There are three truths about God every Christian must believe and rehearse daily in order to muddle our way through intense times: 1) God is completely sovereign 2) God is infinite in wisdom 3) God is perfect in love. The Church is going to need to be especially good at fixing our eyes on these attributes of God during this political cycle.
1) God is completely sovereign
Read these words slowly…
“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:10-11).
God is in control of ALL THINGS! He does whatever pleases him and determines whether we can do what we have planned (Ps. 115:3; James 4:13-15). No creature, person, or nation can either thwart his will or act outside the bounds of his will.
I would encourage you to put in the time and effort to memorize the following verses:
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30).
“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” (Ecclesiastes 7:13).
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” (Lamentations 3:37).
2) God is infinite in wisdom
The apostle Paul found himself absolutely confounded at the plans and purposes of God. So much so it brought him to a place of awe and worship…
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).
Wisdom is commonly defined as good judgment or the ability to develop the best course of action or the best response to a given situation. Human wisdom is fallible. God’s is not. He always knows what is best for us and what is the best way to bring about that result.
What is best for us? you ask. This is where our deeply flawed wisdom can produce some horrifying answers. Why? Because we see in part and know in part and bring to that partial knowledge hearts that are quite ill - a lethal combination.
If God is infinitely knowledgeable and infinitely wise, he must have good reasons I can’t think of for arranging things the way he does.
I’ve often pictured rounding up the world’s foremost scholar in theoretical physics and have him or her come explain their discipline to my four year old. That pales in comparison to the wisdom gap that exists between us and our infinitely wise God.
3) God is perfect in love
“God is love” (1 John 4:8). This doesn’t mean he gives us everything we want nor does he arrange our lives the way we would prefer. Remember, God is infinite in wisdom. Often our wants and preferences, no matter how good they appear to us, are in reality harmful to us. God’s love won’t let us settle for something that is less than what is really best.
Jesus discusses this in his famous sermon...
"Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:9-11).
We often ask for stones and serpents and wonder why God didn’t grant us our requests. He’s loving! That’s why. In not giving us what we want, God not only protects us from the harmful nature of our desires, but gives us something far better.
The cross is the climax of this. The disciples thought their deepest problem was the oppressive political rule of Rome. They thought the best thing they could ask for was an earthly revolution. But Jesus had no interest in freeing them from a political regime. He wanted to free them from something far more oppressive: sin and its earthly and eternal consequences. Jesus’ love for you will not let you settle for less than what he knows is best. And his best for you is far better than your best for yourself!
The ten scouts who succumbed to fear and brought back a bad report and stirred up the people to mutiny, died on the spot at Kadesh-Barnea. God struck them dead. The rest of the people, the adult generation of Israel died without entering the Promised Land. God made sure of that.
What’s so remarkable about this story is that fear prevented them from experiencing God’s best. God had something in store for them so much better than their minds had conceived, but their fear caused them to miss out. Fear leads to destruction not flourishing. Fear leads to punishment not blessing. Fear causes us to miss out.
So what is fear’s kryptonite?
You remember the story in Mark 4? Jesus orchestrates a boat trip across the lake, promptly falls asleep as a substantial tempest begins buffeting the boat. It was severe enough to strike fear in the seasoned fishermen on board. In a panic they wake the sleeping Jesus only to be greeted with an indicting question: where is your faith? Jesus links their fear with a lack of faith. And then after calming the storm, the disciples ask that infamous question: who is this? Which explains why they reacted the way they did. Their response of fear betrayed the fact they didn’t really know Jesus. So how do we get to know Jesus in such a way that we don’t shrink back in fear? Well, it’s not about reading more about Jesus. It’s not about studying words a page or writing a paper. Knowing Jesus in a manner that inoculates us against fear is about living in a certain way, not just thinking a certain thing.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).
In order to truly know Christ like Paul is describing isn’t an intellectual exercise. It’s an experiential exercise. Truly knowing Christ requires suffering and death. If we recoil from suffering, we will never truly know Christ the way we were meant to.
Paul wants to know Christ so much he desires to to suffer and die so he can experience resurrection from the dead. Keep in mind, this is the same book in which Paul says,
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far..." (Philippians 1:21-23).
Don't make God take you from this earth kicking and screaming as you claw and scratch to try to stay here. That certainly was not Paul's approach. Not only did he not shrink back from the things that cause most of us to crumble in fear, he pressed forward into them because he knew "this is the way I know Christ in a way I don’t currently."