For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Are You Content With His Control?

I’ve written here before about the wonderful collection of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision.  It’s a wonderful tool for private devotions, and even corporate prayer.  I often conclude Sunday evening messages with words from this collection that relate to the evening’s message.

There is one group of prayers designed for morning and evening of each day.  The morning prayer for today begins like this:

We cannot escape from thy presence and control,
     nor do we desire to do so.
Our privilege is to be under the agency
    of thy omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy and grace;
For thou art Love with more than parental affection.

Now, most of us would heartily agree with the idea that we “cannot escape from thy presence and control.”  We know God is sovereign.  We know He sits on His throne and is busy working all things for His purposes and His glory. 

OK, so not everyone would agree.  There are those radical, man-centered, free-will-or-die types who want to relegate God to a doddering old man sitting on His throne, wringing His hands and hoping things work out right; begging for someone to please answer His call.  But anyway…

Scripture tells us that we cannot escape His presence.  The well known words of Psalm 139:  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalm 139:2-12, ESV)

We are also told that all thing are in His control.  Proverbs 19:21 reminds us that Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.  The prophet Isaiah says:  For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? (Is. 14:27) and through that prophet God says:  Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?" (Is. 43:13)

So again, no right thinking person who has read the Word of God can disagree that we cannot escape His presence and control.  But it’s the rest of that phrase that got my attention: nor do we desire to do so. Our privilege is to be under the agency of thy omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy and grace; For thou art Love with more than parental affection. (emphasis added)

I don’t want to be out of His presence and control.  I see it as a privilege to submit to His divine omnipotent hand, knowing He is wise and righteous and patient and merciful and gracious, more than any human parent could ever be. 

Wow.  Do I really believe that?  Sure I don’t want to be out of His presence.  I want to live under His mercy and grace and know that He’s there loving and protecting.  But do I honestly feel that I see it a privilege to be under His divine omnipotent control, knowing that His purposes are right and wise?

Now be careful.  Before we rush in and say “yes, of course.”  What if that wise and righteous plan is for you to suffer and grieve and struggle?  Hmm.  Most often, in fact, this is the case.  Think Abraham and Moses and David and Job and Paul.  Sure they had their bright shining moments.  But they all also suffered and struggled greatly.

Or think…Jesus.  Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; (Is. 53:10)  God’s will, God’s pleasure, was to crush the perfect Son of God in order to bring sinful folks like you and me into right standing.  So, where do we get off thinking that God would gladly crush His own Son, but want nothing but fun and happiness for you and me?

So, are we still eager to thank God for keeping us in His control, working His perfect plan and purpose for His glory?  We should.  Because the rest of that is true as well.  It is all done in mercy and grace, and wisdom and righteousness, and with a love that is greater than any earthly parent could ever produce.

As a parent, I want to shape and guide and protect my children.  I want what’s best for them because I love them.  I have sometimes not let them do something (exerting parental control) because I knew it wouldn’t be best for them.  They didn’t like it, but it was done in love.

And God’s love is so infinitely higher and deeper and wider and greater…  So yes, it’s a privilege to be under His sovereign control.  Even when things don’t work the way I think they should.  It’s a privilege because I know He is working out an eternal plan that I only have a glimpse of.  It’s a plan that is for my highest good and His highest glory, and that makes it the best plan ever.  If I were in control, I’d only mess it up! 

So, Amen to that prayer.  I hope you can give it an Amen as well.  No matter where you are or what you are enduring, remember that God’s love is greater than you can imagine, and His plans and purposes are perfect and wise and good.  And He seeks to glorify His name in and through you, and there is no higher calling, no place we’d rather be.

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