I love texts in the Bible that speak directly to the greatness of God. Texts that make it abundantly clear that God has no rivals, no challengers, no setbacks, no obstacles. For example, consider these words from Jeremiah: “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17). In a similar vein the psalmist declares, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). This is what it means to be God: nothing is too hard for you as you do all your good pleasure. It’s why the catechism we teach our toddlers asks and answers, “Can God do all things? Yes, God can do all his holy will.”1
What if we really believed these biblical texts and catechisms? What would our work as pastors look like if this truth—that God is sovereign—truly animated us? Several things come to mind right away. We would fear less, witness more, preach with passion, and counsel with confidence. We would fight sin tirelessly, rejoice in forgiveness, be amazed by grace, and love our neighbor more. Favoritism would cease, honor would be shown, peace would rule, and generosity would flourish. These are the virtues that abound when God is great in our estimation. Why? Because the doctrine of the sovereignty of God has a powerful impulse in it to move us Godward, to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
Something else may happen to us when we believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. We may move. That is, the greatness of God may launch us into a ministry setting totally counter-cultural. We may actually go into rather than away from the hard places.
By ‘hard places’ I don’t mean only what is traditionally understood as a hard place in evangelicalism like an urban neighborhood in a low income, high crime area. I also have in mind the rural ‘hard places’ that present their own unique challenges to the gospel’s advance. And the suburban churches may have nice parking lots and buildings, but all of that may sadly be the facade that hides many of the same sins that plague the other regions. So ‘hard places’ are everywhere. That said, some places are harder than others and we would be naive to think otherwise. I have in mind right now a church in an urban neighborhood that desperately needs help. There are issues within and without the church that are so difficult that many pastors and pastors-in-training might have this particular church last on their list of potential places to serve with their wife and children. “After all,” the reasoning goes, “it may not be safe or comfortable, and surely God wants me to be safe and comfortable, right?” This sounds more like worldly thinking than anything we read in the Bible. It was not this kind of thinking that moved the Apostle Paul to go to Jerusalem and Rome, nor was it the kind of thinking that led Jesus to Calvary.
To help us check our own worldly thinking, let us remember that there is no “hard place” too hard for the Lord. He goes where he wants and does all his good pleasure. Could it be that God wants to go into that hard place with the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and use you in the process?
First Catechism: Teaching Children Bible Truths. (Great Commission Publications, 2003), Q&A 12.