You may not have asked the question but you have surely thought it, “What is God doing in the world these days?” In my previous post, I addressed the fact that God is in control. It is clear from Scripture that God completely governs, sustains and cares for His world. Because of that great truth, we can trust our heavenly Father who is working out all things according to His all wise plan. In this post I want to answer the question of whether there is purpose behind what God is doing. And the obvious answer is that God is not capricious; He does not act without purpose. But can we know for certain what God is doing today?
Understanding God’s Will
As we think about what God does in the world, we must understand that God has a will by which he “approves and determines to bring about every action necessary for the existence and activity of Himself and all creation” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 211). For sure God’s will alone sovereignly determines the outcome of all things throughout history. The Psalmist said, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases” (Ps 115:3). The Apostle Paul said succinctly that God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11). “All things” means everything that exists or everything in creation. In our current coronavirus context, it would certainly include pestilence. God clearly determines the beginning from the end of all things, ensuring that all of His purposes come to pass (Is 14:24, 46:8-11) including horrible calamity (Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, Lam 3:37).
To understand the will of God as described in Scripture, consider four distinctions: 1) God’s necessary will, 2) God’s free will, 3) God’s revealed will, and 4) God’s secret will (Grudem, 212-213). God’s necessary will includes everything that He must do because of His character. God cannot act contrary to His own nature. But God also acts freely without obligation throughout history according to His free choice without restrain or coercion (i.e. creation, redemption).
God’s will can also be categorized as revealed or secret. Clearly God revealed His will through the written Word of God, but He also revealed His will through the prophets. Many times, throughout the Old Testament God brought judgment upon His people and disclosed His will to select prophets who in turn proclaimed it to Israel. For example, God told the prophet Habakkuk, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own” (Hab 1:5-6, see the entire chapter). God revealed to the prophet Habakkuk that He Himself was raising up and bringing the evil Chaldeans to judge His people harshly. His purpose in bringing calamity was clearly spoken through the prophet. But we must also not be ignorant that there is an aspect of God’s will that is secretive. Moses said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29). For certain, God reveals all that we need to know. He has revealed primarily the mystery of our great redemption which is found solely in His Son, Christ Jesus (Eph 1:3-14). While revealing the pertinent things, sometimes God chooses not to reveal how He secretly governs the universe and determines everything that happens (see James 4:15, 1 Cor 4:19, Rom 9:18, Acts 4:28).
It is important to note that God is not obligated to reveal to us His secret will. This was the case with Job. Prior to the patriarchal period (during the time of Genesis 1-11), Job was struck with horrible calamity (chapters 1-2). There was no prophet in that day to reveal the will of God to Job. God purposefully hid His secret will from him. After Job begins to question God about the calamity, God confronts Job’s questioning with a barrage of His own questions, telling Job essentially that He did not have the right to question the infinite wisdom of God (chapters 38-41). After listening to the all wise God, Job responds back to God by saying, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:2-3). Job repented of his questioning and acknowledged the great wisdom and secretive will of God.
What We Do Know
While it seems best to categorize the coronavirus events under the secretive will of God, we are not left without a general idea of what God is doing in the world. We can deduce the following three conclusions:
- God’s perfect will is being accomplished according to His sovereign control.
- God is going to be glorified through all of His work. The ultimate goal of God’s will is to bring glory to Himself. In the end we must simply acknowledge that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His wisdom is far beyond our understanding. (Is 43:6-7, 48:9-11, Eph 1:6, 12, 14, Matt 5:16, 1 Cor 10:31)
- God’s people are going to be blessed by God’s will. God always works for His glory and the good of His people. God’s people must always remember that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).
So How is This Good for Us?
Since we know that God works all things for His glory and the good of His people, what is it that God wants us to learn in this time? How can all of this bad stuff really be good for us? Let me give you a short list of ways God is working in His people’s lives through this coronavirus pandemic (John MacArthur, Finding Security in a Troubled World).
- God uses trouble to test the strength of our faith. (Ex 16:4, Deut 8:1-2, 2 Chron 32:31, 1 Pet 1:6-7)
- God uses trouble to humble us. (2 Cor 12:7-10)
- God uses trouble to wean us from earthly things. (Col 3:2-17)
- God uses trouble to call us to heavenly hope. (2 Cor 4:16-18)
- God uses trouble to reveal what we really love. (Gen 22:9-14, Deut 13:3)
- God uses trouble to enable us to help others in their trials. (Luke 22:31-32)
As children of God, we must remember that God never does anything without purpose! Hopefully as we continue through this great trial, we will be shaped into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). God’s work in the world today is not without purpose. While it may be secretive, God’s will is to bring good to His people.