Is God Really In Control?

This is truly an important question to address. Recently, I read the following statement in a devotional: God is sovereign, meaning God is in complete control of everything. I think most believers in God would tend to agree with this statement, especially since we have heard preachers make similar declarations. However, I believe there is a big difference in God being “sovereign” and in God being “in control.”

There is actually a significant distinction between these two terms “sovereign” and “control” that needs clarification. When you consider the attributes of God “control” is not one of them, but “sovereignty” definitely is.  Here is an example to help clarify: Canada is commonwealth nation and as such recognizes the Queen as sovereign, yet she is not really part of the government that rules (controls) the country. Interestingly, to call an election though, government leaders have to first meet the the representative of the Sovereign or the Lieutenant Governor. In essence, while the Queen is sovereign, she’s not in a position of controlling policy or the everyday affairs of governing.

commanding officer

Here is another example: Consider the command of a naval ship; the command is vested in the Commanding Officer (CO) for the direction and control of the ship. The CO retains this authority at all times. Control is the authority that is vested in the CO to give orders pertaining to the operations of the ship. Obviously, because of human limitations, the CO may delegate charge and control of some particular aspects of the ships operations to one or more officers (such as Executive Officer or Officer On Watch), but the CO always retains command. Now this is certainly a human example, but it can help bring an understanding to this issue of control. The CO is always in command (sovereign), but at times delegates control of the ship, which in no way reduces his authority.  In the same manner God is always sovereign, but delegating control (to man) does not reduce his authority over the earth.

Think about creation when man was made in God’s image: man was given charge, dominion, authority to rule the earth. There is no doubt that God (the Commanding Officer), gave the earth to mankind (see Gen. 1:26 & Psalm 115:16b). Now let’s be clear, “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1) and He remains sovereign over the earth despite man having received dominion over the earth. Control is different than sovereignty.

In my last blog, I quoted 1 John 5:19 in reference to the story of Dunkirk because it can be most difficult to believe that God is in control while some people were rescued from the shores while others who were just as loved died on the beach. The verse says this: “we know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one.” This is a very important verse and one that many struggle to understand: the world we live in, is now actually controlled by the the evil one. Yet God is sovereign and in still in command.

Interestingly, whenever a CO delegates control, the CO also indicates: the aspects delegated, the duration for which control is delegated, and the limits which apply to the delegation. Now, consider the story of Job, when the ‘evil one’ comes to God about Job, God (CO) grants control but speaks to the aspects, the duration and applies limits. How many times have we held God responsible for things that happened, when in fact, it was an act of the evil one, or even consequences of our own actions? We know the end of Job’s story, God remained sovereign (in command), but delegated control for a limited time. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!

The whole issue of sovereignty vs. control can be beyond our human comprehending. Hopefully, this explanation is helps us understand that when we are faced with difficult circumstances, and things seem completely out of control, we can still trust God Who is sovereign.

Sacred Call to a Secular Work

There are so many choices and opportunities when it comes to a career. It seems that “calling” is required to be a pastor or missionary, but not necessarily for a businessman,  fireman, teacher, lawyer, doctor, etc.

Let my experience provide some deeper insight: As a teenager, I felt a “call” on my life and the best way I could interpret it at the time was to become a pastor. My response was to attend Bible College and I recall during my first year having my Bible open to 2 Timothy 4 and I read daily, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season … endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  I entered full time ministry in 1986 and felt like I was living out the sacred call on my life. Just 3 years later, I was invited to be youth pastor in a church, but never had the opportunity to do so since that church split! This was a major crisis for me (maybe the part of my call to endure hardship), which eventually led to my accepting a job selling life insurance (a secular work). My passion was to continue serving in church ministry but I needed an income, so the job provided financially.  I continued volunteering in church ministry which led people to draw a comparison to Paul making tents while his “calling” was to declare the gospel.

In my last blog I stated, “The mistake we often make is in categorizing our work as secular, separating it from the sacred, rather than sensing the pleasure of God in our work.”

missed callMy perspective was that my work as a financial advisor was not necessarily a “calling” but just a job (secular), while my “calling” as pastor was my true work (sacred). Can you sense the inner turmoil I was feeling? Had I missed my “calling” or was it possible that I could actually live it out by being a financial advisor? Did I have the wrong perspective to start with? Should I have even separated the two – the sacred and the secular?

Reflecting back on the 2 Timothy 4 reference, as a financial advisor, I certainly felt “out of season” when it came to being able to “preach the word.” However, another translation (HCSB) instructs “proclaim the message” which sheds a different light on that phrase.  The reality is I had many opportunities in my secular work to fulfill the sacred call. The “proclaiming” was different than I ever thought it would be because life was not the way I had planned it.

One client later confirmed, “You have more of a ministry here in this office (as a financial advisor) than you could ever have in a pulpit (as a pastor).” This helped me realize that the calling I felt was not limited to a particular role that I would have in life.

Calling QuoteSo whether I do the work of a pastor, financial advisor, director, bus driver, or teacher, you get the picture, the important thing is to be a good steward and be true to that call.

The right perspective: Your secular work is definitely connected to your calling and becomes the perfect opportunity to “fulfill your ministry!”

Have you made the mistake of separating the secular from the sacred? Are you fulfilling the uniqueness of your calling?

 

Why Do You Work? Why Retire?

My last post created a great deal of interest because it dealt with the question: “Do you go to work or to a job?” One response received was, “In two weeks I will go to neither,” meaning the reader would be retiring.

This set me to thinking further about what I stated: “It is only when you do what you were born to do will you really find fulfillment.” In reality, you can be paid to do a job and once you complete it, then you either move on to something else and/or you retire. This is where I believe your work (what you were born to do) is different than your job (what you are paid to do). Why would you ever want to stop doing what brings you fulfillment? If you were born to do something, when should you cease doing it? In other words, why retire?

In some cases, it may make sense financially to retire. Maybe you qualify for a full pension and working longer is not necessarily increasing your retirement benefits anyway. So why continue working? When I started working, it was partially out of necessity. The need for income and supporting family is a valid reason. With my children raised, my reason for working has shifted; now work is more about purpose.  I know several people who can easily retire from their work, yet they choose to continue.

eric liddell

Consider the life of Eric Liddell, a devout Christian and missionary to China, who felt it a priority to run in the Olympic games. His sister felt that his training for the 1924 Olympics deterred him from returning to China. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel His pleasure.” We usually would not class running or involvement in a sporting activity as spiritual, or God honouring, but more a physical activity. For Liddell, running wasn’t just a fun activity but a God honouring one.

You cannot argue with a person’s experience; Liddell was passionate about fulfilling God’s purpose for him (missionary to China) yet he ran to honour God and feel His pleasure. For Liddell, the line between secular and sacred was erased.

eric olympic gold

The mistake we often make is in categorizing our work as secular, separating it from the sacred, rather than sensing the pleasure of God in our work. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23). The reality is that when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7). If we can say when we work we feel His pleasure, it will be most difficult to retire from that work.

Speaker and author of “The New Retire-mentality,” Mitch Anthony says, “Don’t retire from something but retire to something.” We are all born with purpose and if you are at the retirement stage, remember it can be a great opportunity to feel His pleasure!

 

 

Do You Go to Work, or to a Job?

This question is worth thinking about more than you may realize. Your job is what an employer pays you to do, your work is what you were born to do. There were times that I simply did not enjoy my job and I sought after another that would bring more fulfillment.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain

You may argue that a job and work are much the same because they can both provide a source of income, but I believe it is only when you do what you were born to do will you really find fulfillment.  Chuck Colson was once asked, “If there is one piece of advice you could share, what would it be?” His answer was: “Do only what YOU can do.”  That statement is worth some deeper thought and can make you realize that there is a creativity within all of us to do something unique.

Never work another day

Never working another day in your life is not just a dream then, but maybe it is discovering what only you can do. Your work is more than a job; it is actually more about purpose and utilizing your gifts.

Dallas Willard suggests some distinctions:

  1. Job: What I am paid to do, how I earn my living
  2. Work: The total amount of lasting goods that I will produce in my lifetime

“Lasting goods” is our impact on others, what we leave whether financial, spiritual, moral, emotional etc. What “lasting goods” is my life producing? This is the question that should help us in decisions regarding our work.  Interesting that Jesus acknowledged to the Father, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do” (Jn 17:4).  If you consider his time on earth, Jesus had a job as carpenter, but he recognized even as a child, that his work was to be about his father’s business (Lk 2:49).

It is easy to conclude then that his job was just how Jesus earned his living (likely from age 12-30), while his true work was his years of public ministry (just 3 years). My immediate thought from this verse is that Jesus glorified God in his ministry years, for the most part, especially by his sacrifice on the cross. However, do we make a mistake when we separate the years of his life like this? The fact is that Jesus glorified God on the earth, period. Dr. Klaus Issler concludes,”I think we can infer from his messianic work, that Jesus also gave this same kind of excellence to his job as a builder.”

My conclusion: you need to fulfill your work, and your job may help you do that.

Here is what Steve Jobs said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”