Governor of all

God was sovereign over Sept. 11, and so we have hope

Issue: "War in the shadows," Oct. 6, 2001

Many Christians are saying about the murderous destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, "God did not cause it, but He can use it for good." There are two reasons I don't say this. One is that it goes beyond, and is contrary to, what the Bible teaches. The other is that it undermines the very hope it wants to offer.

First, it goes beyond and against the Bible. Some people simply are trying to say that God is not a sinner and does not remove human accountability and that He is compassionate. That is true-and precious beyond words. But for most people, far more is implied. Namely, God, by His very nature, cannot or would not bring about such a calamity. It's this view of God that contradicts the Bible and undercuts hope.

How God governs all events in the universe without sinning, and without removing responsibility from man, and with compassionate outcomes is mysterious! But it's what the Bible teaches. God "works all things after the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11).

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"All things" includes rolling dice (Proverbs 16:33), falling sparrows (Matthew 10:29), failing sight (Exodus 4:11), financial loss (1 Samuel 2:7), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the suffering and slaughter of saints (1 Peter 4:19; Psalm 44:11), the completion of travel (James 4:15), repentance (2 Timothy 2:25), faith (Philippians 1:29), holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), spiritual growth (Hebrews 6:1-3), life and death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:27-28).

From the smallest thing to the greatest, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure-God governs all for His wise, just, and good purposes (Isaiah 46:10). Lest we miss the point, the Bible speaks most clearly to this in the most painful situations. Amos asks, "If a calamity occurs in a city, has not the Lord done it?" (Amos 3:6). After losing his 10 children, Job says, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). Covered with boils, he says, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10).

Oh, yes, Satan is real and active and involved in this world of woe! In fact, Job 2:7 says, "Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head." Satan struck him. But Job did not get comfort by looking at secondary causes. He got comfort by looking at the ultimate cause. "Shall we not accept adversity from God?" And the author of the book agrees when he says that Job's brothers and sisters "consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him" (Job 42:11). James underlines God's purposeful goodness in Job's misery: "You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (James 5:11). Job himself concludes in prayer: "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). Yes, Satan is real, and he is terrible-and he is on a leash.

The other reason I don't say, "God did not cause the calamity, but He can use it for good," is that it undercuts the very hope it wants to create. I ask those who say this: "If you deny that God could have 'used' a million prior events to save 6,000 people from this great evil, what hope then do you have that God will 'use' this terrible event to save you (spiritually or physically) in the hour of trial?" We say we believe He can use these events for good, but deny that He could use the events of the past to hold back the evil of Sept. 11. The Bible teaches He could have restrained this evil (Genesis 20:6). "The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples" (Psalm 33:10). But it was not in His plan to do it. Let us beware. If we spare God the burden of His sovereignty, we lose our only hope.

We all are sinners. We deserve to perish. Every breath is an undeserved gift. We have one great hope: Jesus Christ died to obtain pardon and righteousness for us (Ephesians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and God will employ His all-conquering, sovereign grace to preserve us for our inheritance (Jeremiah 32:40). We surrender this hope if we sacrifice this sovereignty.

John Piper
John Piper

John is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.

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