Category: How can I learn to trust that God is in control?


God has given us some very clear instructions in His Word as to how we are to  live for Him. These include the command to love one another (John 13:34-35), the call  to follow Him at the cost of denying our own desires (Matthew 16:24), the  exhortation to care for the poor and needy (James 1:27),  and the warning to not fall into sinful behaviors like those who don’t know God  (1  Thessalonians 5:6-8). Jesus summed up a life lived for God when a teacher of  the law asked Him the most important of commandments. Jesus replied, “Hear, O  Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your  heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment  greater than these” (Mark  12:29-31).

Jesus’ prayer prior to His crucifixion also sheds light  on our purpose. Referring to believers, He prayed, “I have given them the glory  you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May  they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and  have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given  me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me  because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though  the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I  have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that  the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:22-26). Jesus’  desire is for relationship with us.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism  says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” A life  lived for God glorifies God. We pursue God with our entire being – heart, soul,  mind, and strength. We abide in Christ (John 15:4, 8) and therefore act like Him  by loving others. In doing that, we bring glory to His name and also enjoy the  relationship for which we were originally created.

Those who wish to  live for God must seek Him in His Word. We must seek the guidance of the Holy  Spirit to apply the Word to our lives. Living for God means giving up ourselves  and desiring God’s will above all else. As we draw nearer to God and come to  know Him more, His desires will more naturally become ours. As we mature, our  desire to obey God’s commands increases as our love for Him increases. As Jesus  said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

In order to get “right” with God, we must first understand what is “wrong.” The answer is sin. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). We have rebelled against God’s commands; we “like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).

The bad news is that the penalty for sin is death. “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The good news is that a loving God has pursued us in order to bring us salvation. Jesus declared His purpose was “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), and He pronounced His purpose accomplished when He died on the cross with the words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Having a right relationship with God begins with acknowledging your sin. Next comes a humble confession of your sin to God (Isaiah 57:15) and a determination to forsake the sin. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10).

This repentance must be accompanied by faith – specifically, faith that Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection qualify Him to be your Savior. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Many other passages speak of the necessity of faith, such as John 20:27; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; 3:11, 26; and Ephesians 2:8.

Being right with God is a matter of your response to what God has done on your behalf. He sent the Savior, He provided the sacrifice to take away your sin (John 1:29), and He offers you the promise: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).

A beautiful illustration of repentance and forgiveness is the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The younger son wasted his father’s gift in shameful sin (verse 13). When he acknowledged his wrongdoing, he decided to return home (verse 18). He assumed he would no longer be considered a son (verse 19), but he was wrong. The father loved the returned rebel as much as ever (verse 20). All was forgiven, and a celebration ensued (verse 24). God is good to keep His promises, including the promise to forgive. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

If you want to get right with God, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

“Open theism,” also known as “openness theology” and the “openness of God,” is an attempt to explain the foreknowledge of God in relationship to the free will of man. The argument of open theism is essentially this: human beings are truly free; if God absolutely knew the future, human beings could not truly be free. Therefore, God does not know absolutely everything about the future. Open theism holds that the future is not knowable. Therefore, God knows everything that can be known, but He does not know the future.

Open theism bases these beliefs on Scripture passages which describe God “changing His mind” or “being surprised” or “seeming to gain knowledge” (Genesis 6:6; 22:12; Exodus 32:14; Jonah 3:10). In light of the many other Scriptures that declare God’s knowledge of the future, these Scriptures should be understood as God describing Himself in ways that we can understand. God knows what our actions and decisions will be, but He “changes His mind” in regard to His actions based on our actions. God’s disappointment at the wickedness of humanity does not mean He was not aware it would occur.

In contradiction to open theism, Psalm 139:4, 16 state, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” How could God predict intricate details in the Old Testament about Jesus Christ if He does not know the future? How could God in any manner guarantee our eternal salvation if He does not know what the future holds?

Ultimately, open theism fails in that it attempts to explain the unexplainable—the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and mankind’s free will. Just as extreme forms of Calvinism fail in that they make human beings nothing more than pre-programmed robots, so open theism fails in that it rejects God’s true omniscience and sovereignty. God must be understood through faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6a). Open theism is, therefore, not scriptural. It is simply another way for finite man to try to understand an infinite God. Open theism should be rejected by followers of Christ. While open theism is an explanation for the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human free will, it is not the biblical explanation.

Before we can learn to trust that God is in control of all of life’s circumstances, we have to answer four questions: Is God really in control? How much control does He have? If He is not in complete control, then who/what is? How can I learn to trust that He is in control and rest in that?

Is God really in control? The concept of the control of God over everything is called the “sovereignty” of God. Nothing gives us strength and confidence like an understanding of the sovereignty of God in our lives. God’s sovereignty is defined as His complete and total independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent, God does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. God is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes.

“The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand’” (Isaiah 14:24). Nothing is random or comes by chance, especially not in the lives of believers. He “purposed” it. That means to deliberately resolve to do something. God has resolved to do what He will do and nothing and no one stands in His way. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” Isaiah 46:10). This is our powerful, purposeful God who is in control of everything. That should bring us great comfort and help to alleviate our fears.

But just exactly how much control does God have? God’s total sovereignty over all creation directly contradicts the philosophy of open theism, which states that God doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the future any more than we do, so He has to constantly be changing His plans and reacting to what the sinful creatures do as they exercise their free will. God isn’t finding out what’s going to happen as events unfold. He is continuously, actively running things—ALL things—here and now. But to think He needs our cooperation, our help, or the exercise of our free will to bring His plans to pass puts us in control over Him, which makes us God. Where have we heard that lie before? It’s a rehash of Satan’s same old lie from the Garden—you shall be like God (Genesis 3:5). Our wills are only free to the extent that God allows us that freedom and no farther. “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). No one’s free will trumps the sovereignty of God.

Some people find it appealing to think that Satan has control over a certain amount of life, that God is constantly revising His plans to accommodate Satan’s tricks. The book of Job is a clear illustration of just who has the sovereign power and who doesn’t. Satan came to God and in effect said “Job only serves you because you protect him.” So God gave Satan permission to do certain things to Job but no more (Job 1:6-22). Could Satan do more than that? No. God is in control over Satan and his demons who try to thwart God’s plans at every step.

Satan knew from the Old Testament that God’s plan was for Jesus to come to the earth, be betrayed, crucified and resurrected, and provide salvation for millions, and if there was any way to keep that from happening, Satan would have done it. If just one of the hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah could have been caused by Satan to fail to come to pass, the whole thing would have collapsed. But the numbers of independent, “free will” decisions made by thousands of people were designed by God to bring His plan to pass in exactly the way He had planned it from the beginning and Satan couldn’t do a thing about it.

Jesus was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). No action by the Romans, the Pharisees, Judas, or anyone else kept God’s plan from unfolding exactly the way He purposed it from before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1 says we were chosen in Him before the world was even created. We were in the mind of God to be saved by faith in Christ. That means God knit together Satan’s rebellion, Adam and Eve’s sin, the fall of the human race, and the death and crucifixion of Christ—all seemingly terrible events—to save us before He created us. Here is a perfect example of God working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

Unlimited in power, unrivalled in majesty, and not thwarted by anything outside Himself, our God is in complete control of all circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained.

Finally, the only way to trust in God’s sovereign control and rest in it is to know God. Know His attributes, know what He has done in the past, and this builds confidence in Him. Daniel 11:32b says “the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Imagine that kind of power in the hands of an evil, unjust God. Or a god that really doesn’t care about us. But we can rejoice in our God’s sovereignty, because it is overshadowed by His goodness, His love, His mercy, His compassion, His faithfulness, and His holiness.

But we can’t trust someone we don’t know and there is only one way to know God—through His Word. There is no magic formula to make us spiritual giants overnight, no mystical prayer to pray three times a day to mature us, build our faith and make us towers of strength and confidence. There is only the Bible, the single source of power that will change our lives from the inside out. But it takes effort, diligent, everyday effort to know the God who controls everything. If we drink deeply of His Word and let it fill our minds and hearts, the sovereignty of God will become clear to us, and we will rejoice in it because we will know intimately and trust completely the God who controls all things for His perfect purpose.