What’s This World Coming to. . .?
Forgive the dangling preposition in the title (English teacher types), but considering the past year, that is the least of our problems. Two thousand and twenty was quite a year. But 2021, on some levels, is no less challenging.
This article is not an analysis of all the events of the last eighteen months or an answer to how to handle those problems. This season has set a backdrop for the question many of us are asking: God, what are you doing in this world?
We saw our world shut down over a disease that has become a household name for disaster. We saw a hostile presidential election from both sides of the aisle. We saw churches in disarray over many issues. We saw a culture disunified around racial issues, medical issues, and sexual ethic issues. Many of us had personal problems that were devastating and hard. Those are only some of the challenges in our country; there is so much more. God what are you doing?
I do not know the answer to why God allows specific problems and challenges to occur. If I knew that, I would be like God. But I do know who has a plan and purpose for the events of the world. Here are four truths about God that help us answer the question as to what God is doing in the world:
1. God Is sovereign: He Is Doing What He Wants
Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. In fact, one of the first sermons I ever preached was from this text. I preached it in college while on a mission trip to the Philippines. And while it was probably not very smooth, I believed it and I still do.
In chapter 40, Isaiah is comforting the people of God—after spending the first forty chapters of Isaiah predicting judgment (as well as other, more hopeful realities). In Isaiah 40:18 and 25 he says, “To whom then will you liken me. . .?”
This is a rhetorical question; no one is like God. The nations are as a drop in the bucket, nations are as nothing. God is the Sovereign King and is doing his will—even if it does not look like it to us here on earth. Then, the chapter ends with an encouragement to God’s covenant people, for “those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength.”
This truth of God is true in 2021 and for all of time. He is still on the throne!
2. God Is Wise: He Is Doing What Brings About the Best Results
If all we knew was that God is sovereign, we could think that he just does whatever he wants with no definite goal in mind—just a mindless sovereign. But the Bible asserts that God is also wise.
In my favorite non-Bible book, Knowing God, author J.I. Packer devotes two chapters (9 and 10) to discussing the wisdom of God. He says,
“Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means to attaining it.”
That is a mouthful but so helpful. The sovereign God knows the best goal in life and the best way to get to that goal. Somehow, he knows that COVID was a means to accomplishing the best goals for this world. I am sure I was drawn closer to the Lord because of much that has happened in the last days. That is what faith is all about—trusting the wise God. So, when James 1:5-6-tells us to ask God for wisdom, it refers to asking from the God who supplies wisdom; we’re asking not to know all he knows but to trust that he is wise. I am wise if I trust in his wisdom.
3. God Is Omniscient: He Knows What He Is Doing
If God is sovereign and wise, but not all-knowing, would he really know what he is doing? We can rest assured because God is all-knowing. He is the alpha and omega, the first and the last (Rev. 1:8). This means that he is eternal and knows all. Psalm 139: 3 says,
“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. Before a word is on my tongue. . .you know it.”
I have eight grandkids and, at times, I am nervous about the world they will inherit if the Lord does not return. It seems so messed up. In those moments, I remind myself—and tell them—that God knew them before they were born (Ps. 139:16). You and I can trust that God knows all and we can find hope that he is not missing something. He has got it!
4. God Is Love: He Does What He Does From a Heart of Love
If God was only sovereign and wise and omniscient, I would wonder if he really cares about people. To some, he seems like a divine CEO with a powerful computer.
On the contrary, I am glad that, in a mixed-up world, I can trust that “God loved the world.” His love is a statement that he is relational, and the world is his and he is lovingly at work. We are created by him to be loved by him—even when we, in sin, do not love him back. It’s something I see played out in my own family, as I observe my kids love their kids, who are not always easy to love. . .
- When they are told that it is bedtime, they feel unloved
- When they are told to obey, they feel unloved
- As they feel hardship, they think they are unloved
I have told my grandkids that their parents love them so much that they give their lives for them—so they should trust their mom and dad and love them. So it is with God. What is he doing? I do not always understand it, but I know he loves me with everlasting love!! First John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
So, if you are looking with your physical eyes to see what God is doing, you will probably be discouraged. I am doing a Bible study in Hebrews which is a great book for all seasons. The book ends with several admonitions that apply today. Two of them are:
- “Live by faith”– Hebrews 11 tells of over thirty illustrations of people who did not see the end of God’s work, but they had faith in him even when sawn in two and eaten by animals (worse than COVID). We need to live by faith (Heb. 11).
- “Strive for peace with everyone and holiness”– Hebrews 12:14 appeals to the Church to arise and “heed this good word.” The world seems to value division and holiness is irrelevant. Let’s strive (work hard) be unified and live in peace!
May we strive with all our might, in the power of the Spirit, to show the world how united Christ’s Church can be in the hardest of times. Soli Deo Gloria—to God alone be the glory!