The following is taken from the introduction in Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty. For the next 5 days, you can download the kindle version of the book for free here.
Do you have a love-hate relationship with God’s sovereignty, His right and power to control His creation? Many Christians have this struggle. The love side is that we don’t have any trouble accepting that God is in control when things are going our way. In seasons of blessing we are eager to believe that God is in control of everything.
But then there’s the hate side. When we start thinking about our problems, challenges, and all the evil in the world, we almost instinctively start to back off and exclaim that God is not in control of everything. When bad things happen, we seem automatically to question just how far God’s control goes.
This love-hate relationship penetrates all the way down into our freedom of choice. We are very free with ascribing our choices and decisions to the control and influence of God when good things happen as the result of our decisions. But when we make bad or hurtful decisions, or when people do horrible things we wonder if we really want to say that God is sovereign in all of the choices we make.
It seems that deep down we fear that there are shadows in the Light… that God isn’t as in control of the universe as the Bible wants us to believe He is. So we spend our time focused on the things about God that don’t trouble us so much like His love, goodness, grace, trustworthiness and faithfulness.
What I have been learning is that when we try to relate to God apart from understanding this biblical characteristic of the sovereignty of God, we pull the rug out from under our faith in God’s promises to be loving, good, gracious, trustworthy, and faithful to us. As a result we often end up being hounded or even imprisoned by shame, depression, guilt, anxiety, and fear.
The Bible is full of exhortations, stories, parables, teaching, proverbs, and promises that were given by God to speak directly to us about those problems. He paid for our release at the cross. Yet many Christians still live in cages with bars made of depression, fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame. Why is that?
At first sight, this might not seem like a big deal. After all, these are very familiar problems to just about everyone. People have been struggling with every one of those problems since the fall of Adam and Eve.
There are admittedly many legitimate reasons why people struggle with each of those issues. But one reason which lies at the root of our struggles is our trouble believing in God’s sovereignty. The key that unlocks the door to God’s promises of rest, freedom, peace and joy is realizing that God is not just Mighty, but Almighty!
One of great promises in the Bible is Psalm 91. In verse 1 of this Psalm, God gives an amazing promise,
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I have been learning that “rest” is one of the most elusive treasures we seek. We are constantly on the go and on the job. Rest is something we talk about, but something we rarely experience. God wants us to know that the rest He offers is real and not a fantasy, and it is found under the shadow of the Most High.
The psalmist declares the grounds for taking and trusting this promise in verses 2-4.
This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
The reason we can take shelter in God’s love and grace and rest under His shadow is that He is faithful to His promises. You can count on God to deliver because there is nothing that can stop Him from keeping His word. God wants you to know that His promises are so strong and dependable that you can look at them as body armor! He is Almighty! He is sovereign!
The remaining 11 verses paint a clear picture of the kind of rest that is found when we rest under the shadow of the Almighty. First we are told that when we take shelter in the shadow of the Most High we will find rest from anxiety and worry.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Next we are told that we will find rest from depression. No matter what circumstances we might find ourselves in, nothing can defeat us and take us out of His care.
Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
When we are living under the shadow of the Almighty we will find rest from the fear of failure.
You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
There is also rest from shame because He treats us with honor and assures us we are the recipients of His special love and care.
The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.
And last we are assured that when we come to live in the shelter of God, we will find rest from guilt though His salvation that comes with total forgiveness.
I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.
The rest that Christ purchased for us is anchored in the sovereignty of God. Because God is sovereign we find rest from depression, anxiety, fear of failure, guilt, and shame. Because God is sovereign we find the freedom to live a life full of joy, to let go of our past, have hope for the future, live boldly, and love passionately.
Discussions of sovereignty have been largely relegated to debates on predestination, the problem of evil, and the like. Far from being a clear doctrine with relevant implications pointing to how we live and grow in God’s grace on a daily basis, it has been left by many Christians as an old and irrelevant doctrine that is not necessary for Christian living outside of seminaries.
We cannot blame the members of our churches for this. The fault lies with us pastors, teachers, and leaders of the Church. We have not spent the time to adequately communicate to the person in the pew (or even to the seminary student) the practical, down to earth, daily impact that the sovereignty of God has on every believer and on the Church in general.
If how we think about God’s sovereignty can help us to live a life full of joy, to let go of our past, have hope for the future, live boldly, and love passionately, then sovereignty is not one of those dry mental exercises with no value other than entertaining academics. This means sovereignty is as practical, even basic to the health of the Christian as knowing God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.