1 Kings 22:34–35 (NKJV)
34Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” 35The battle increased that day; and the king was propped up in his chariot, facing the Syrians, and died at evening. The blood ran out from the wound onto the floor of the chariot.
Periodically, certain events remind us of God’s sovereign control and providential ordering of all things; that there really are no such things as minor decisions or chance events. After all, the decisions that we make upstream inevitably affect what happens downstream.
Some years ago, a tragic accident occurred in the lives of two North Idaho residents, father and daughter, who were riding their motorcycle back from Glacier National Park. While they were driving along Highway 41, a tree fell on their motorcycle and killed them both. Imagine for a moment the slew of so-called “minor” decisions which paved the way for that tragic event – the amount of time spent in the bathroom at the convenience store, the stop to take a picture of the waterfall, the loss of 5 miles per hour while looking at the mountain goat, the acceleration around the car that was going so slow. Any one of those decisions, made differently, would have altered the outcome of the day – and so all those relatively minor decisions proved, in retrospect, to have been incredibly important.
The text before us today reminds us of the same reality. God had warned King Ahab through the prophet Micaiah that if he went out to battle against the Syrians, God would slay him. Endeavoring to foil God’s decree and still accomplish his personal goals, Ahab decided to disguise himself as a common soldier while dressing another as himself. But though the Syrians were fooled by Ahab’s disguise, God was not. And the Scripture uses particularly ironic phraseology to describe God’s sovereign control of this event. “A certain man drew his bow at random” and the arrow just happened to hit Ahab between the creases of his armor so that he died. God’s purpose stood fast; God controls even the so-called “random” events of history.
I draw this to your attention in order to address a nefarious view of God’s sovereignty that is widely embraced in the church today. This view declares that, while God predestines the “major” events in history, He doesn’t ordain the “minor”, day to day events. Why is this such a big deal? Because God’s sovereignty over all events is the basis of our comfort and encouragement amid trials and difficulties. Jesus teaches:
29Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29–31)
If we imagine that certain events come upon us by chance, then we can have no confidence that our Father has crafted each one for our growth in grace. A so-called “minor” trial may just be the one to overthrow our faith and destroy the life that is within us. However, if we know that these events, though seemingly insignificant in light of the major issues of world history, have nevertheless been ordained and decreed by God for our personal growth in grace, then we can face our trials with strength and determination – for He Himself has promised that He will orchestrate all things for our good and for His glory.
And so, how are you doing in the trials that have come your way? Do you view them as gifts from the hand of your Heavenly Father, orchestrated for your ultimate good? For if you do, then you will be able to count it all joy when you encounter various trials knowing that He has crafted them just for you. But if you view your trials as random accidents in a purposeless universe, then you will no doubt respond to them with anxiety and despair. So what does your response to trials reveal about what you really believe about God’s sovereignty? You may call yourself Reformed, or even a “Calvinist”, but are you really? The proof is in the joy in the face of trial, difficulty, and even opposition.
And so, reminded that God is in control of all things and that we ought, therefore, to give thanks always for all things, let us kneel and confess to our Lord that we grumble and act as though the events of our lives were not in His hand.