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Monday, October 09, 2006

The Workings of a Sovereign God

"I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, (Philippians 1:12)"

God often works in ways we would not normally choose. God also moves in ways which might seem at first to be contrary to his major goals. For example, I am sure Paul would rather not have been in prison for a number of years, both in Caesarea and Rome. Paul's imprisonment also would seem to be an impediment to the cause of the gospel for Paul was a major force in the spread of Christianity during the Apostolic Era.

Yet, God's word reveals to us that Paul's imprisonment was instrumental for the advance of the gospel. The chains which Paul was bound brought Paul together with Roman Imperial Guards. As a result of this necessary condition, the gospel spread throughout the Imperial Guard. And not only this, but Paul's imprisonment emboldened the Christians in Rome to preach the gospel without fear.

Furthermore, when Jesus called Paul to himself, he commissioned him to preach to the Jews, the Gentiles, and kings (Acts 9:15). It was during his imprisonment that the Apostle heralded the gospel to kings.

Our limited vision inhibits us from seeing the larger workings of God. And while it sometimes appears that God is absent or not working all things for good to those who love him, we must trust that he is. We must walk not by sight, but by faith.

One of my favorite stories of God's providence is the story of John Bunyan's imprisonment. Bunyan was jailed for illegally preaching the gospel. He could have left the prison at any time had he agreed not to preach the gospel. He refused to quit. He preached in the prison to the extent, people were coming to here him while he would preach from the prison courtyard (both prisoners and freemen). Eventually he was banished a central location where his contact was limited. It was here that God desired to take Bunyan, as he wrote the gospel in an allegorical story which we know as The Pilgrim's Progress. Through this writing, Bunyan would preach the gospel to far more people than he could have through any other method.

We should strive to see the working of a Sovereign God in our own lives even in times of discomfort and trial. This is the hope we have as Christians. God is working at the same time to bring glory to his name and for the good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

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