As a church we understand how demanding the economic downturn has been for everyone, how painful it continues to be for lots of folk. Truly, we live in what we can only call stressful times and as Christians we are not immune to it either. With the world’s economy in free-fall; rising unemployment; the shifting of the moral goalposts in our nation, the hangover of debt; damaged relationships, and no end in sight. Where can we find stability, when everything everywhere is in such a state of flux? If we just had something, someone that doesn’t shift like the shadows in the night; a rock on which to place our feet; a hope that doesn’t disappoint and perhaps a joy that’s not dependent upon circumstances, bank balances or the seasons that come and go. The question is, where is such to be found?
The Bible alone reveals the character of God. It says he is absolutely, utterly sovereign. That means he is the first cause of everything and in control of all events in the universe he created. Most Christians though pay mere lip-service to this. What does the Bible mean then when it says God is sovereign? That he is God. He does as he pleases, when he pleases, in the heavens and the earth which he created. Evolution is a denial not only of God, but his sovereignty, and leaves you with nothing but blind chance and the purposelessness that’s so prevalent in our society and leads to so much of the despair we witness. It means God is sovereign over everything, the good and the bad. Yes, God is sovereign in salvation too. He works in us to do of his good pleasure. He chooses some to salvation and others not (Romans 9:21). He sent his Son to die for some and not others. He gives faith to some and not to others. He opens the hearts of some to believe and hardens others.
God is sovereign over sin. He willed it in the beginning (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28), and he rules, governs and uses it all for his own purpose. It must be so or God is not God. Of course only faith can receive this. Even believers balk at this, pride, self-righteousness and illusions of grandeur get in the way. But faith, believing the truth about God, as taught in the Bible will find that rock, that stability, that hope that will not disappoint, in a God who is, absolutely, utterly sovereign.
The first words of Scripture declare that God has made a beginning, thereby appointing a distinction between the beginning of a matter and its further course. One’s birth is different from one’s further life, so is one’s conversion from one’s later life of faith. This distinction’s seen in all of life, a distinction that comes not by itself but is appointed by God. All things on earth have not just their career but their beginning, all things. This is important because the wise of the world try to demonstrate that the world has no beginning. But Scripture again and again points to that beginning from which the rest derives its progress. The world’s bent on obliterating that beginning; denying it in order to proclaim the lie that the world has always been and is as eternal as God.
Many people ask the question, is there a God? That’s the wrong question, because the answer’s known, the Bible’s clear, “God’s shown it to us” (Romans 1:19). Truth is people can’t find God for the same reason a thief can’t find a policeman. We have an inbuilt tendency not to want to find God. No the question we ought to be asking is, not is there, but what is God? That is, in relation to ourselves. Friend or foe? The Bible tells us that God’s attitude is one of constant displeasure because of man’s hell- bent efforts to obliterate, deny, not just that beginning, but even God himself. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), unbelief keeps us in his displeasure, therefore from all the goodness, stability and hope that we so much need in our modern society.
The speech of God’s holy displeasure’s heard all over the world we live in, call them what you will, natural disasters, whatever. What do you call the economic disaster hanging over the world? What do you call the rioting, killing and looting in our towns and cities? What do you call the out-of-control social problems that leave our public social services over-laden, at breaking point? Oh we know so much, so clever, the origins of the universe, life, we have scientific answers to everything, except those social problems; except the unrest that’s only just emerging; except how to live with one another; except how to live with ourselves. So, so empty. No fuel left in the tank of life. We’re blown about with every wind of political change. Like a cork on the waves, tossed to and fro, no stability, no hope. One set back after another, the bills and the bank statements coming through the door, when the redundancy notice is served, no hope.
This ungodly world talks much about peace, in Iraq, Afghanistan, peace where there’s nothing but continual fighting and war. True peace is the fruit of having peace with God (Romans 5:1). The Bible tells us that there is no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 57:21). Peace, peace when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14). There is only one way to peace with God and therefore to peace within ourselves. Through Jesus Christ, God’s Son from heaven. For all who believe in him, he says, “peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).