Dear Church Family,
This past weekend marked the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It’s one of those days in the history of our country of which people ask, “Where were you when it happened?” For me, I was a chaplain in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. I remember sitting in a dining facility finishing up a late breakfast after morning physical training. In the dining facility, there was always a news station on the television while we ate. As the pictures of the first plane crash came up on the screen, I was having a conversation with another soldier about the sovereignty of God. I recall glancing briefly at the newscast, and commenting, “Look at that, because God’s Word tells us that He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11), even that plane crash falls within the bounds of God’s sovereignty. He was not surprised.”
As this soldier and I made our way back to our unit from the dining facility, another soldier ran by and screamed, “Get to your unit, we’re under attack!” When we arrived, it was bedlam. Everything was locked down. No one got in or out without proper security clearance. For us, the following days were filled with prayer and planning as we anticipated any deployment orders that might come our way. And, in the days and weeks that followed, our nation was filled with worry, anger, fear, and mourning.
Before tragedy or loss comes (or before we know the full extent of what has happened – as I did in the dining facility on Fort Bragg that morning), it is easy to believe in the sovereign goodness of our loving God. Yet, as Christians, in times when we see no answers, as we scan the skies for airplanes wondering if the next one is coming our way, our faith is tested. Can we say, even at those times, “You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God” (Deuteronomy 7:21)? Even when everything around us, and inside of us, screams in opposition, can we still confess, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)?
The Sovereignty of God
It is in times of adversary when our faith in the goodness and the sovereignty of God is tested. At these times, it is helpful to return to the Scriptures to find our bearing. Too often we want to ‘let God off the hook’ when it comes to the evils of this world and the wicked deeds that men commit; however, the Scriptures are clear: even the wicked acts of men are not outside of God’s sovereignty.
We learn this lesson in the Old Testament. For instance, after Joseph has been treated wickedly by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, when he meets up with them again, he declares, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20). The evil intentions of men cannot thwart the good that God intends.
And, we learn this lesson in the New Testament, as well. As the Apostle Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost, he declares, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know– this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:22-23). All in one breath, Peter attests that God’s predetermined plan was for Jesus Christ to be nailed to the cross, and that this foreordained divine plan would be accomplished by the hands of godless men!
The consolation for us is this: God is good; God is sovereign; God knows what He’s doing. When our hearts fail us. When our reason fails us. When our faith fails us. When all else fails, turn to God’s Word to be reminded of the character of God. He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 4:11). And, what’s more, He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch