Over the past couple of years, we have shared hundreds of Give Him 15 posts. They have come from God’s mandate to equip the Ekklesia so we can pray for America more effectively.
Is God Sovereign?
My intent with this post is not to open a theological can of worms. I am certainly not the final voice on all things theological. I do want to make a very important point regarding theology, however: The sovereignty of God does not mean He controls everything that takes place on earth. This should be obvious, but a religious mindset permeates the church (and many unbelievers, as well) that says God controls everything that occurs on earth.
The obvious negative connotations of this are dealt with through beliefs and statements such as, “there must be a reason;” “everything happens for a reason;” “all things work together for good;” “well, God is in control;” “nothing happens unless He allows it;” and so on. These statements and beliefs bring a degree of comfort to people, causing them to insert a sense of purpose into their pain. I understand this. However, problems, pain, loss, and difficulties don’t have to be allowed by God in order for Him to make them serve us. And the fact that He uses bad events doesn’t mean He is behind them.
God did not put sinful motives into the hearts of Joseph’s brothers causing them to sell him into slavery. He did, however, have the ability and sovereign power to use their evil, turning it into good. Yahweh did not put into the heart of King Saul to falsely accuse and persecute David. No part of this was caused by God, yet He did have a plan to use it for David’s good. The cave of Adullam, David’s home through much of that season, became his classroom and writing chamber. He wrote many of the Psalms from that cave, psalms that have touched hundreds of millions of people.
God does not have to cause it, to use it.
The word sovereign actually means “the greatest in power and authority.” This is obviously true of God – He is sovereign. The word does NOT mean “in control of everything.” The Bible is filled with actions that occurred that were not God’s will, nor did He “allow” them. God “allowing“ everything on earth is only true in the sense that He allows humans to possess free will – we have the power of choice. I once heard the great Foursquare Pastor, Jack Hayford, say regarding this topic, “God is sovereign, but in His sovereignty, He has limited Himself.” He also said, “The quest of Jesus Christ on the earth is greatly crippled by wrong notions of the sovereignty of God.”
Pastor Hayford has a way with words! His point in the second statement was that a wrong concept of the sovereignty of God causes complacency and passivity in people and…at times, irresponsibility. They believe – whether consciously or unconsciously – that God is in control of everything and will do what He wants, regardless of our involvement. This is so wrong. God works on earth through people. He needs our cooperation.
Having stated this balancing truth, I want to share the fourth passage of scripture regarding the Holy Spirit shifting us from phase to phase, season to season. His divine shifts, changing the times and seasons (Daniel 2.20-21), occurs in us, not just in the world around us. Psalm 84:4-7 says we go from strength to strength:
“How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house! They are ever praising Thee. How blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee; in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a spring. The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion.”
“Baca” means weeping; therefore, the valley of Baca means “the valley of weeping.” We frequently refer to difficult times and situations in life as valleys. As we pass through these valleys – aren’t you glad they aren’t permanent – refreshing springs can burst forth as we cooperate with God. A valley of tears can be transformed into a place from which the water of life flows. A barren, dry place can be transformed into a place of springs.
Notice that the place of new strength, doesn’t emerge after Baca, it is actually born at Baca – the place of weeping. The Hebrew word used for “strength” is also very revealing. Chayil is from the root word chawl, the Old Testament word for travail or giving birth to something. What a picture! When we walk in faith and perseverance through difficult places, God can actually use them to birth (chawl) new places of strength (chayil) in us. Like the cocoon of a butterfly, Baca can become a place of transformation. And like the butterfly, our destiny is not the cocoon of Baca – weeping; our destiny is the flight of freedom and victory.
The dry, barren places in our lives can indeed become places from which the river of life flows and new strength is born. God has been doing much work in this troubling time on earth. Unfortunately, many Christians have not realized that the difficult seasons of travail are often the conduit to bring us to new levels. Rather than persevering through these seasons, many have despised the Bacas and grown bitter or cynical. Rather than going from strength to strength, they unwittingly choose to remain in Baca, making it home. They don’t move from a place of plowing and sowing to one of reaping and blessing. Tragically, many miss the shifting of the times and seasons God wants to do for them.
Chayil, the word for strength, is also the word for the army and for wealth. We can fight more effectively and prosper to a greater degree after having gone through the valleys of Baca – if we make them our servants. Yes, it can be difficult; we may not understand what is happening at the time, and it may even seem like we’re losing ground. But if we faithfully press on, allowing God to use the Baca times, He will transform them into boot camps and springs of blessing. Once on the other side, we’ll realize we’re stronger and more prosperous than before.
God wants us to go from one position of victory to another, from one phase of soldiering to another – enlistment to Bootcamp to infantry and so on. Some will go on to special forces.
Allow Holy Spirit to do what is necessary to shift you into the new. He will take you from one stage to another, and another, and another.
If you or your family members do not know Jesus, remember Jesus died for everyone and made it simple. Call on the name of Jesus and you shall be saved. Then, you will be in Heaven with all other believers!