates. God cannot be a God of light and also be behind all of the corruption that exists in the world today. If that were true, then what we just read in James would be a lie.

 

12.  If Satan is the god of this world doesn’t it make sense that there are things he can control in this world? Think about Job. 

 

 

IV.     Authority Returned to the Believers 

 

When man fell he abdicated his authority to Satan, who became the god of this world – this world order. Then Jesus comes, lives a truly righteous life, fulfills all of the requirements of the Law and is crucified on the cross. When He rose on the third day, guess what He did? Matthew 28:18 says, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Although Satan remains the god of this world for unbelievers, we have authority over him just like Jesus because, like Jesus, we are also God’s sons and daughters! Remember when Jesus sent His disciples out into the world? Luke 10:19 says, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.” That same authority resides with believers today. This is why we pray. This is why we read the Word and place it in our hearts. This is why we go to Church and worship with others. All of these things we do to remind us who we are in Christ and the authority/power that has been given to us.

 

Once we understand who we are, we pray for the sick believing they will be healed because we are operating in the authority that we have been given as children of God. Now here is something for you to think about. James 5:14-15 says, “(14) Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; (15) and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” If God is in control of everything and nothing happens without His approval, then if He wants someone to be sick, would we not be going against His will if we pray for them? Isn’t their sickness part of God’s will? What we are trying to do in this lesson is help you understand how believing that God is in control of everything does not make sense when you balance it with Scriptures that remind us that in this world, as Christians, we have the same power and authority that Jesus had when He was on earth.

 

13.     Can we pray for the sick while believing it’s God will that they are sick and that He is the One who made them sick? 

 

 

V.       God is Not Approving Everything! 

 

At this point you might be thinking that if Satan is the god of this world and he is doing whatever pleases him, then if God is still controlling everything then Satan must have His approval to do the things that he is doing. Some believe that while God may not be doing everything Himself, He is giving Satan permission to do all of the things for Him. This belief primarily comes from the story of Job. Remember what was recorded in Job 1:9-12? It says, “(9) Then Satan answered the LORD, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? (10) Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. (11) But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face. (12) Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.” Many read this interaction and the rest of the book of Job and believe that God gave Satan permission to do what he did to Job. Job’s friends believed that everything that was happening to him was because God was punishing him for something. Job even said, “….Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”  (Job 1:21) 

 

You and I know that God was not responsible for what happened to Job. But still many believe that God permitted it. When you read the verses we read from Job chapter one, Satan wasn’t getting approval from God to mess with Job. No, Satan was pointing out to God that God was protecting Job “illegally” because he didn’t have the authority to do so. Satan was the god of this world because of Adam’s sin so therefore, by protecting Job, God was encroaching on Satan’s authority on earth. Since God was able to protect Job from Satan’s authority, there is a question – a critical one – that needs to be answered: “Why was God able to do it?” The answer to this question is also the answer for us today and it’s found in Job 1:1. “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” When the Lord talks to Satan about Job in verse 8, He says “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Of all the people on planet earth, there was no one like Job! He was as holy and devout as a person with a sin nature could be. Where the last part of the verse says “and turning away from evil,” the Amplified Bible renders it this way – “and abstains from and shuns evil [because it is wrong].”

 

Job lived a lifestyle that enabled God to do everything He could to protect him. The lifestyle that Job lived is the lifestyle that God tells us to live in First Peter chapter one and is recorded in verses 14, 15 and 16. “(14) As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; (15) but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (16) because it is written, ‘BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” Do you believe that when it comes to His sons and daughters who are living the way He desires them to live that He would not do the same for them? Now we know that Job said in verse 21, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away…”, but is that really what happened? We know that even though some of the conversations were recorded in the Bible, it does not mean that the people were always speaking truth. They were speaking what they believed. And what Job said is an example.

When we read Job we get a glimpse of what was happening in the realm of the spirit. Job didn’t have this advantage. He didn’t know he had an enemy who wanted to destroy him. Because of the book of Job, we know how Satan operates in the unseen realm – in the realm so many Christians today know very little about. There are thirty-six chapters in the book of Job dedicated to the conversations between Job and his friends. Finally in chapter thirty-eight, God joins the conversation and speaks for four chapters and basically rebukes everyone. After challenging Job with all of the what I call the “Were you there” questions, listen to what the Lord said to Job’s friends in Job 42:7, “It came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.’” God said that the things that Job’s friends had said about Him (God) were not true and this angered God. This is why we need to be extremely careful about the blame we place on God for the things happening in this world. If God got angry in the Old Testament when He was blamed for something He did not do, why do we think He would not be angry today?

 

Before we move on, we need to see Job’s response as a result of the Lord’s rebuke. Job 42:1-6. “(1) Then Job answered the Lord and said, (2) ‘I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. (3) Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (4) Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. (5) I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eyes sees You; (6) therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” Job admitted that he had said things about God out of ignorance. He had repeated things about the Lord that he had heard from other people but now knew that what he had heard was not true. I believe this is applicable to many in the Church today. But Job was humble. He was teachable. He wanted God to tell him Himself who He was. And Strangers Rest, that should be our approach to God and His Word.

 

 

VI.     Man’s Freewill & God’s Covenants  

 

We have talked about Satan’s impact on things happening in the world and how the earth itself was corrupted when Adam sinned. Now we need to look at us – our freewill, which allows us to act independently of what God would have us to do. Because man has freewill and can do as he pleases, God cannot and will not make us do anything. However, what He can do is make covenants with us that are binding. These covenants give us the ability to yield our freewill to Him and, in doing so, free Him to act on our behalf. This is part of what prayer is all about – partnering with God to see His will done on earth. When we pray, we are yielding to God and asking for His help in our situation. This is what allows Him the freedom to do just that – help us. The primary covenant that Christians operate under today is the New Covenant with Jesus. In this covenant are the mechanisms through which God’s authority and power flow as we bring the Kingdom of God to the world around us.

 

Psalm 8:4-6 records the original order of things that God put in place. It says, “(4) What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? (5) Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! (6) You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”  I want to make sure you really see verse 6. It says God made us to rule over the works of His hands – to rule over creation. Satan is not supposed to be in charge. In the beginning when God created man and gave him dominion, God made him “a little lower” than Himself. We were made a little lower than God because we were not deity. But even in this “lower state”, which defines each Christian today, we have more authority in this world than Satan. Think about that! Many Christians, unfortunately, are not walking in their authority because they are waiting for God to do things that He has already authorized them to do themselves. God has empowered us as His children!

 

There are over seven billion people on the earth and each has freewill to make decisions that line up with the Word of God or not. Each decision that is made is made under the control of the person making the decision. In a perfect world/situation that person would be yielding to the Spirit of God and making decisions pleasing to God, but we know that we do not live in a perfect world. So, if God is in control of everything that means the decisions that I make that go against His word are being made with His ultimate approval because it will work out for my good. In fact, if God is controlling everything I am unable to make a decision that is outside of His will! That means I am a puppet in His overall plan and I don’t even know it. We like to quote Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” When we make bad decisions with our “freewill”, sure God can bring some good out of them because we love Him and are called according to His purpose. But we must understand there is a difference between “good” coming out of a situation and God “blessing” a situation. We read this verse and think that every situation, good or bad, we experience based on our decisions can be blessed by God. This verse simply says that God can work it to the good for those that love Him. Maybe that good is that you go to prison for drunk driving versus dying in a car crash. That is an extreme example because Christians should never be in that position to begin with. However, many Christians do put themselves in that very position.

 

Let’s turn to Deuteronomy 30:19. This is towards the end of Moses farewell address to the children Israel and for me, it’s prophetic for the Church today. Verse 19 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” It’s important that we see what this verse is saying. There are only two paths available to us – the path that leads to blessings or the path that leads to being cursed. When we choose to live a life that is against the will of God, we are automatically choosing a life where curses are waiting for us. God is not cursing us. We are cursing ourselves. Every day decisions are made that either adds life to a situation or death. These decisions are made by individuals that have the freewill to make them and once they make their choices – now listen to how I say this – God has sovereignly rendered Himself powerless to override them. Are you starting to see the picture? God cannot be in control of everything if man truly has freewill. Man has the ability to choose – right or wrong – the decision is ours. We are free agents to make decisions to live however we choose and live with the consequences of those decisions.

 

 

Conclusion

 

To close out this lesson, I want to make sure you understand the ultimate choice as it relates to control. We know that heaven and hell exists. Heaven is God’s home and where we will be until the new earth is created. Hell was created for Satan and his demons. God’s creation – the human race – was never supposed to go there. It was created to house Satan and his devils until the end of time. If God was in control not one single person would go to hell. Remember the Bible says, “As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live…..”  (Ezekiel 33:11a) We know that God does not want anyone to die and spend an eternity in hell. That is not His desire. That is not His will. So the fact that there will be many who will spend an eternity in hell tells us that God was not in control of the path they had chosen. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “(13) Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. (14) For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” If God was truly in control, He would not have permitted anyone to choose a life of sin. The Bible makes it clear through many Scriptures who will spend an eternity in the presence of Christ and who will not.

 

The Bible makes it clear that God is not in absolute control of the things happening on the earth. While God is absolutely sovereign, His sovereignty does not mean that He is absolutely controlling and/or absolutely approving of everything that is happening. When we acknowledge that there are other spiritual forces operating in the world that disagree with God’s plans for man, it does not take away from God’s sovereignty. It adds even more credibility to our understanding of God’s true nature and ensures that we do not lay at His doorstep blame that does not belong to Him. When we blame God for deaths, sickness, weather events and the like, it causes us to question our relationship with Him. Does He love me or is He waiting to crush me because He can? Does He have my best interest at heart or is He sitting in heaven planning my next trial and tribulation to see if I fail or pass? The God we serve is not a God that is seeking to cause our destruction. I want to close with what is recorded in the books of Jeremiah and Matthew. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” And Matthew 7:9-11 says, “(9) Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? (10) Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? (11) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” This is Who God is! This is the God we serve!!! Amen! 

 

 

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VISION: 

“Til all the ransomed church of God is saved to sin no more"

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