Can God Be Trusted? (1)

Following the horrific Asian tsunami that occurred on December 26, 2004, The Herald of Glasgow, Scotland printed a commentary that read in part:

“God, if there is a God, should be ashamed of himself. The sheer enormity of the Asian tsunami disaster, the death, destruction, and havoc it has wreaked, the scale of misery it has caused, must surely test the faith of even the firmest believer…I hope I am right that there is no God. For if there were, then he’d have to shoulder the blame. In my book, he would be as guilty as sin and I’d want nothing to do with him.”

As harsh as that commentary sounds, it echoes the sentiments of many who truly believe in God. Some months following the tsunami a poll was taken on that asked the question: “Does God have a role in natural disasters like the tsunami?” Of those polled, almost half agreed with the statement: “Although I believe in God, the supernatural had nothing to do with this tragedy.” There is a prevailing belief in the church today that credits God with pleasant circumstances but carefully shields Him from any responsibility for those things that cause pain or loss. I have had conversations with Christians who hold the novel idea that God has given nature “free will” to operate however it wills. It only requires a moment’s reflection to understand that theory to be pagan (literally) rather than Christian. However, it is a theory that has found a home in the contemporary church where sentimentality rather than God’s Word is more apt to shape our theology. It is a philosophy that easily grows in the soil of “My God would never do that!”

The question that interests me is whether or not God can be trusted to actually run what He has created. We throw around the word “sovereign” but do we understand what it actually means? A professing Christian once told me that God is sovereign in the way the Queen of England is sovereign – He is regal but He is not actually in control. I suppose a God like that can be loved but can He be trusted? Why pray to a God who looks good in a crown but can’t actually change anything? How can we trust God to work ALL things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28) if He surrenders His will to powers outside Himself? Are God’s purposes truly at the mercy of renegade storms, disease, and man’s free will?

If God is not truly responsible for the weather, the number of our days, the election of presidents, the results of diagnoses, and the falling of sparrows then our need to trust Him diminishes radically. However, if God is ultimately responsible for what happens within His creation then our need to trust Him is incalculable. Jerry Bridges writes, “The providence of God is not a now-and-then operation, as though God were watching from a distance, constantly surprised by accidents, darting in once in a while to fix things after the fact, regularly frustrated by His unruly and out-of-control creation. Confidence in God’s sovereignty in all that influences us is crucial to our trusting Him…His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited and His purpose can be thwarted, we cannot trust Him.”

To say that God is sovereign is simply to say that He is God. His “God-ness” is wrapped up in His sovereignty. Therefore, to diminish God’s sovereignty is to diminish His deity.

“In his heart a man plans his course,
but the Lord determines his steps.”
- Proverbs 16:9

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
- Proverbs 19:21

“Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?”
- Lamentations 3:37

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
- Psalm 139:16

“[He] is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes.”
- Daniel 4:17

“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