You have made summer and winter. (Psalm 74:17b)
These words are a reminder, aren’t they, of the sovereignty of God in all things? We’re moving rapidly into what might be a summer of continuing drought. I have friends in other parts of the world who are gearing up for winter. But we will all experience both summer and winter, each in their season and with spring and autumn between. That is simply a natural law that we have come to accept – the season may be extra long, extra dry, extra cold or extra hot, but none of those additional details alter the fact that the natural cycle of the seasons remains. There is absolutely nothing we can do or say to alter this fact.
And yet, we are so often surprised – and even offended – when the cycle manifests in us. It’s almost as if we imagine that, as followers of Christ and as God’s people, we’re now somehow entitled to live in a place of perpetual summer. If we aren’t constantly in green pastures, constantly in abundance, constantly showered with blessing…then something is wrong. Adversity is supposed to simply roll off us or ignore us completely, because we’re covered by the blood of Jesus and nothing can touch us.
Now, essentially and on a spiritual level, this is true. We are absolutely ‘untouchable’ under the blood. But that doesn’t mean we won’t get winter. It simply means we won’t get frostbite. Winter will come in its season, but in Christ, we have the assurance that we will be untouched, or not destroyed. It’s so important to put aside the worldly attitudes and accept that our God is the God of winter as well as summer, and that every season has a particular purpose, both in us and in the world.
Have you noticed how very quickly God becomes ‘sovereign’ when we’re looking for someone to blame for the circumstances? It’s so easy to make Him entirely responsible, entirely to blame, because He’s sovereign and so is in control of everything. He could have changed this, stopped this, deflected this. That He didn’t is simply a sign that He is not only sovereign and all powerful, but something of tyrant. Isn’t it? And yet, just the other day – before adversity struck – we were fiercly defending our right to ‘free will.’ We are fickle creatures, and I, for one, am immensely grateful for His grace and mercy, and for His immeasurable patience.
Recognising the sovereignty of God is, quite simply, surrendering control and acknowledging His divine purpose in and through all things. We may not fully understand what it is, but His Word promises that He is I AM. That is the source of our faith. It’s also understanding that there is a purpose in every season. The necessity of winter is often not seen – we may see that some trees have no leaves, but we can’t see the inward process that losing the leaves inititates. God’s universe does not function by chance or random process. It is particular, it is specific, and it is purposeful.
So where, then, does free will fit in with this all-powerful, totally in control at all times God? The answer lies in the truth that, in Him, we are part of eternity. Every single human being, be they sinner or saint or destined for heaven or hell, have existed within the knowledge of God from the very foundations of the world. This means, essentially, that He knew, way back then, exactly where we would find ourselves at this particular point in time and has already determined that it will be used for our good if we love Him. that’s an overview, but it does get the point across.
What it also highlights, however, is God’s sovereignty never cancels out free will.
In fact, our free will magnifies God’s sovereignty.
Imagine that you, as a parent, offer your child a choice as to whether they attend a particular party or not. As a good parent, you put the ‘fors and againsts’ for each choice out in the open. Your child can make an informed decision, not because you’ve ‘blackmailed’ or manipulated them into your choice, but because they are aware of the right, the wrong an the consequences of their decision.
Does giving them free will destroy your parental authority? On the contrary, it supports it. They have free choice because you gave it to them. They wouldn’t have it otherwise. You are still ‘sovereign.’ But having free will requires two things. Firstly, it should be informed. The right to choose brings with it the responsibility to find out what is right and what is wrong. Free choice never exists in a vacuum. It never exempts us from the spirutal and natural, and even social, laws within which we live. Secondly, that responsibility extends to accepting the consequences.
This is where we so often go wrong. We exercise free will and want to hang the consequences on God. We need, in all things, to acknowledge the reality that this present winter might well be the result of our choices. Instead of lashing out at God, we need to acknowledge our responsibility and trust Him to help us through and use it to our good. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we go around in sackcloth and ashes and spend our time trying to assume responsibility for everything. There are things that happen that aren’t our fault. Wisdom implies balance, and real wisdom can only be found in the God of both summer and winter.
There is a very prevalent trend within the church today to teach that He is the ‘God of all things good.’ The focus is on ‘Abba loves me’ rather than ‘Abba is the perfect parent.’ The spiritual is always reflected in the physical. Consider the growing problem that parents are no longer allowed in some parts of the world to discipline their children. Of course, children should be protected. Yes, they have been victims of the most terrible crimes and abuse and parents or family memebers or even teachers may have been responsible.
This is fodder for a long debate, but one question emerges – did we ever have to teach our children to be bad, to nick the last biscuit or tell a lie or pick on a sibling? The answer is no. They seemed to simply absorb it from the world around them. We had to teach them not to be bad, and that involves both love and discipline, balanced and focused on the wellbeing of the child, even though the process may involve discomfort.
Paul raised the question as to which Jesus is being preached. Are we preaching only the Savior-Redeemer or both this Jesus and the Jesus who will return in glory as the conquering king to judge the living and the dead. The lamb of God who so willingly went to the cross has been granted all power and authority. Our mediator is also the great judge of heaven. There is only one true Gospel. It is that which preaches the Jesus who, in every way, manifest the total, complete, vast and perfectly balanced full nature of God the Father, the God of both summer and winter and everything in between.
That He loves us is beyond question. But loving us does not mean that He will remove winter and set us in a place of perpetual summer. We need the winters to learn and to stretch and to grow, to shed the old and make place for the new life. Without them, we would remain undeveloped and never fully experience the complete love of God – a love which is our assurance that, just as we can be sure winter willcome, we can be absolutely certain the He will be there with us. It will not destroy us, break us, or defeat us, nor separate us from Him.
Thank You, Father, for a love that is pefect and complete, that works in us in all things to teach us and transform us. Help us to hold onto the thruth that Your are God of summer and winter, that Your love and power remains the same, no matter what we may be going through.