God's in charge. And so are you.

by Aug 17, 2016

God's in charge. And so are you.

by Aug 17, 2016

When we first planted Harbor Church, we talked about the sovereignty of God a lot. We kept reminding people that God’s in charge of everything, down to the hairs on your head. Down to each bird that falls from a tree. We attracted a lot of people who believed really strongly in the sovereignty of God. But, weirdly, it made some of them really lazy.

We’d say, “Hey, could you help us set up chairs?” They’d be like, “Hey man, God’s going to save people whether we set up chairs or not.”  … “Hey, could you come help us bring dinner to the homeless guys in Old Stadium Park?” … “Bro, if they’re homeless, that’s because God let them be homeless. There’s nothing we can do about that.”

When I heard that one, I knew it was time to start talking about how God’s sovereignty intersects with our responsibility. Psalm 127 teaches this so well:

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

God’s in charge. He’s the one building the house. We need to have contentment in that. But there are still laborers he’s using to build the house: “those who build it.” We need to keep laboring. We need to keep pressing forward. We need urgency, and passion, and intensity.

Paul displayed this kind of contented urgency clearly. Take the time he was stuck as a prisoner on a ship with 276 people in the middle of a hurricane. All hope was lost, but then God spoke. Paul encouraged the passengers with this:

This very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.” So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:23-26).

At this point, the crew of the ship has no navigational aids: the sun and stars have been covered by clouds for days. They have no control over where the ship goes. And God says to them, “You’re all going to be fine, but first you’re going to run aground on some island.” If that’s going to happen, God’s going to have to make that happen.

The story continues:

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:27-31)

He’s stopping the sailors from leaving the boat. Seems logical — after all, skilled sailors are pretty valuable on a boat — but think about that for a minute. If God’s the only one who can save them, what do they really need sailors for? If God’s promised that they’ll all be fine, what does it matter whether they stay on the boat or not?

If it was completely up to God, you would expect Paul to be a little more laid back. “Let the sailors go. We don’t need them, we’ve got Jesus!” He’s not doing that. He’s arguing that they need to stay.

On the other hand, if it was completely up to Paul, you would expect him to be scared out of his skull. He’d be screaming at these sailors. “No! You can’t go!” He’s not doing that either. He understands that God’s in control of absolutely everything, but at the same time, the things we do in life really matter. God’s sovereignty still leaves room for human responsibility.

And when you understand that, it gives you a unique sense of contented urgency. You’re calm, cool, and collected. At the same time you’re passionate, intense, and animated. You know that God’s in charge of the story, but he’s given you a big part to play in it.

There aren’t too many people in the world with this kind of outlook on life. When you’ve got it, you’ll have a natural influence on the people around you. Paul was the lowest-ranking person on the ship, but his contented urgency made everyone else want to follow his lead. When he argued that the sailors shouldn’t be allowed to leave on the life boat, “The soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go” (Acts 27:32). They started following the orders of their prisoner.

Work like it all depends on you, and sleep like it all depends on God.