God is Sovereign in All Things
About the Guest
Does your life feel as if it's spinning out of control? Today on the broadcast, author and pastor Tommy Nelson searches the book of Ecclesiastes to learn more about God's hand in the affairs of men.
Tom NelsonTom Nelson has been the pastor of Denton Bible Church, in Denton, Texas since 1977. Each year, Tom speaks to over 20,000 Song of Solomon Conference attendees and countless others via radio. In addition to the Song of Solomon materials, he is author of three books: The Book of Romance, The Big Picture: Understanding the Story of the Bible, and The Problem of Life with God. Tom has been married to Teresa Nelson for more than 30 years, and they have two grown sons, Ben and Joh...more
Does your life feel as if it’s spinning out of control?
God is Sovereign in All Things
Bob: Do you believe that everything that happens today – the good stuff and the bad stuff – all happens within the plan of God?
There is a reason for the things that happen in our lives. Here's Pastor Tommy Nelson.
Tommy: These are the words of Solomon – there is a time to give birth – isn't that a happy time? Can you all remember when your kids were born? Happy time. And there is a time to die.
Job said "You knew my days before there was one of them." God is sovereign. God's decree of all events He brings to pass according to His pleasure for His glory. God is sovereign.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 30th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Pastor Tommy Nelson and the musical group, Caedmon's Call, agree with what we find in Ecclesiastes 3, when things seem out of control, they're not. God's in control, and He knows what He's doing.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. This has certainly been a provocative and interesting week as we've already heard from Pastor Tommy Nelson and his wife, Teresa, talking about his recent battle with stress and depression and how God has been at work in his life over the past year related to that.
And you remember, as we were talking, I asked him about the Book of Ecclesiastes, because he's taught out of the book for a number of years.
Bob: You taught out of that book. In fact, you did a series on Ecclesiastes years ago, didn't you?
Dennis: I did, and I think it's a book for our day. I mean, it is a relevant book that speaks to how we pursue vain things in this culture.
Bob: Well, we thought it would be good for our listeners to hear some of the reflections Tommy has on the Book of Ecclesiastes, and we're actually going to kind of be jumping down right in the middle of his series on this subject.
Dennis: Yes, in fact, you asked Tommy what he thought was his favorite message from that series he did on Ecclesiastes, and, Bob, I think this fits extremely well with what we've been talking about this week because when a person goes through – whether it's depression or a time of suffering or hardship or financial failure or a disaster of some kind, maybe a problem with health, you really fall back upon that which is the core basis of your life.
And as we've heard Tommy talk about this week, and as you and I both have experienced in our own personal lives, the sovereignty of God – He is my anchor at that point. Either He is in control 100 percent, and He rules sovereignly, or He's not in control at all. And if He's not in control at all, then that creates some real problems, because at that point how do you make any meaning out of this life?
And, of course, the Book of Ecclesiastes really goes back and forth in terms of interpreting life and all of its circumstances but ultimately it comes down to this one reality that God is God, and we are not, and we, as His followers, need to lean upon Him that He does know what He's doing.
Bob: You were there when I asked him which of his messages from Ecclesiastes is his favorite. He preached 12 different messages going all the way through the book, and when I asked him the question, well, he started naming off all of them, you remember?
Dennis: I do.
Bob: He said, "Well, chapter 1, that message was …
Dennis: I like this one and this one and this one, no doubt about it.
Bob: So we wound up …
Dennis: We're going to bump the rest of the programs for the rest of the day and just let …
Bob: Rest of the year – just let Tommy's Ecclesiastes series go on.
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Bob: We've decided to pick up in Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, and our listeners are familiar undoubtedly with this passage of Scripture, because it says that there is an appointed season for everything.
Tommy: [from audiotape.] Now, in chapter 3 in verse 1 through 10, if you want to make a note there, you put down the word "a crisis." There is a crisis of faith, and that crisis is, in verse 1, that there is an appointed time for what does your Bible say? Everything. That God is sovereign. Whenever it uses the term, a time, throughout the Scripture it speaks of God ordaining the times. They said to Jesus, "Lord, is it at this time you're restoring the kingdom to Israel?" "It's not for you to know the times that are fixed by the Father's authority."
Paul said he works everything after the counsel of his will. Paul said, "In everything give thanks. This is God's will for you. All things, though they may not be good, they work together for good." That God is sovereign and in that decree it involves men getting crucified.
Do you know what the Apostle Peter had to say about the Crucifixion? "There were gathered against that holy servant, Jesus, both Herod and Pontius Pilate to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur." What was the most evil event of human history? The Crucifixion of the Son of God. For you and I, what is the most wonderful event of human history? The Crucifixion of the Son of God. The most evil event of history is the one that Peter said God, by His own hand, predestined to occur.
Well, these are the words of Solomon – "There is a time to give birth" – isn't that a happy time? Can you all remember when your kids were born - -happy time – "and there is a time to die." Hot dog, a funeral.
Job said, "You knew my days before there was one of them." God is sovereign. His decree – Westminster Shorter Catechism – God's decree of all events that He brings to pass according to His pleasure for His Glory. God is sovereign. He doesn't snap his fingers and say, "Boy, I could have done some great things in your life, but that drunk crossed that double line, and drunks run the cosmos." Did God say that?
That's scary, because there's a lot of drunks out there. "I had purposes for you, but I just got beaten." No, there is no rival will to God. He is not always pleased, He suffereth indignation every day, the psalmist said, but He's never perplexed, and we can rest in that.
If I didn't believe that, I would pull the covers up to my chin, and I'd never move. I'd just lay there. But God says "Trust me." And so Solomon here, in the crisis says, that there is going to be a time to die. And in verse 9, "What profit is there to the worker from which he toils, because there is a day of our death that is ordained."
"I have seen the task, which God has given the sons of men, with which to occupy themselves," and in verse 11, now, I want you to write this down, in chapter 3, the remaining 11 verses, I want you to write down "comfort." This is our comfort in a life that is going to have some turns in it. As the poet wrote years ago, "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to behold." You trust Him sometimes.
Verse 11, do you know that there was a song written on this years ago? I'll give you the Hebrew here – "He has made everything beautiful in its own way." Sound familiar?
[ Ray Stevens sings "Everything is Beautiful"]
Ray Stevens – "Everything is Beautiful." Now, this is the principle – our comfort is that God has made – and what's your word there? "Everything." "I am sovereign over this, I am in control." Was it evil? Yes. Is it something that's going to be removed in the eternal state? Yes. Is it something Christ died to remove? Yes, but I have purposes.
In tapestries you have blues and reds and greens, but if that's all that you paint with, it's phony looking. There's grays, and there's browns, and there's blacks, and if I were to ask all of you here that know God that walk close with Him that your life has been fruitful, what are the things that have shaped you? You would not mention the happy times. You have been shaped by pain. Amen? I don't want to go through them again, but I wouldn't trade them for anything, I really wouldn't. God has made everything, the Hebrew says, beautiful. It looks ugly, but if you'll wait, that cross you'll wear around your neck as an ornament of your delight in God, if you just trust me.
But He has also set eternity in their heart. Do you know what that means? That we wonder how it fits in the scope of eternity. Even though that thing happens, our heart cries out, "Why?" Is that right? We do, don't we? God, why? But he doesn't tell us, because verse 11 says, "Yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning to the end." That is such a fascinating verse from the Old Testament, that is Old Testament, or New Testament theology in an Old Testament verse. "The work of God is His decree of all that will occur."
God is not in a tennis match with evil, playing back and forth. It works out sequentially, but God has that chapter in His mind from the time that He began in the beginning, God created. It's all one novel, and even though it unfolds in time, God sees it, the end to the beginning in a glance, and it's called the work that He has done from the beginning to the end.
Man cries out, "How does it fit? How does it work?" Yet not so that he will find out. God won't tell you.
Does anybody here have a problem with that – that you can go through great heartache in life, lift your heart, say "God, I trust you, I'd like to know why," and God says, "Thank you but no. I'm not going to tell you. All I will tell you is that my compassion is overall of my work, and that I am good. Now, you trust me."
I know in my life the worst things that have happened to me have been the best if I was willing to wait on them. I don't understand them when they happen, but I have learned that I can rest in God. I don't know if Doug shared with you when he introduced me, I was one of the great athletes of the 20th century, all right?
From Waco, Texas, played football, came to North Texas State, and I was going to be a professional football player, and I played quarterback. And I got to North Texas and led us to seven victories in my four years.
And I was at a hard time to be at North Texas, it was a bad time to be there, and it brought me to Christ. It broke me, brought me to Christ. My little god of athletics washed away. And my – after I was converted, I just knew that now that I had trusted Christ that, obviously, God was going to make me an all-American, because, obviously, only good things happened to God's people, all right?
And they promptly moved me from quarterback to safety, and I thought, "Well, gosh, that's mysterious, but I guess you're going to make me an all-American safety, I can trust you, God.
I intercepted a pass in a scrimmage, took off, this guy comes out of my line of vision over here, I cut around him. My right knee exploded, blew out on me. I blew my ACL. They had to do a tendon transplant, I missed that year, and I said "God, I've given my life to you. You moved me to safety, you blew out my knee. I'm going to trust you, though." You know what happened? Soon after, we had a guy come to start coaching us named Hayden Fry. Anybody know who Hayden Fry is? University of Iowa. Before he was there, he was at North Texas, and now he's in the coaching Hall of Fame, and I wanted to play for Hayden Fry, and I said, "Aha! that's why you blew my knee out, so I could come back my fifth, my red shirt year, and play for Hayden Fry, and now I can be the Heisman Trophy winner, now I see it, now I see it, because I understood the main thing that God's ultimate purpose in life is to make me happy, okay? That's a joke.
Well, now Hayden calls me into his office, and he said, "You know, we're probably going to lose this initial year, and if I'm going to lose, I can't lose with a fifth-year senior quarterback. If I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose with a sophomore. Tommy, we appreciate you coming back for your fifth year, but we can't use you."
So now I'd gotten moved to safety, blew out my knee, and got cut, all right? And I went and got that four law booklet out, you know, God loves you and has a wonderful plan. Boy, what else is waiting for me right here. You know, when do the locusts and the frogs come here?
Well, when things happen, even though they're painful, everything is beautiful in its own time. But we cry out why, and God's not going to tell us. We don't get to be God. I've got to trust Him, and I can live with that.
So that's our comfort, okay? Well, verse 12, he says, "Here are some things that you can do. Just look at Solomon's practicality. He said, "I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and do good in one's lifetime," but you can rejoice right now in life. You can do good right now and make your life count no matter what the things are around you. And in verse 13, every man who eats and drinks sees good in all of his labor. It's the gift of God that you need to rejoice and eat and drink and enjoy the life that you have.
What this simply means is, in verse 11 there are things you can't understand. But Solomon says that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy life today. You can't let the delight of today be ruled out by the pain of what tomorrow holds. You have to enjoy today.
That I can take my wife, and I can love her, that I can do good to her, and I can have a good marriage to her, that we can go out to Outback and eat a steak, isn't that good? With them little mushrooms on the side. And I can go afterward and get me a Rocky Road, all right? With two dips – you're going to die, it don't matter.
Get two dips. And I can go watch a relatively clean, somewhat to a degree movie, all right? And enjoy that time with my wife. I've got a little grandson. Can I enjoy that grandson? Sure? Are things going to happen to me? Whatever God brings, I can rest in Him, but I can enjoy my wife, so chill, all right? That's what He's saying. Are you enjoying life?
Solomon says you may not understand what's happening, but enjoy life today. Jesus was on the way to being crucified. Do you know what he said to Zacchaeus? "Come down today, I've got to eat at your house, me and you."
Well, in verse 14, everything that God does will remain forever, there is nothing to add to it, and there is nothing to take away. It's perfect. Every single act that occurs is a puzzle piece that will fit, even though you and I have pain with it, there is ultimate purpose to that event.
And in verse 14, God has so worked that men should fear Him. Let me give you a great principle according to Solomon's divine perspective. What you don't understand is not meant to alienate you from God – what you don't understand is not meant to bring impiety and questioning and doubting and defection. The fact that I don't understand the purposes of God makes me fear Him more and say God is sovereign, and I can trust Him.
I would expect, if there is a God that is sovereign, that He would do things that I can't figure out. Now, I know that's hard for you to imagine, that a bunch of humans who couldn't write their name in longhand until third grade, cannot figure out the workings of the infinite mind, but take it by faith.
Bob: Well, we've been listening to Pastor Tommy Nelson as he has taught us from chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes on the sovereignty of God, His divine purposes, and we all have to admit there are times we think, "Lord, are you sure you know what you're doing?" And then we think, "Because I don't really like what you're doing right now, so I hope there's some purpose behind it." You've felt that way, right?
Dennis: I have. In fact, you know, after you've been hit with one wave, and then another one comes crashing in, and yet another and another and another, and you're feeling just a tad beat up by the waves of life and the circumstances you're facing. It's in those moments when you're a bit numb, that you have a fallback position of the heart. You have that default position where are you going to trust what you know about God to be true? Is He a God who is in charge and who can be trusted? He is a good God, He is not an evil God, and He is a God who rules sovereignly. The question is, are we going to place our faith in Him?
And, Bob, I received an e-mail this morning from a friend, and he said, "I know a woman who just gave birth to her sixth child. The next day her husband died. She is now a single-parent mom of six children." And someone like that, they have a long valley to walk, and the question is, who is going to walk with them? You know what? You can depend upon the truth of God's Word, which teaches you, He is King, He is sovereign, and you know what? You can trust Him.
So no matter what you're facing, turn your heart toward Him, and embrace Him, because, frankly, I don't know where your hope would be if you couldn't.
Bob: I remember, as a new Christian, reading Ecclesiastes for the first time and going, "This does not make sense to me." You know, you read statements in there and go, "I don't think that's true, but the Bible is supposed to be true, but some of this doesn't sound true or how can it be true," and it takes a gifted Bible teacher to help steer you through some of these passages from Ecclesiastes, and Tommy Nelson has taught from verse 1 of chapter 1 all the way through the end of chapter 12 in a series of 12 different messages, and we've got them available on CD and on DVD.
He has also written a book called "The Problem of Life with God," that's based on the book of Ecclesiastes, and all of these resources are in our FamilyLife Resource Center. If you would like to do a study on this book, and I think it would be a profitable study for any Christian to do, you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go," and that will take you to the area of our website, where you can get more information about these resources from Pastor Tommy Nelson.
Again, our website if FamilyLife.com. You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY if you'd like to request any of these items – 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team will make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.
You know, we are in the last couple of days of the month of August, which means we're in the final days of our August Challenge Fund here at FamilyLife. This is the end of our ministry year, and we've been encouraging listeners to consider making a donation to FamilyLife Today and, in fact, we've had other listeners who have been challenging listeners to join with them to help support the ministry, and we've heard from a number of you. We appreciate that here in the final days of the month, we're hoping to hear from as many of you as possible so that we can end our ministry year in a good spot, in a healthy place.
We are listener-supported. It is your donations that help keep FamilyLife Today on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country, and if you can help with a donation during August, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. You can make a donation either online or by phone, and let me say thanks in advance for whatever you can do to help support this ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us.
Tomorrow we will hear part 2 of Tommy Nelson's message on Ecclesiastes, chapter 3. We'll hear how God does, indeed, make all things beautiful in His time, and I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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