Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy by Jerry Bridges. NavPress. 160 pages. 2006
I recently read and discussed this book with a few friends. God brought this older book by a trusted author along at just the right time, as a few of us were dealing with significant adversity in our lives.
Bridges tells us that the book is written for the average person who has not necessarily experienced major catastrophe, but who does frequently encounter the typical adversities and heartaches of life. The purpose of the book is twofold: First, he desires to glorify God by acknowledging His sovereignty and His goodness. And second, he desires to encourage God’s people by demonstrating from Scripture that God is in control of their lives, that He does indeed love them, and that He works out all the circumstances of their lives for their ultimate good.
The author tells us that in the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God-truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in adversity. They are:
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- God is completely sovereign
- God is infinite in wisdom
- God is perfect in love
The author defines God’s providence as His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people. If we are to trust God, we must learn to see that He is continuously at work in every aspect and every moment of our lives.
The author writes that God always has a purpose for the grief He brings or allows to come into our lives. God never wastes pain. He always uses it to accomplish His purpose. And His purpose is for His glory and our good.
Bridges states that the Bible teaches both the sovereignty of God and the free moral choices of men with equal emphasis. There is no conflict between trusting God and accepting our responsibility. There are times when we can do nothing, and there are times when we must work. In both instances we are equally dependent upon God.
Bridges tells us that most godly character traits can only be developed through adversity. Sometimes afterward we can see some of the beneficial results of adversity in our lives, but we seldom can see it during the time of the adversity. But God promises specifically to be with us in our sorrows and afflictions. He will not spare us from the waters of sorrow and the fires of adversity, but He will go through them with us.
As with all of Bridges’ books (which I recommend to you), Is God Really in Control? is bathed in scripture, written in a warm style, and practical.
Below are some of the most helpful quotes from the book:
- It is only from the Scriptures, applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, that we receive the grace to trust God in adversity.
- What should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God; our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows into our lives only what is for His glory and our good.
- Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers.
- We must be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. That is the purpose of discipline.
- An unreserved trust of God, when we don’t understand what is happening or why, is the only road to peace and comfort and joy.
- We must see our circumstances through God’s love instead of, as we are prone to do, seeing God’s love through our circumstances.
- He has a purpose in every pain He brings or allows in our lives. We can be sure that in some way He intends it for our profit and His glory.
- A mark of Christian maturity is to continually trust the Lord in the minutiae of daily life. If we learn to trust God in the minor adversities, we will be better prepared to trust Him in the major ones.
- Trusting God for the grace to accept adversity is as much an act of faith as is trusting Him for deliverance from it.
- How Can I Pray Biblical Prayers for My Suffering Friend? Ginger Blomberg reviews Nancy Guthrie’s book I’m Praying for You. She writes “I’m Praying for You is a helpful reminder to keep praying through suffering because the struggle is part of a greater opportunity and is a chapter in a much bigger story.”
- Fighting Words. Ellie Holcomb has released a new devotional, Fighting Words Devotional: 100 Days of Speaking Truth into the Darkness.
- Top 5 Commentaries on Every Book of the Bible. Keith Mathison shares this helpful list of the best commentaries for each book of the Bible.
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy recently published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
- Real Rest Takes Hard Work. Alasdair Groves reviews Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched Soul by Scotty Smith and Russ Masterson. He writes “Ultimately, overcoming burnout means replacing a frenzied busyness of soul and schedule with the slow, hard work of gospel-empowered vulnerability in relationships and listening to the heart of God our Father. Only then will rest be less about doing less and more about true freedom from the obligation to perform more.”
- He Knew the Good Shepherd: The Last Book of David B. Calhoun. Ligon Duncan reviews A Sheep Remembers, the last book by David Calhoun, who I enjoyed two classes with at the beginning of my time at Covenant Seminary. He writes “David Calhoun spent almost half his life walking through the valley of the shadow of death in his long battle with cancer. He has now stepped out of the shadows into the reality. A Sheep Remembers renders to the Father praise and thanks, for revealing to him the Son, Christ Jesus, the great Shepherd of the Sheep ( 13:20), whom he now sees face to face.”
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 18: Satan and Demons. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- Divine providence is never frustrated by Satan in its plan for this world—for the everlasting good of God’s people in the all-satisfying praise of the glory of his grace.
- In all his acts, Satan is subject to God’s overruling and guiding providence.