(This article was written in May of 2009.)
As I send out this article, I learned last week that I have developed a serious health issue as a consequence of exposure to asbestos and other insulations. There are many more tests I must yet face, but regardless, this article is my response to and confidence in the Lord through it all. I covet your prayers and I treasure your friendship. God bless you!
For many years, Helen Roseveare had dreamed of going to the mission field as a medical missionary. After she became a doctor, she sat sail for the Congo. Helen was well aware of the potential dangers that existed because of political unrest, but she went with the mission motto: “If Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” On August 15, 1964, Helen’s dreams and plans would be drastically altered. A truckload of Mau-Mau rebels invaded her hospital compound, and Helen was held hostage for five months. On the night of October 29, Helen was overpowered by several soldiers in her tiny bungalow. She tried to escape, but the pure and innocent woman was beaten, raped, and humiliated without mercy. Helen was clinging to her faith, and she knew that her relationship to God had not been damaged. On December 31, she was rescued. In the months that would follow, Helen began reflecting upon her experience and was searching for a peaceful resolve in her heart. As Helen drew closer to the Lord, she recorded in her journal a question impressed upon her heart by the Lord: ”Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?”
In each of our lives, there are circumstances that arise which not only strike at the core of our being, but they seem to have no human explanation or clear understanding. In Psalm 115:3, the psalmist drew this conclusion regarding such moments in life, “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” One of the most mysterious and misunderstood subjects in life is the sovereignty of God. Men cannot explain it, but neither can they deny it. To try and explain it on human terms diminishes who God is, but to simply trust it is to discover that a purpose runs through everything He does. The Lord led Joseph through a pit and a prison in order to lift him to the pinnacle. The Lord led David into a wilderness of thorns and temptations in order to place him on a throne. However, most of our lives are illustrated by the African Impala. The Impala can be prevented from escape behind a three foot high wall simply because it will not jump where it cannot see. Missionary Hudson Taylor said, “Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses.” Men may believe in God during the calm, but it takes trust to survive the storm. How do you trust God’s sovereignty when life is filled with uncertainty?
You must reside near the heart of God. In John 15, Jesus repeatedly uses a word that is critical to our understanding His sovereign actions. He uses the word “abide.” It is a word with the idea of remaining close together in an intimate connection. Corrie Ten Boom described abiding best when she said, “Like some railway tickets in America, I am ‘Not good if detached.’” I find it interesting to note that when Mary of Bethany is mentioned in scripture she is always found at the feet of Jesus. In each instance she is facing either the hurt of criticism or hopeless and helpless circumstances. However, Mary’s comfort came from staying as near to the Lord as possible. The best way for a doctor to know our pulse, or a mother to gauge a child’s fever is to be close enough for a personal touch. In like manner, when the enemy had taken David’s family at Ziklag, “…David encouraged himself in the Lord…” When Stephen was being stoned to death, he “…steadfastly looked up into heaven, and saw…Jesus.” Knowledge of another’s heart is dependent upon closeness, and those we do not know will never fully have our trust. No wonder Job could confidently say through his losses in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him…”
You must receive from the hand of God. In Job 2, while assessing the damage to his life, Job came to the conclusion that if we receive good from God, why should we not also receive adversity. There is a spiritual law that we must settle in our hearts if we ever hope to accomplish great things for the Lord. Paul stated it plainly in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “For all things are for your sakes…” When my mother would take me to the doctor as a child, I always asked, “Will I have to get a shot?” As an adult, I find myself asking, “Can I have a shot?” The difference lies in the fact I grew to learn something that initially brought pain would ultimately bring healing! The grape must be crushed to produce the valuable juice. The gold increases in value passing through the fire. The wheat is more wholesome when sifted from the chaff. Whether the Lord chooses to hold a hammer, a chisel, or a file in one hand, you can rest assured His other hand holds us with loyal delight. It has been said, “The more we trust the sovereignty of heaven, the less we fear the calamities of earth.” Anything the Lord is willing to send to us, He is pleased to go through with us!
You must resign to the honor of God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39, “…if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” There is yet another spiritual law we must come to grips with if we hope to maintain a high level of faith. Again, Paul stated this clearly in 1 Corinthians 6: 19,20, “..know ye not that…ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God…” This is the principle I call the right of spiritual eminent domain. The Lord has the absolute right to use any thing at any time in our life for the purpose of bringing glory to Himself! Jesus took Peter’s boat and turned it into a pulpit for preaching. Jesus took a little boy’s loaves and fishes to feed a multitude. The disciples took a young man’s colt “…because the Lord hath need of him.” Elisabeth Elliot, wife of missionary martyr Jim Elliot, wrote, “God knows what He is doing and He is not under any obligation to make us any explanation.” Regardless of the method He uses, the Lord’s movement in our lives is evidence He can see glory for Himself through us.
In Greek mythology, the mighty Hercules was fighting against the giant Antaeus. However, each time Hercules threw him to the ground, Antaeus was renewed with strength. A friend betrayed the secret of Antaeus letting it be known that his strength and stamina were due to his feet staying in touch with the ground. When his feet left the ground, he was then easily defeated. Therein lies the secret to understanding God’s sovereignty: stay grounded! It is only then that we can say with Job in Job 23:14, “For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me.”
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2009 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.