Life is full of trials and 2020 has had more than its fair share of them. As Christians, we know that we can lean into trials with hope because we know God will use them to build us up and conform us to Christ. When we are going through trials and life is hard, Christians often come alongside one another and offer encouragement along the lines of, “God will use this for good” or “God is Sovereign” and that is absolutely true and I encourage us to comfort one another with these words.
However, as I listen to the way this phrase is used most of the time, I think Christians often forget that God is good not only in His mercy and grace but also in His judgment. I was recently talking with a friend of mine about some disappointing trends that are happening in churches across America (which you can read about here). One takeaway from the trend is that it highlights the laziness of Christian men and the faithfulness and dedication of Christian women. The outcome is an unbalanced and unhealthy church that is not functioning according to God’s design and the reality is that it is not a healthy state for American evangelical churches.
My friend agreed with this assessment and made the comment that “God is using this mess for good.” And while this is absolutely true in the proper sense of God’s goodness, the idea when most people say this is that even though God’s people are walking in disobedience, God will somehow bless it and make everything pleasant in the end. This is where I think we, as Christians, often use this sentiment in a way that misses the full scope of God’s Sovereignty.
The reality is that God’s definition of good in the face of disobedience could mean that he will gently rebuke us and cause us to repent and reform or he could simply spew a lukewarm version of church out of His mouth. Either way, God would be working things together for good. But being spewed out of His mouth is rarely, if ever, the way people intend to comfort one another when ministering to people with this declaration of God’s Sovereignty (Rom 8:28).
Just consider 2020. The majority of Churches doors around the globe have been shut for six straight months. In these churches, The Lord’s Table has not been open for communion, the saints have forsaken the assembly, they have not continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and they have not walked up the mountain to the house of the God of Jacob.
I would argue that these are not signs of God’s blessing or favor but I would also affirm that God is indeed using these circumstances for the very best good of His people. And while our desire should always be for God’s goodness to be upon us, my prayer is that we would repent and return to God and His Word so that we may receive God’s good favor for obedience rather than God’s good judgment for disobedience.
From The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 26, Section 2:
Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.
Heb. 10:24–25. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Acts 2:42, 46. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.… And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.
Isa. 2:3. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
1 Cor. 11:20. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.