A Sovereign Destiny
This past Sunday, our Pastor preached out of Jonah 1. The book of Jonah opens with immediate action: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me’” (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah, a prophet chosen by God, presents himself as a very reluctant servant. The LORD commanded Jonah to exhort the great city of Nineveh, of the Assyrian empire, to turn away from their evil ways and submit to the one true God.
Assyria was known for its wickedness and intimidating military might. They were one of Israel’s primary enemies in the Old Testament. Jonah could not have predicted that his destiny was to approach, as the Lord’s representative, this evil nation with a word from the Lord. God, however, does not work based upon man’s expectations, but according to His own purposes. Believers in Jesus Christ, like Jonah, have a destiny, and this plan comes from God.
Christians Read the Bible Through the Lens of Sovereignty
Our Pastor pointed out that Christians read the Bible through the lens of God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty means his supreme authority over all of creation, including angels and demons and even natural disasters. All events in world history have unfolded and will unfold according to God’s providential decree. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Even the most random events occur according to God’s plan.
Joseph, the son of Jacob, experienced this reality firsthand. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, condemned for adultery though he was innocent, and routinely forgotten by those he cared for. All the while, the Lord blessed him with days of prominence according to His timing.
A Grand Plot
While many readers focus on God’s sovereignty in the life of Joseph, in which God worked good out of man’s evil intentions (and rightly so), God was working on an even grander scale than readers sometimes miss. Joseph was not an isolated character in a large compilation of Bible stories. Joseph was an important piece in a long line of men that God raised up as part of a promise He made earlier in Scripture. The Lord had previously promised Abraham, Joseph’s great-grandfather,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Jesus, the Anointed One came into the world over 2,000 years ago, fulfilled this promise as the true blessing sent to usher in a Kingdom filled with citizens of all different types of people groups and backgrounds. He is God’s gift to all nations! Joseph, though he could not have known it, lived his life as part of a grand plot, of which all God’s chosen people are a part of. The grand narrative of Scripture is God redeeming a people for Himself through Christ, for our good and His glory. This plan continues today until the return of Christ.
Every follower of Christ is part of this plot. Each individual citizen of the Kingdom, however, plays a unique role in God’s wondrous plan. The church, those called by God to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, is sometimes referred to as a body. A physical body is one cohesive unit formed by many complex, diverse, and interconnected parts that work for the health of that body. In the same way, all followers of Christ are united as one body. But not everyone functions as the same ‘body part.’
The different body parts correspond to the unique gifts that God gives individual Christians in order to follow Christ. To some, the Lord gives teaching or speaking abilities. To others, He equips to provide vital, merciful care to others. Still, others may serve the Lord using multiple types of gifts. Reading the Bible through the lens of God’s sovereignty allows believers to rejoice in how God has blessed each believer. After all, all Christians are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). God chooses how to gift and use his servants best for His glory. Man does not.
Our Pastor stressed the fact that, based on the reality of God’s sovereignty, every believer has a destiny. This destiny is centered around being conformed into Christ’s image, to the glory of God (see Romans 8:28-30). Every Christian has a different journey based on God’s plan, however. Accepting this fact is incredibly difficult. Discontentment, jealousy, bitterness, and other evil desires work to stifle the believer’s happiness with God’s plan as he longs for ‘greener pastures.’
“If only God gave me a life like So and So, I would be way more effective for God’s kingdom.” Believers must vigilantly put off a lack of contentment and replace it with pondering the wonder of God’s generosity found in Christ. Believers do not need better circumstances. We need Christ!
Paul grew to understand this reality, which is why he could write the book of Philippians, themed around joy amid suffering. Paul was happy to run his own race, not Epaphroditus’ race, for instance. Contentment grows from ceasing comparison with others and looking toward Christ.
The spectrum of gifts, abilities, and personalities of those that God uses for building His Kingdom is extremely vast. God’s servants in Scripture range from Peter, in all his brashness, to Moses, a man who considered himself unskilled in speech. Countless other followers prove that God uses obedient servants, not self-made conquering heroes. David conquered the giant Goliath, but he did so in the strength of the Lord, not his own.
Even Jonah, one of the most reluctant servants of the Lord in all of Scripture, eventually obeyed God, which the Lord blessed. Christians today must develop a healthy trust in God based upon His character. If God is truly good, then we can rejoice that he is sovereign. Everything He does is good, even when we do not understand it. Believers can embrace their sovereign destiny, knowing that God will use each and every one of us to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.