Who’s in Charge?

The author of Ecclesiastes writes:

I have seen something else under the sun: 
The race is not to the swift 
or the battle to the strong, 
nor does food come to the wise 
or wealth to the brilliant 
or favor to the learned; 
but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Which makes us uncomfortable, because we want to be able to control our lives, control what happens to us. We want to think that if we make good choices, do the right things, then we will for sure have things go right for us. But unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. You can do everything right, the odds can ever be in your favor, you can work hard, make good choices, read your Bible regularly, and yet, you can still suffer horribly. You might get cancer. You might have plumbing problems.

Monday night Brittany and I drove one of her friends home. On our way back at 20th West and J, we were a moment from the intersection. The light was green. Other cars had gone through ahead of us. And then, suddenly, a BMW blew through the light without slowing.

A second later, we would have been right in that intersection. Brittany was terrified, screaming “we were almost killed.” She had such a severe panic attack that she developed a headache.

For myself, I was so annoyed I almost used my horn.

We are not in control. We live or die because of “time and chance.” As Proverbs puts it, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The Psalmist writes, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). God has decided when we will die—or not. Monday night was not, after all, a good day to die.

In the short letters to the seven churches in Asia in Revelation 2-3, we learned the Christians there were suffering for their faith, as Christians had been doing from the time of Christ, and have been continuing to do so ever since, even into our current era.

And so, this week we come to the second half of Revelation chapter 7. In chapter six, we met those who “had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” (Revelation 6:9). In chapter seven, we learn a bit more about them—and us.

As Jesus promised his disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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