Robert Jeffress - The Shepherds Safety Net - Part 1
Hi, I am Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Whenever we face a looming choice, it usually comes with a sense of uncertainty and fear. What happens if we can't hear God's voice to help us make the right decision? Or what happens when our decisions prove to be a big mistake? Today I'm going to explain why the sovereignty of God should inspire confidence in our choices. My message is titled, "The Shepherd's Safety Net", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
There are some of you here today who are facing a major decision in your life. It may be regarding a job opportunity, perhaps dealing with your finances, perhaps it's a family decision. You desperately want to know what God's will for your life is in this particular dilemma that you're confronting. You've applied the principles we've talked about in this series, you've read the Bible, you've prayed, you've sought wise counsel from other people, and you feel like God is leading you in a specific decision. You're like that trapeze artist we talked about last time. You're ready to let go of the bar. You're ready to fly out there and trust in God.
But you have this nagging feeling before you make the decision. What if I'm wrong? What if I make this decision and it's a mistake? What if what I am feeling is not God's leading, but it's my own desires? What if I fail? Well, this morning I want to assure you that underneath our every decision, our every circumstance, even underneath our every mistake, is a safety net called the sovereignty of God. And today, as we conclude this series on discovering God's will for your life, we're going to talk about the sovereignty of God and how it relates to the choices we make in everyday life.
Now, I'll have to admit I'm a little bit gun shy about addressing the subject of the sovereignty of God in today's message, and with good reason. I had an experience early in my ministry that reminded me of what a controversial subject this is, the sovereignty of God. When I left this church 23 years ago and went to my first pastorate, it was in a small west Texas county seat town. And it was a church that had been controlled by decades by a handful of men. And when this group realized that they weren't going to be able to continue to reign over the church, they really weren't happy campers about that. And so they started stirring and stirring the first year I was there, trying to look for any reason they could to get rid of me.
I remember one of the earliest charges against me was that Dr. Criswell had sent me from this church out to that church to deliver it over to the fundamentalists. And I was a secret agent to go out and deliver the church to the fundamentalist camp. Well, that didn't fly, and so they kept looking for some reason to get rid of me. Well, one Sunday morning, innocently, I was preaching through the book of Romans and I came to one of Spurgeon's favorite passages, Romans 9 verse 16. It reads, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy". Verse 18, "So then God has mercy on whom he desires and God hardens whom he desires".
Well, that group felt like they had the smoking gun. And so they called a special call deacon's meeting the following Tuesday night, and they started leveling all kind of charges against me. They said, pastor, if you believe that, then you don't believe in evangelism. Why, if you believe in the sovereignty of God, you must believe that we're all robots. If you believe in the sovereignty of God, then that means we have no responsibility. And on and on and on it went. Fortunately, they're the ones who ended up leaving the church later on. But it's a highly charged subject, the sovereignty of God. What do we mean when we talk about the sovereignty of God?
Let me give you a simple definition of the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God means God rules over his creation. Would you write that down? God rules over all of his creation. In Isaiah 45 verse six, God said, "I am the Lord God, and there is no other". There are not multiple rulers in the universe. There is one ruler in the universe and his name is Jehovah God. God alone rules over his universe. There are not multiple Gods, there is one God. He has a plan for his creation and he will accomplish his plan for his creation.
Now, by the way, when we talk about God's plan for his creation, God's plan is much bigger than you or I could possibly imagine. God's plan is big enough to include the fall of Lucifer from heaven, the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the garden, the rebellion of Israel and the wilderness. God's plan was big enough to encompass the crucifixion of God's own son. God's plan is big enough to include the holocaust, 9-11, hurricane Katrina and every other disaster that you can possibly imagine. God has a plan.
I remember reading a few years ago about a giant asteroid that astronomers said came dangerously close to striking our planet. It came within 500,000 miles. Now, for an astronomer that's dangerously close. But what is it that kept that asteroid from hitting our planet? They said, had it struck our planet, it would've had the effect of 50,000 atomic bombs. What is it that guided that asteroid away? The Bible says God upholds all things by the power of his word. And just as God has control over the planets and the asteroids, he has control over your life. And he is able to prevent any accidents from coming into your life. God alone is the ruler. And what that means for us specifically is this, God will accomplish his plan for my life.
Do you believe that? I want you to repeat that phrase after me, God will accomplish his plan for my life. Now say it like you believe it. God will accomplish his plan for my life. Well, wait a minute, pastor. What if I make a mistake and marry the wrong person? God will accomplish his plan for my life. Wait a minute, pastor. What if I make a mistake and I confuse a circumstance for being God's will? God will accomplish his plan for my life.
Well, pastor, what if I rebel against God? God will accomplish his plan for my life. God has a plan for this universe, for the world at large. He has a plan for your life as well. And he will accomplish his plan. That's what the sovereignty of God means. Now, that's really not as preposterous as it first sounds when you consider two truths about God's will. First of all, write down, God has a plan for my life. God has a plan. Should it surprise any of us that the great architect of the universe would have a precise detailed plan for everything that happens in the world?
Many years ago from this very pulpit, Dr. Criswell was preaching about predestination and the sovereignty of God, and listen to what he said. He said, "Before a stone was laid in the construction of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, the idea was born in the mind of sir Christopher wren. He saw it in his mind and he purposed it in his heart. Before he struck a chisel against the heavy rock of marble, Michelangelo saw the mighty Moses in his mind and he purposed it in his heart. Why should it surprise us, then, that God, the designer and architect of the universe, should not have a plan and purpose for his creation"? And then this is the line I love. "The greater the project, the more necessary the plan".
The greater the project, the more necessary the plan. The apostle Paul said it this way in Ephesians 1, verse 11. "Also, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to his purpose, who works all things after the council of his will". God has a plan and he works all things together to accomplish that plan. That means, ladies and gentlemen, that the selection of rulers like presidents is under God's sovereignty, Daniel chapter two. It means the change of seasons are under his control.
Proverbs 16 says, "Even the roll of the dice are under the sovereignty of God". God also has a detailed plan for your life, the color of your eyes, the color of your hair, the number of hairs on your head. Everything about your physical and emotional makeup were not decided by somebody else, they were planned by God. Remember the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 139, verses 13 and 14. "For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are thy works and my soul knows it very well".
Now, most of us don't have a problem assuming God's in control over things we can't control. We assume God's in control of our genetic makeup, where we were born, and when we were born. But then we assume that we're in control of certain other areas of our life. For example, we assume that we are in total control of how we spend our time. It's my decision alone whether I spend my time reading the newspaper or watching a television program or take a nap or mow the lawn, that is completely my decision. But is that what the Bible teaches?
Listen to the words of Proverbs chapter 20 verse 24. The writer says, "Man's steps are ordained by the Lord. How then can man understand his way"? Like the old song goes, every step we take, every move we make is under the control of God. Think about that thought. Every step we take has been ordained by the Lord. And by the way, that ought to give us great comfort in our life, to know that God is in control of every step we take.
I remember a few years ago I left work a few minutes early to go get a haircut. And I was driving down the road headed toward the barbershop when I heard this terrible screeching of brakes behind me and then a terrifying crash. I looked in my rear view mirror and the car that had been following me had gone through the same intersection I had gone through, but another car running a red light plowed into that car, completely decimated it. I pulled over to the side of the road, I called 911 immediately, but it was too late. When the medics came, the driver had already died.
Now, I went home that night with a lot of questions about the sovereignty of God, a lot of what-ifs. What if I had left work just two seconds later than I had left? What if the pressure on the accelerator I was applying had been just a little lighter than it was? I would've been the one in that accident. My life would've been snuffed out in an instant. Now I'm not implying God loves me any more than he loved that driver who was killed, but what I am saying is God had a precise plan for my life just as he has a plan for your life. I want you to listen to this, Psalm 139 verse 16 says, "And in thy book, they were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them".
Think about this. Did you know not only is your birth date already predetermined, the day of your death has already been determined. The day, the hour, the minute, the second of your death is already fixed on God's calendar, and there is not one thing you're going to do to alter it. Now, think about that. Think about all of the tens of thousands of circumstances that had to come together to make sure you were born at the right time, and all of the circumstances that are going to have to come together that you leave the earth at the precise time God has planned. The sovereignty of God means not one of us leaves this earth one second sooner or later than we're supposed to.
The Psalmist is right, the writer of Proverbs is right. It is a thought that is beyond our comprehension. I don't know about you, but I'm comforted by the fact that someone wiser and more powerful than I am in control of my steps. That's what the Bible teaches, our steps, even our steps are ordained by the Lord. Jeremiah was a prophet of God in the waning days of Judah's kingdom. He was imprisoned, he was beaten, he was threatened with death, and yet he never wavered in his prophetic calling. What is it that gave Jeremiah great confidence in his prophetic assignment? It's the fact that God had set him apart. He had chosen him. He had predestined his life.
Listen to Jeremiah 1 verse five, God said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. And before you were born, I consecrated you. I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations". Eugene Peterson, in commenting about Jeremiah's life said, "Before Jeremiah knew God, God knew Jeremiah. Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. This turns everything we ever thought about God around. We enter a world we didn't create. We grow into a life already provided for us. Jeremiah's life didn't start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah's salvation didn't start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah's truth didn't start with Jeremiah. Jeremiah entered the world in which the essential parts of his existence were already ancient history".
And so do we. God's sovereignty means God has a plan. But there's a second implication of God's sovereignty, and that is God has the power to accomplish his plan. Write that down, God has the power to accomplish his plan. There are some people who will conceive, they will agree to everything I've just said. They believe, yes, God does have a plan for the world. He has a plan for my life. But don't human beings sometimes do something to mess up God's plan? I mean, doesn't our sin, our rebellion, our mistakes, doesn't all of that sometimes mess up God's plans? And so people have proposed this idea that God has not one will, but he has two wills. He has a perfect will and then he has a permissive will.
Have you ever heard that before, God's permissive will? When you ask people, now, what do they mean by God's permissive will? They talk about all the things that God wishes wouldn't happen. And they put in that category earthquakes, floods, starving babies, murders. All of those things they say are not a part of God's perfect will, but they're part of God's permissive will. Now that makes great sense until you read the Bible. Because the Bible does not teach God has several wills. He doesn't have a plan a and a plan b. The Bible says God has one will.
Look at Ephesians 1 verse 11 again. "He causes all things, having been predestined according to the purpose who works all things after the council of his will". Will you look at that word, will? Is that word singular or plural? It's singular. God doesn't have multiple plans, God has one plan. God has the power to accomplish his plan in your life and in my life. You know, if there was anybody who would've been a candidate to believe in God's permissive will, it would've been the character job in the Old Testament.
Now, I want you to think about all that job went through. He lost his health, he lost his possessions, he lost his children in a freak accident. Job could have said, God, I know you don't want this to happen. I know this must be your permissive will, not your perfect will. Is that how job responded? In job chapter 42 verses one and two job said, "For I know that thou can doest all things and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted".
Now, job was filled with all kinds of questions. He asked God, why, why, why did you allow these things to happen? That's what The Book of Job is about. But job never doubted God's ability to carry out God's plan in his life. He said, God, I know you can do whatever you choose to do. What's interesting when you read The Book of Job is God never answers the why question. He never explains to job what we all know from reading verses one and two, that this was a part of an eternal drama that was going on. God never answers the why question, but he does answer the who question. He said to job, job, trust me, I'm in control.
By the way, rarely does God ever answer the why question for us either. But we can answer the who question. God is in control. Faith is believing in God, believing that God is working in the darkness even when we can't see his hand in the darkness. The sovereignty of God means God has a plan for my life and he has the power to accomplish that plan.
Now, if I were to stop the message right here and issue the invitation, you might think, well, maybe those deacons in that church were right. Maybe you are off balance if you believe in the sovereignty of God like that. But you see, the message would be incomplete if I stopped right there because the scripture does affirm the sovereignty of God, but there's also another truth the Bible affirms, and that is our responsibility for making wise decisions. You see, whatever you believe about the sovereignty of God, and I strongly believe in the sovereignty of God, understand that first of all, the sovereignty of God does not excuse us from making wise decisions in life. Write it down. The sovereignty of God does not excuse you from making wise decisions. Proverbs 4:5 says, "Acquire understanding, acquire wisdom".
I love the story from the late Bible teacher, Dr. Jay Vernon McGee. Do you all remember listening to Dr. McGee on the radio? You can still listen to him, though dead, he still speaks on the radio. But Dr. McGee one time was teaching on predestination and election. And a young man came to him after the message and said, Dr. McGee, I am so convinced of the sovereignty of God, I believe that if I went outside and stood in the middle of a busy highway and my hour had not come, God would save me. And Dr. McGee looked at him and said, son, if you go out and stand in the middle of a busy highway, your hour will have come. Don't test the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God does not excuse us from making wise decisions.
Ephesians 5 says that we ought to live our lives wisely with a sense of purpose. Number two, the sovereignty of God doesn't exempt us from the consequences of wrong choices. It doesn't exempt us from the consequences of wrong choices. Some people can take this idea to the extreme of the sovereignty of God and say, well, if God is in control, if everything is predestined, I can do whatever I want to without any consequences. The scripture does not teach that. For a good illustration of that turn over to acts chapter four. Acts chapter four. The setting is shortly after the day of Pentecost, just several months after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
I want you to think about how the apostles must have viewed the crucifixion of Christ. On that Friday afternoon, as Jesus was taken down limp from the cross, I'm sure the disciples were disappointed. In an instant all of their hopes for a new kingdom had evaporated. I'm sure they could have said to themselves, we know this may have been a part of God's permissive will, but certainly it wasn't God's perfect will for his own son to have gone through such torture, humiliation and death.
By the way, if you ever doubt the sovereignty of God and God's ability to take control of all circumstances, just look at his plan for his own son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I'm sure the disciples thought at that moment this certainly couldn't be a part of God's perfect plan. It must be his permissive plan. That was on Friday. But several days later from the perspective of an empty tomb, their thoughts changed dramatically about God's plan.