These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. Acts 17:7-9
Who is in charge?
What a relevant question for the time we are in, who is in charge? As I wrote in my last article on anxiety, when there is someone we trust who is in charge our fears tend to dissipate but as we look around the landscape, we really are not sure who is in charge. Many are positioning for power but do not seem to have the ability to do anything that really makes a difference. The great irony of life in the US is that despite our deep history of independence and chest popping bravado, we are no different than any other humans and we long for someone to be in charge. Any movie with a hero figure seems to rock the box office and we continually elevate sports and entertainment figures and put our hopes for salvation in our politicians. This is nothing new, thousands of years ago, the Israelites wanted a king as well. They had Gods presence and protection, but they demanded to have an earthly king rule over them (2 Sam 8). We all want someone to be in charge.
I believe that most Christians acknowledge that, at least in theory, God is in charge but for all of us there is a disconnect to some degree. As Christians, we know that is supposed to be the answer but why does it not look like God is in charge? Our understanding of what it means for God to be in control and our willingness to submit to that truth directly affects how we live out our years, days, and minutes but when we hit a crisis, that is when these gaps really begin to manifest themselves through our anxious hearts.
Is God in charge?
Between the time of the incarnation and ascension of Jesus, He performed amazing miracles, He ruled over creation as shown by calming storms (Mk 4:39), walking on water (Mk 6:48), the gathering of fish (Jn 21:6), the command over plants (Mark 11:20) , and much more. He ruled over sin by stating that He had the authority to forgive sins and then backed that up with physical healings. While Jesus was physically in the presence of mankind, He showed what it looked like to have Heaven on Earth. He did not stop there; he went on to fulfill His role as Lord of lords and King of kings. Mark bookends his Gospel with this theme as he shows that the Magi came to worship the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Mk 1:14–15) and fulfilled the prophetic call to be King (Zechariah 9) at the triumphant entry (Matthew 21). Then near the crucifixion we see Jesus being interrogated and He responds with silence with the exception of a very few words to affirm that He was the King if the Jews (Matthew 27:11). But now what? Has Jesus ascended and left us to fend for ourselves? Not according to early Christians who understood that Jesus was still the reigning King.
In Acts 17 we see this situation unfold that reveals to us the mindset of early followers of Jesus. In the face of danger, they acted boldly. It was apparent to their opponents why they would behave this way – they actually believed that there was another king, and his name is Jesus! They knew that Jesus was still the King of kings and fully in control and they were free to follow Him. Paul knew this as well and proclaimed that Jesus is still reigning.
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.1 Corinthians 15:24-25
There is One who is in power and over all heavenly and earthly power and authority. God bends the hearts of Kings as He wishes (Proverbs 21:1) and He has put everything in subjection to Jesus, he left nothing outside his control (Hebrews 2:8). Jesus the King is in complete control of every particle and nothing happens without flowing through His hands.
Why does it not look like God is in control?
So why do I still feel like I need someone with power to be in authority and make things better? These large sweeping statements of God being in control can seem to pass right over personal and more intimate fears and needs as if God is in control of the big things like where the moon is placed but my mortgage and marital struggles are up to me to deal with. It is also obvious that there is still very much wrong in the world and sin is rampant.
The King is holding back sin. This subject requires an article of its own and there are many great books on the subject. We see that through the establishment of order, laws, families, and authority that God is restraining evil in this world. We see in Romans 1 that God has also given us a conscience that is aware of God. Sin is not running rampant; it has been overcome and dominated but allowed to remain for a time.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.Romans 1:18-21
Finally we see in one revealing story how Jesus can be fully in control and yet permit sin.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.Luke 22:31&32
Here is Jesus predicting Peters famous denial and it is very clear here that Jesus was in control as Satan had to entreat Him for permission to have access to Peter and to test him. We can only assume that since Peter did in fact deny Jesus that this permission was given to Satan. Jesus also makes a prediction that shows He was always in control – “when you have turned again”. Satan was permitted to have Peter and Peter was permitted to deny Jesus and sin but it was all permitted by the hands of a sovereign and loving God and only for a time.
The place where we will see the culmination of Gods power and control will be when we see Him face to face and not as if in a poorly lit mirror (1 Co 13:12) but that time has yet to come. Jesus is the King and we can live boldly and in confidence that He loves us and wants good for us. He is preparing us to live in the overwhelming weight of His glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). This time of preparation is what feels out of control as we learn hard lessons that help us push away the world and hang on to Jesus but we are never out of Gods grasp.
We ought to encourage one another of these truths and remind ourselves often that God is in charge so that the tendency of our hearts is to lean into Him and allow our fears to fade away in comparison to His glory.