The Bible tells us that God is in control of all of life’s circumstances. If God is not in complete control, then who/what is?
Karl Barth (1886-1968) was a Swiss Reformed theologian. The evening before his death on December 10, 1968, he had encouraged his lifelong friend Eduard Thurneysen that he should not be downhearted, “For things are ruled, not just in Moscow or in Washington or in Peking, but things are ruled—even here on earth—entirely from above, from heaven above.” (“Biography/Centre for Barth Studies, April 23, 2016). Dr. Barth told us that God is in charge.
God created everything (Genesis 1:1). He is in control of all things, including our successes and failures. The universe is not governed by chance or fate. Nothing in the universe occurs without God’s permission directly or indirectly. Let me explain this by telling the life story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob. His dreams of greatness offended his brothers. His own brothers sold him into slavery to a caravan headed for Egypt. God allowed the brothers the freedom to sin.
In Egypt, Joseph was falsely accused and sent to prison. In prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two prisoners accurately. This led Pharaoh to ask Joseph to interpret his two dreams about cows and ears of grain. Joseph was able to tell Pharaoh that the two dreams were foretelling seven fat years, followed by seven lean years. He advised Pharaoh to appoint a wise person to accumulate food during the fat years for rainy days. Pharaoh appointed Joseph to that position. Please note that Joseph gave God the glory for his ability to interpret dreams.
When the famine hit, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Later, Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers. Then, he invited his brothers to bring Jacob and the entire family to Egypt, settling in Goshen, a fertile land in the Nile delta. They were able to live according to their cultural heritage. Then, Jacob died.
Joseph suffered a lot in his lifetime in a foreign country. He remained faithful to God. He trusted God completely. He lived in active dependence on God. Through the 23 years in a pagan country before his brothers came, he kept the faith and trusted God. He was able to forgive his brothers for their evil deed. He said to them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
Genesis 50:20 documents the conclusion of Joseph’s life. God takes that which is meant for harm and uses it for our good and his glory. God allowed Joseph suffering because in the bigger picture, his calling was to save many people from starvation. After all his ordeals, Joseph was able to see God’s hand at work. Joseph came to realize that what his brothers had meant for evil, but God meant for good.
The brothers’ purpose was evil, but God brought something good out of their evil act. God changes evil to good. The cross on Good Friday is the most obvious example. Please note that we must not suggest that evil people will not be held accountable if God reverses the effects of their evil plans.
God is faithful. We are not alone! God is always there, encouraging and equipping us for service. We need to seek God’s direction for our lives every day.