This article was originally posted on Joel Settecase’s pastoral blog.
My son has been in the hospital for over two weeks now. My wife posts updates on her blog, but I have not written much about him (outside of social media). However, as Lukas has been hospitalized, I have been doing a lot of thinking about God’s sovereignty, and I want to share my thoughts. Specifically, I want to talk about how I think the Lord is using my son’s health crisis to accomplish his mission for our family.
What does it mean that God is sovereign?
When believers say that God is “sovereign,” we are saying that God is completely free in his ability to act in every area over which he has authority, which is to say, over all of creation.
One of the entailments of God being sovereign is that he has not only the authority to plan and declare intended outcomes, but also the ability and power to make those outcomes happen. This is true on the cosmic scale (“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4)), but it is also true at the personal level. The circumstances of each person’s life have been predestined in advance by God (Psalm 139:16 says each person’s days were written in God’s book before they ever happened).
This truth, that God exercises sovereign control over human lives, is wondrously seen in the way he brings sinful people into saving relationship with himself. The Bible teaches that, apart from a powerful work of God’s grace on an individual’s mind, no one would ever naturally turn from his sin and love God (Romans 8:6-8). Therefore everyone who is justified–forgiven and declared to be righteous before God–is done so not by his own power but by God’s (Romans 4:5).
Again, God is sovereign, and we see the beauty of his sovereignty in the way he forgives sinful people and gives us new life in Jesus.
God’s sovereignty over the ends and the means
So then, does God know whom he will justify, whom he will save? Yes, he does. In fact, he has already pre-planned ahead of time, determining in advance to save his people.
Not one sinner upon whom God has set his sovereign sights will be left out of God’s saving plan.
Because of the intricacies of God’s plan (which involves every detail of his spiritual, natural and human creation), in order to effect his desired outcomes, he must also exercise sovereign control over every detail leading up to those outcomes. As apologist James R. White and others have stated, “God ordains the ends as well as the means.
When it comes to his plan to save his chosen people God has included, as means, the prayers and proclamation of his word on the part of believers. If you have become a Christian, that probably happened through someone teaching you the Gospel at some point. Someone was also likely praying for the Gospel to take root in your heart and mind, and God heard those prayers and granted you repentance and faith. In sending that person to you and answering those prayers, God was working out what he had determined in advance to do. He was accomplishing his intended ends through the use of his intended means.
So what does God’s sovereignty have to do with Lukas’s stay in the hospital?
In September 2018, Aliza and I were commissioned by Cru as missionaries to carry out Cru’s mission of winning, building, and sending disciples of Jesus. As we have worked to develop our new ministry, we have specifically committed ourselves to the mission of equipping believers with knowledge, engaging them in conversation with non-believers, and encouraging them to share and defend their faith. We want to communicate the Gospel to non-believers ourselves, and we want to empower Christians to do the same.
We have been praying for the Lord to bless our ministry. We believe getting the Gospel out to hundreds and thousands of people is one of the ends God has intended for our life. We also prayerfully believe that he will use our work to bring many sinners to repentance and faith. What we most certainly did not expect were the means by which God was going to do this. What do I mean?
What I mean is that the Lord is using our time here in the hospital to encourage Christians and to evangelize non-Christians. Aliza and I have had opportunities to share the Gospel with nurses and parents of other patients. Aliza’s blog is getting thousands of views–and she is sharing the Gospel in every post. Literally thousands of people are reading and hearing about Jesus Christ through our family’s pain and suffering.
Does this mean we want to go through this? From a human perspective, of course not! However, this is what we take wonderful comfort in: we know that whatever happens here at the hospital (and we are of course praying hard for a complete and timely recovery of our little guy), that our sovereign God is watching over us (Psalm 121:5), walking with us (Joshua 1:9), and working out every detail of our lives for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28).
We do not have full insight into God’s plan as to why he has allowed us to enter into this trial. However, we are not afraid. Rather, we are “bold as lions”(Proverbs 28:1) because we know whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12). So we pray that God’s word would prove true: that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), and that by the means our tribulations, our Sovereign God would accomplish his ends of saving many souls.
Pray for Superhero Lukas on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pray-for-Superhero-Lukas-379691506187358/
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