How God’s Sovereignty Affects Our Attitude in the Present Circumstances (part 1)

In his famous hymn “This is My Father’s World”, Maltbie Babcock wrote these comforting words:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget/ That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heav’n be one.

This stanza pulls together two truths that confront us in this world—“the wrong seems oft so strong” and “God is the ruler yet.” In the next three post I want to address this from the biblical perspective of Psalm 75. Over each of the next three posts I will lay out a total of Nine Ways in Which the Sovereignty of God in Dealing with the Wicked Affects Our Attitude Toward our Present Circumstances. Let’s begin…

1. It Makes us Aware That God is Always Near Us (v. 1A)

Psalm 75:1a “We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.

The reason for the psalmist’s thankfulness was that the “name” of God was near. The “name” of course, points to the presence of God himself.
David wrote about this nearness in Psalm 139:1-12 when he spoke of the Lord intimately knowing mankind from when he knit us in our mother’s womb as well as every other aspect of our lives. There is nowhere that we can hide or be hidden from his presence.

This is a comforting reality in times of need and pain. God really is right here with us. He hears your prayers. He sees your enemies as they attack. He sees it all.

2. It Gives us a Thankful Heart (v.1b)

Psalm 75:1b “We recount your wondrous deeds.

Along with his nearness was a legacy of remembering that brought forth a thankful heart.

Remembering and reciting aids in developing a thankful heart. We are forgetful people, aren’t we? The Lord knew this, and so he constantly calls his people throughout the Scriptures to remember, even instructing them to set up memory aids, special dates, rites, and festivals. In the Church Age, Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper to be done “in remembrance of him.” Why? Because as monumental as the cross of Christ is for our eternity, we still forget about it if left to ourselves.

Psalm 78:4 speaks about the need for parents to recite these memories to their children. It says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

We can grow anxious and weary when we forget that God is in control. We can begin to see ourselves as helpless, awash in the chaos of the world, victims of chance. But if you sit down and read through the pages of Scripture, you will quickly begin to see that God has always been in control. Reminding yourself of this fact will change your outlook radically.

3. It Teaches Us Patience (v. 2)

Psalm 75:2 “At the set time that I appoint, I will judge with equity.

Here we have a change of speakers—the song has moved from Asaph speaking (or the priest who led the singing) to God himself speaking. The Lord says that “at the set time that I appoint…” This language in Hebrew refers to seasonal time, not clock time. Clock time spins fast. Seasons don’t work by a clock. Fruit doesn’t ripen according to your watch. God doesn’t punch-in to work.

Let there be no mistake, God will judge—he says so. But he will judge at the set time that he appoints. We can’t say “Amen” to God’s sovereignty and then be impatient when he doesn’t act on our schedule, can we? We can’t be like Martha, Lazarus’ sister, who got so upset that Mary wasn’t helping her prepare the food in the kitchen that she stomped right into the middle of Jesus’ teaching time and demanded that the LORD command her sister to help her! It appears Martha thought Jesus needed a little help leading the world. He doesn’t.

When you become impatient and wonder when God will judge, remember that God is in control as he has always been. Be still and know that he is God.

The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 5)

Ministry can be a lonely place. Sometimes there are very few people that could understand what you re going through, and there aren’t many that you can share your thoughts and struggles with. Ministry partnerships and fellowship can definitely help alleviate this, but there is still the reality that the road of ministry leadership is sometimes still fraught with times of isolation and discouragement.

In the last four parts of this series, I have been laying out six areas of the Lord’s provision for those in ministry. These have included the provision of co-workers, financial support, focus, boldness, and souls saved. You can read the first four parts of this series here: The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 1), The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 2),Part 3: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1834, and Part 4: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1842

Finally, The Lord Provides for ministry when he gives us encouragement.

He Gives Us Encouragement

“And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10, NASB95)

Think about the English word, “encouragement.” It has the word “courage” right in the middle of it. This English word originally was, in-courage, and it meant “to give courage.” And that is what the Lord is doing in verses 9-10. In a vision one night, the Lord reminded Paul what he often told his prophets in the Old Testament, “do not be afraid!”

In Exodus 3:2, as God called Moses to redeem his people from Egypt, He told him that He would be with him. In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses told Israel to trust the Lord as they entered the promised land. In Joshua 1:5, 9, the Lord encouraged Joshua that he would be with him as he was with Moses and that he needed to be strong and courageous. In Isaiah 41:10, the Lord told the prophet Isaiah that he is not to fear or be dismayed, because the Lord God will strengthen him, help him, and uphold him. And in Jeremiah 1:8, when Jeremiah was called to go out as the prophet of the Lord, God told him that he was not to be afraid of them because the Lord was with him to deliver him from all dangers.

Paul needed that kind of supernatural encouragement as he faced the daunting task of the ministry the Lord had given to him. And so he gave Paul these instructions:

“Don’t be afraid any longer”…When we react in fear we are lacking faith in the Lord our God who is our strong tower. In our fear we must trust the Lord and turn to him by faith to accomplish his will.

“Go on speaking and do not be silent”…Fear of persecution often silences the faithful witness. Paul needed to be courageous and keep on speaking the truth, in spite of the high probability that he would continue to suffer greatly for the gospel.

And then he gave him three encouragements:

For I am with you”…Paul was never alone. God was always with him. Just as he was with Moses, Joshua, Israel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Habakkuk, and so many others.

“No man will attack you in order to harm you”…No one can touch us if God’s protective hand is upon us. This would be limited to the time that Paul was evangelizing in Corinth until those God would save had been saved. It wasn’t a promise that Paul would never be attacked again. But it was an assurance that for a while, Paul would be able to do the work of the ministry without violence breaking out in Corinth for a while.

“I have many people in this city”…The Lord was saying to Paul, “there were many people left who would be saved. Go find them!” When the time to move on had come, the Lord would let Paul know. He was to be encouraged with the fact that there was a good harvest of souls right there in that city.

We know how the Great Story ends, don’t we? No matter how dark things get, no matter what twists and unforeseen trials we encounter, in the end, Jesus has already won! Therefore, we need to be encouraged and see with the eyes of the Ascended Christ. He is not dead and in the tomb. He is seated at the right hand on high. He is coming again. And he has given us work to do. 

Let your hands be strengthened with this truth and carry on with the Lord’s work. Look at our last verse, verse 11: “And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:11, NASB95). Do you see the result of these provisions? God had provided co-workers, finances, focus, boldness, souls saved, and words of encouragement. And Paul continued on and so we must carry on as well.

The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 4)

I remember once getting a missionary newsletter in the mail from a pastor in a foreign country that clearly was stretching the truth. In baptist circles, they might say he was speaking “evangelastically.” This missionary wrote glowingly of the tens of thousands that had come to salvation, and about the thousands that he had baptized as a result. Then, a little harder to find, he mentioned that his church had added new members–but only a tiny handful. His whole congregation was about two dozen people.

Now I don’t begrudge the hard work of evangelism. The spiritual soil in some places is harder than others. My issue is when a person claims that thousands of souls are saved but the church has only two dozen people. Where did the rest go? Something isn’t right. In the decision-driven mindset, this may work, but when I read my Bible I don’t see these things. But I guess when you are writing home to supporters, the fear of man drives you to report big numbers to show you are doing your job. It’s a shame because God doesn’t expect men to convert souls. That’s His prerogative.

In my previous posts in this series, I have laid out the many ways that God provides for his ministers. You can read those posts here: The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 1) and The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 2) and Part 3: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1834. In these posts, I am showing that the Lord provides in six ways. Here is the fifth way:

He Gives Us Souls Converted

“Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.” (Acts 18:7-8, NASB95)

Outside of the synagogue the Lord brought the gospel of salvation to some important people that would affect the ministry in Corinth. Verse 7 mentions Titius Justus, a man with a Roman name, but who had become a convert to Judaism. God had saved him through the gospel that Paul preached. Since Paul had anathematized the synagogue, a meeting place would be needed. How blessed that the Lord saved the guy who lived right next door!

Furthermore, verse 8 tells us of the salvation of a man named Crispus who was saved along with his whole family. This man was a ruler of the synagogue, meaning that he had responsibilities in the synagogue and would have been thought of as important and highly regarded by all Jews in the city. His salvation would have been a huge blow to the Jews in Corinth. And then the end of verse 8 mentions that many others were saved and baptized in the city. The church had begun!

Growing up my mom had a vegetable garden in our backyard. I remember one year she let me and my brother plant watermelon seeds. We were responsible for weeding, watering and doing all the yardwork, a job we did nearly every weekend. It wasn’t normally very fun. But harvesting the fruit of our labors was always a joy! It made the hard work worth it all. Farmers know this truth well, and Paul used this image for those who serve God.

In 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, Paul wrote this to the church he planted there some years later: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9, NASB95) 

Just like God makes watermelon seeds grow into watermelons, it is God alone who brings people to salvation. But like the farmer, we labor with him. Have you ever had the privilege of leading a sinner to God’s throne of grace, resulting in their salvation? There is nothing better! God provides this blessing to those who are faithful to share his gospel message faithfully. 

The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 3)

Maybe it’s an American thing, but it seems that there is too much entrepreneurialism in the church today. Every up and coming church is looking to be innovative and cutting-edge. Along with this entrepreneurial spirit comes an equally troubling reality–that man-centered ministry is produced by a man-centered power. It makes sense: if you throw out the book on how to pursue ministry, why would you seek to be empowered in a biblical manner? For the man of God who wants to do things according to God’s Word, we need to remember that God provides in every way for every need.

We began to look at six ways which the Lord provides for His servants.The first way he provides is: He Gives Us Ministry Co-workers. You can read part one here: The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 1). Then we saw that he provides financially and by giving us focus in our ministry. You can read this in part 2: The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 2). Fourthly…

He Gives Us Gospel Boldness

“But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:6, NASB95) 

Hard hearts are a result of the sinfulness of mankind. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. We shouldn’t be surprised that Paul faced the rejection and mockery of the crowds in Corinth as he had in many cities he preached in. And it shouldn’t surprise us when we see that happen to us as well. It’s nothing new and we should expect it. But we should also expect that the Lord will provide us with gospel boldness as well, so that we can respond as we should in the face of opposition.

In verse 6, Paul can no longer stand the resistance of the Jewish people’s hardened hearts. Their objections degenerated into blasphemies against Christ himself. Paul shook out his garment, a sign of disgust and complete rejection, and rebuked them for their hardness. Paul had done what the Lord said was required in Ezekiel 3:18-19, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. “Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.” (Ezekiel 3:18-19, NASB95)  

Paul wasn’t fooling around. He had come to complete the King’s business and he didn’t want to waste his time on foolish scoffers.

Some people call alcohol “liquid courage” because it lowers the inhibitions and allows people to say and do things they would never do or say when sober. However, Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18, NASB95). Here, the influence of drunkenness is compared to the influence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul was a Spirit-filled man and this is demonstrated in the fact that with great courage and boldness he spoke out against the rejection and mockery of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

John Calvin once said to the Queen of France, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” God offers this same gospel boldness as well. I think that too many Christians are okay with being quiet wallflowers, even when their Lord is blasphemed in their presence. We must pray for the Lord to fill our mouths with a courageous testimony, even in the face of opposition.