Jesus Did It!
By: Rex M. Rogers
Everyone experiences adversity. It’s a part of life no one escapes. In fact, if you haven’t experienced adversity you haven’t lived long enough.
Something unpleasant happens, often unexpected, and we suffer. Sometimes it's a mild inconvenience like a flat tire, a toothache, a stubbed toe. Sometimes adversity is more severe like an illness or the death of a loved one. Or the car engine coughs rather than purrs, the furnace breaks down in January, we lose a job, Fido goes to his reward. Things don't work out the way we hoped or planned—instead, we experience trials and tribulations.
Robinson Crusoe learned the hard way about adversity. Remember him? At age 18 he foolishly ignored his father's advice, pursued a prodigal drunken sailor's life, aimlessly bounced around the world for a few years, and eventually was shipwrecked on a deserted island for what turned out to be 28 years.
Crusoe blamed God—cursed him, actually—for his predicament and lived in bitterness and despondency. Much later he began reading one of the Bibles he’d rescued earlier from the derelict ship. In time, his spiritual eyes were opened and he accepted Christ. Eventually, he evangelized "Man Friday," the native friend he’d saved from cannibals. When Robinson Crusoe was finally rescued at age 53, he exuberantly praised God for putting him on the island.
To say the least this is an amazing change of heart. Crusoe goes from cursing to worshipping God for the same predicament. It took years, new insight into God’s character, and a realistic assessment of his own attitudes, but in the end, Crusoe realized God’s seemingly cruel intervention in his life was actually a providential act of divine love and mercy. Crusoe knew that, left to his own vices, he likely would’ve died young, alone, and unmourned in a bar fight in some far off port. In the words of Scripture, he would have “squandered his wealth [and wasted his life] in wild living” (Luke 15:13).
But God had protected Robinson Crusoe from himself. What he considered affliction or adversity, God considered protection and blessing.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) is a classic of English literature that upon publication immediately became what today we’d call a bestseller, and it’s never been out of print since. The book helped earn Defoe the honorary sobriquet “Father of the English Novel.” But Defoe was about more than fame and fortune.
Defoe developed the fictional Crusoe character to help illustrate the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty, or ultimate knowledge, authority, and power, is the belief God holds everything in His hands.
In the Old Testament, Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery with evil intent. Yet God used these misguided brothers to accomplish his purposes. He placed Joseph in high Egyptian office so Joseph could later save those very brothers from famine—“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s adversity demonstrates that not all of our trials are due to personal sin (James 1).
Job, too, experienced adversity—overwhelming, spirit-crushing adversity, none of it due to his disobedience. While it's possible to bring adversity upon ourselves by ignoring God's commands, it's also possible that many of the problems we face in our lives come upon us because we live in a fallen sinful world (Romans 1).
With all that happens in this capricious fallen world God is never surprised. He's never taken off-guard. He's never the victim of circumstances. “Accident” and “mistake” are not words in God’s vocabulary. Indeed the phrase “divine mistake” is an oxymoron. As the sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal God of the universe it is impossible for God to make a mistake. In point of fact, the reality of the Sovereign God and the concepts of “accident” or “error” are mutually exclusive ideas. So for God there are no “oops.”
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God—this No-Oops God—is one of the most comforting teachings of Scripture. God is in control not only of creation but also of his creatures, and he never takes a misstep.
In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, God says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart" (1:5). You and I are not accidents. We are on this earth because God wanted us to be here, knows that we are here, has a purpose in our being here, and determines how long we'll be here.
Now if that is true, and it is, it stands to reason that what happens to us occurs within the sovereign purpose of God for our lives. There are no accidents. God's sovereign engagement in our lives includes the troubles we just escaped, the troubles we're in now, and the troubles we're about to be in.
Our lives might be Adversity Central, but God is walking right beside us. The Psalmist said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4, KJV).
The world is a confusing mix of good and evil, beauty and ugliness. Acts of human courage and nobility coexist with unbelievable human cruelty and debauchery. It's what the Bible calls the "wheat and the weeds" (Matthew 13:24-30).
In the face of this moral mixture, Christians sometimes wonder, "Is God on our side?" Is life "fair" to Christians? Will Christians always "win" or be blessed? Will businesses run by Christians always succeed?
Abraham Lincoln struggled with this question in his Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865. He said, "Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained...Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other...The prayers of both could not be answered--that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes...Shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? So shall it be said 'The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"
God works His purposes with both the wheat and the weeds. Christians will not always "win" or be blessed. Businesses owned by Christians will not always succeed. Life will not always seem "fair." Yet God will work all things, including adversities, together for good (Romans 8:28).
Sometimes adversity strikes in what we call disasters, “acts of God,” or tragedies: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis. Or human-devised actions like slavery, violence and wars, economic upheaval, moral decline, human savagery, terrorism, mass murder, abortion, and other vile destruction of life.
Not only acts of good but acts of evil are within God’s universal and permissive will—his sovereignty. God does not cause evil. He is not the source of evil. Satan is the source, along with the evil heart of humankind. But even evil men or women committing evil acts do not catch God off-guard and do not unsettle Him in any way. Sovereignty isn’t a part-time attribute.
Is evil somehow triumphing over good? No, not in the worst imaginable circumstances. Not even in the face of tragic, senseless loss of lives.
Consider this passage from the Psalms: “God reigns over the nations: God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble, as the people of the God of Abraham. For the kings of the earth belong to God. He is greatly exalted” (47:8-9).
Psalm 52 is too long to quote. Just think about these phrases: “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man…Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin” (52:1, 5).
No mass killer, no deranged gunman, no suicide bomber, no hijacker, no evildoer, no strongman, no terrorist, not even Satan himself can operate beyond the limits of God’s sovereignty.
While we are finite and cannot anticipate, much less eliminate, all risk, God is omnipotent and has us in the palm of his hands. While we may hear of random violence, nothing is ever random in the omniscient eyes of God. While we do not understand exactly how God exercises his disposition over evil in the world, knowing that he does is an immense solace. While we may at times be understandably fearful in a maniacal world, we need not live in fear.
God knows when we rise up and when we lay down. We belong to the Lord, and so does history itself.
While we'll not always understand our adversity much less the soul-wrenching adversity of the complex world in which we live, we trust the Lord. He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).
Like Robinson Crusoe we must learn to understand all things, especially adversity, from the perspective of a Christian worldview.
God is near, and he's in control. God is sovereign. What a fantastic, liberating, comforting truth.
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Rex M. Rogers, President SAT-7 USA, www.sat7usa.org, www.rexmrogers.com, www.twitter.com /RexMRogers
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