A friend of mine lost several million dollars in a bad investment. He is well into his seventies and this was his retirement money, so this is a big blow. How did he lose it? Well, here’s my theory: He took some bad financial advice from a dodgy analyst and put his money where he shouldn’t have. But my friend doesn’t see it like that. He told me, “God is in control. I guess he didn’t want me to have all that money.” In other words, God is to blame for his loss.
When I heard this I was too stunned to speak, but my friend was just getting warmed up. “I guess I’m a lot like Job who suffered at God’s hand. At least I can say, ‘God gives and God takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
Well, isn’t that just swell?
As I have explained elsewhere, Job was wrong about God being a thief and a killer. Judging by the reaction that post stirred you’d think I was a heretic, but I was merely repeating something Jesus said (John 10:10) and Paul said (Rom 11:29).
Today I want to go a little further and address three lies or half-truths that may need to be rooted out of your belief-set.
Lie #1: “God is in control”
There is perhaps no more damaging lie than the belief that God is in control of everything and that he is the reason everything happens. You hear stuff like this all time:
“I got cancer but God is sovereign. He permitted this to happen to teach me something.”
“God took my baby. I guess he needed another angel in heaven.”
“I lost my job. Perhaps God took it because I was enjoying it too much.”
Statements like these are ignorant. How many people did Jesus give cancer to? How many people did he rob or kill? Jesus did none of these things yet some think his Father does them on a regular basis. Jesus went around healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching good news to the poor. If God were making people poor, sick, or dead, then the Father and the Son are a house divided. But he isn’t and they’re not.
If God was in control of everything, then he would be responsible for all the evil in our world – all the wars, killings, disease and destruction. But contrary to what some misguided souls in the Old Testament might claim, God is not the author of evil. In him there is no shadow at all.
The Bible never says God is in control. Instead, it says stuff like this:
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 Jn 5:19)
Much of the world is under the influence of evil. It remains captive to what the New Testament writers called “the power of darkness.” Yes, Satan was defeated and disarmed at the cross, but his influence persists wherever the light of the gospel is not seen.
The problem with thinking “God is in control” is it makes us passive spectators in the ride of life. We’ll just sit there and take whatever life hands us saying, “C’est la vie. God is in control. It’ll work out.” Can you imagine how short the New Testament would be if Jesus and the apostles believed that?
The truth is that God is not in control of everything. The good news is that his sphere of influence increases as we, his children, shine in a dark world. He has given us his authority to resist the devil and his evil influence. We have been empowered to heal the sick, raise the dead, drive out demons and otherwise reveal the gospel of his kingdom in dark places.
My bankrupt friend wrote off his loss saying, “God is sovereign.” In other words, it was God’s divine and mysterious will for him to lose all his money. He was not saying “God is king” – no argument there. He was saying, “Everything that happens is God’s will.” Again, this is simply not true. Consider the following:
- It was not God’s will for Adam to eat from the forbidden tree (Gen 2:17), but Adam ate
- God is not willing that any perish (2 Pet 3:9), yet people perish
- God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), yet many don’t
You don’t have to read more than three chapters into the Bible to realize that Almighty God, the Supreme Ruler of all, does not always get what he wants. How is this possible? This verse explains it:
The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man. (Psalms 115:16)
God is Lord of the universe but we are little lords of our own little worlds. This is God’s gift to us – the freedom to choose how we live. The problem is, we often make choices contrary to God’s will.
Why do you think Jesus taught us to pray “Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?
The “God is sovereign” mantra is trotted out nearly every time something bad happens but it’s just not true. The word “sovereign” is not even in the Bible! (If you don’t believe me, read this article by Andrew Wommack.)
The truth is that God is not sovereign in the sense that he always gets what he wants. Fact is, his will is not always done. The good news is that he will write the final chapter of human history and for those who trust him all things will work out for good. And the really good news is that we can walk in the will of God here and now with the aid of the Holy Spirit. It’s the best way to live.
A boy takes a loaded gun to school and God doesn’t stop him. An earthquake flattens a city and God apparently does nothing. What kind of God is this?!
The “God could’ve stopped this but didn’t” chestnut is another way of saying, “This bad thing is God’s fault. He allowed it to happen.”
Like all the lies on this page, there’s a measure of truth behind this. Everything that happens happens because God gave us the freedom to do what we like, even the freedom to hate him, kill our brothers, and then blame him for what we did. Of course, we look like fools when we do this. We look like Adam who blamed God for giving him a woman who led him into sin (Gen 3:12).
Most of us are masters at assigning blame. When something bad happens we blame our genes, our parents, our spouses, or our kids. We blame the government, the system, immigrants, Communists, so we might as well go the whole hog and blame God. “I got sick. God allowed this to happen. God is at fault.”
Jesus, on the other hand, never blamed anyone. He just took responsibility for other people’s messes and fixed them.
Believe that lie that God is behind everything that happens and you’ll end up in the ash heap of life licking your wounds and examining your navel like a perplexed Job. You’ll bend over whenever the devil wants to kick you. Who wants to live like that?
The truth is God doesn’t always stop bad things from happening. The good news is that sometimes you can. You can bring the weight of his purposes to bear on your circumstances simply by trusting in him. You can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear knowing that he is with you. Life doesn’t have the last word when you’re walking in the spirit.
A simple test
To see how well you are getting this, ask yourself this question: Which of the following two Jesuses is found the Bible?
• Jesus #1 sat around powerless, making excuses and doing nothing to help those who had been made sick by God
• Jesus #2 went around in the power of the Spirit doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil
Hopefully you know the second Jesus is true (see Acts 10:38). Yet many of us look more like the first Jesus. We’re not walking in the power of the spirit, we’re not doing good, and we’re not healing the sick. But that’s okay because we have a long list of reasons justifying our uselessness. Chief among these reasons is, “God is in control. It’s his fault, not ours.”
I don’t write this to condemn you – we’re all learning here – but to make you angry at Satan’s lies. James said “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It really is that simple. We resist, he flees. But we won’t resist if we think God is doing the devil’s work and making us sick, killing our kids, and robbing us blind.
God is not making you sick and poor! He is not the reason you lost your money, your job, your marriage, or your kids. These are the tragedies of a life cursed by Adam’s sin. But the good news is that one greater than Adam has come and he has given you authority to proclaim the good news of his kingship to all creation.
• Are you sick? Talk to your sickness about Jesus by whose stripes you are healed (1 Pet 2:24).
• Are you poor? Talk to your bank account about your rich King who became poor so that through his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).
• Have you been robbed, discouraged, and beaten by life? Then be like David and strengthen yourself in the Lord your mighty God (1 Sam 30:6).
Why did Jesus come? Did he come to help us understand why God never lifts a finger to help? No! Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). In his name go and do likewise.