Who's in charge here?" That is the question Christians might ask in the face of some of the difficulties and frustrations of life. Other forms of the question might be: "Why is my life going the way it is?" "Why do my prayers seem to be unanswered?" "Why doesn’t God do something?"
The pagan answer to such questions is well-summarized by a novel in which one of the characters observes that life is like a dinner in a good restaurant—sooner or later, you have to pay the bill. The assumption seems to be that the good times have to be purchased at the expense of the bad times.
Christians are not so crass. But many Christians' functional answer to the question "Who's in charge?" often seems vague. They acknowledge that God is mostly in charge, but they also limit God by thinking, "The devil has power, I have responsibility, and some things are just a matter of chance."
Isaiah gives us a very different answer to the question of who is in charge. God is in charge! He plans all human history—including the details of our lives—and successfully and unfailingly accomplishes His plan. "This also comes from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance" (Isa. 28:29). Similarly, Isaiah celebrates the comprehensive work of God in us:"LORD, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our works in us" (Isa. 26:12). He reminds us that God always accomplishes His plan. "For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?" (Isa. I4:27a).
That God oversees and accomplishes all things for His own glory is called the doctrine of providence. Question 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) asks: "What do you understand by the Providence of God? The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and governs the m that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand."
Such power governing our lives might initially seem frightening. But the catechism wonderfully reminds us that our lives are in the hands of our loving heavenly Father. Our lives are not controlled by blind and indifferent chance. That would be frightening! Rather, our days are directed by the God who has shown His great love and care for us in the gift of His Son Jesus to be our Savior. We can know that such a father will indeed act so that "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28) for us.
First published in Tabletalk, April 1999
© Westminster Seminary California All rights reserved
Permissions: You are permitted to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do NOT alter the wording in any way and you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred.