Matthew 10: 29 - 31
We do live in dangerous times. If we feel insecure, it’s because we are insecure. The world never was as safe as we thought it was. No wonder we all feel a bit more anxious these days.
Researchers say there are 5 primary marks of insecurity: Helplessness, isolation, vulnerability, fear of the future and extreme pessimism. Insecurity leads us to say things like this: “Something bad is going to happen and there’s nothing I can do about it and no one can help me. “
Often it’s not the “big picture” that troubles us as much as the problems of daily life. We worry about our finances, our job security, whether or not our marriage will make it, our health, what will happen in our old age, our investments and a whole host of personal issues that sap our courage and cause us to stay awake at night worrying about tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year.
I believe the biblical answer to insecurity is found in the doctrine of God’s providence. Word “providence” - 2 parts - pro and video - literally - “to see before.” The word providence is not found in most modern translations of the Bible, but the concept is. It refers to “God’s gracious oversight of the universe.” Every one of those words is important. God’s providence is one aspect of his grace. Oversight means that he directs the course of affairs. Universe tells us that God not only knows the big picture, he also concerns himself with the tiniest details.
5 statements unfold the meaning of God’s providence in more detail - He upholds all things. He governs all events. He directs everything to its appointed end. He does this all the time and in every circumstance. He does it always for His own glory.
“God doesn’t roll dice.” Nothing happens by chance. When Jesus was giving instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10, he repeatedly warned them that they were going out to minister to a hostile world. Even though some people would oppose them and try to put them to death, they should not be afraid of what might happen to them. Dropped in the middle of this sober message is a passage that contains the grounds for security in a very insecure world. Where can we go for safety when there is so much trouble in the world? Let’s see how Jesus answers the question.
1. Trouble May Come But God Has Not Forgotten You v. 29
Sparrows were among the humblest birds in Bible times. They were considered food for the poor and because they were so cheap, the poor could offer them in sacrifice to the Lord if they couldn’t afford a lamb, a goat or a bull. You could buy 2 sparrows for a penny. That’s pretty cheap by any standard. You could feed your family sparrow casserole for 50c.
Not only does God see the sparrow when it falls, the sparrow cannot and will not fall apart from the Father’s will. The mention of the word “Father” makes it very tender and very personal. It’s not as if sparrows fall at random from the trees and God takes note when it happens. The sparrow falls because God willed it to fall, and if he didn’t, the sparrow would never fall to the ground. This is a high view of God’s involvement in the tiny and seemingly insignificant details of the universe. 2 implications of this truth:
A. The sparrows do fall.
Even the little sparrows fall to the ground eventually. Sooner or later troubles do come to all of God’s children. Sometimes we fall into the romantic notion that coming to Christ will solve all our problems so that we will be free from trouble and sadness. Not so. He makes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust. What happens to people of the world happens to us too. They get sick, we get sick. They lose their jobs, we lose our jobs. They have family problems, we have family problems. They get ripped off, we get ripped off. They get cancer, we get cancer. They die, we die. It is the same for us as for everyone. Though we know the Lord, we are not exempt from any of the trials and troubles of this world.
B. The sparrows fall according to the Father’s will.
All things take place according to the counsel and decree of Almighty God. There is a very real sense in which everything in the universe must fit into God’s ultimate plan somehow. Even the falling of the sparrow is part of God’s providential oversight of the universe. This applies to our pain, our suffering, our loss and it applies to the heartache of watching our loved ones suffer.
“From the fall of a raindrop to the fall of an empire, all is under the providential control of God. We know that God is not surprised....We trust his sovereign purposes and rest in the power of his all-sufficient grace.” Rest your soul on the rock of God’s providence, and you will find that even through the tears, the rock is solid and can bear the weight of a broken heart.
2. Even If Trouble Comes, God Still Cares for the Tiniest Details of Life v. 30
Have you ever tried to count the number of hairs on your head? The average human head is covered with 100,000 strands of hair. 50 strands fall out each day no matter what we do. Interesting - the amount of hair varies by colour. Blondes have an average of 140 000 strands of hair, brunettes 105 000, and redheads 90 000.
Our God is a God of the details. The meaning of this is clear: If God cares for things that matter so little, then he cares for things that matter much more. If God knows each strand of hair individually, he knows each of us individually as well. God’s knowledge of us is not just general but amazingly specific. He knows us through and through and he knows us in minute detail. In fact, he knows us far better than we know ourselves.
“God is to be seen in little things.” We tend to look at the million rand answer to prayer – the miraculous healings - and say, “What a mighty God we serve.” But the God of the large is also the God of the small. The God who hung the stars in space is also the God who numbers the hair on your head. It is no harder for God to provide something large or something small. After all, they’re all “small” to him.
3. When Trouble Comes, Remember That God Still Loves You v. 31
Here is the end of the matter. You are worth more than the sparrows. “Two for a penny!” Tiny sparrows, worth so little, and yet God cares for each one of them. But you are worth more than a barrel of sparrows. How do I know this? Because Jesus didn’t die for the sparrows. He died for you and for me. His blood is the badge of his love, the proof of his everlasting affection.
What, then, should this truth do for us?
A. This should give us boldness in the time of trouble.
If God is for us, why should we fear anything or anyone?
B. This should give us confidence in the moment of confusion.
Today many things are unclear and undecided. We all have many more questions than we have answers. So much of life seems like stumbling through the deep fog of hazardous circumstances. Keep your chin up and keep moving forward. Things that are unclear now will be made clear in the end. Our God will make all things plain and all his ways will be proved right.
C. This should give us hope in the time of sorrow.
Oh, we cry - the tears flow behind closed doors. When we face death, how can we not weep for loved ones who have left us? But be of good cheer. Even death itself is in God’s hands. If you are a Christian, you cannot die before God’s appointed time. A Christian is immortal until his work on earth is done. Why should we shake? Why should we fear? Let the world shake and fear. It is for us to be calm when others are giving way to fear.
So we come to the bottom line. Do you believe God orders all things according to his own will? Some people—many people, I’m sure—struggle at this very point. We like to talk about “free will” more than God’s ordination of all things in the universe. But while I truly and deeply believe in free moral choices for which we will all be held accountable, in the end I think we must say what the Bible says, that “all things” work together as part of God’s unfolding plan of redemption. If this is so, then there is no such thing as luck, fate or chance.
Everything is either caused by God or allowed by God. Let this great truth be the source of your security. Rest in the Lord. Lay your soul upon the solid rock of God’s eternal providence. Rest in his control over all things. Rest there and you will sleep well tonight.
“Pastor, what about the troubles that may come tomorrow? The answer is simple. Either they will not come, or they will come and some good from God will come with them. That “good” will not always be seen immediately or easily, but it is always there because our God uses all things, wastes nothing and intends for us only that which is for our good and his ultimate glory. God’s providence is the answer to all insecurity.
In 1871 a great fire destroyed much of the city of Chicago. 300 people died and 100 000 were left homeless. A Chicago lawyer named Horatio Spafford lost part of his fortune in the fire. He was a Christian and an associate of the great evangelist D. L. Moody. After spending several years rebuilding his fortune and helping those who lost everything in the fire, Mr. Spafford resolved to take his wife and 4 children to England. Later he planned to move the family to a new home in Jerusalem. After purchasing tickets on a luxury liner set to sail in November 1873, Mr. Spafford was unable to go at the last moment because of unfinished business in Chicago. His wife Anna and their 4 children - Maggie, Tanetta, Annie and Bessie, would go ahead and he would cross the Atlantic on a later voyage and meet them in England. On November 22 an English freighter struck the luxury liner, causing it to sink in only 12 minutes. Hundreds were lost and only 47 survivors were pulled from the icy waters. In the chaos all 4 of the Spafford daughters drowned. Rescuers found Anna Spafford unconscious and clinging to a piece of wreckage. She and the other survivors were taken to Cardiff, Wales. From there she cabled the awful news to her husband in America. The telegram contained 2 words: “Saved alone.” Brokenhearted, Mr. Spafford purchased a ticket on the next ship leaving New York. At one point the captain called Mr. Spafford to his post and told him that according to the charts, the ship was passing over the spot where his daughters had drowned. Overwhelmed with sorrow as he paced the deck, the words of Isaiah 66: 12 were ringing in his mind, “I will extend peace to her like a river.” Going back to his cabin, he composed the words to a poem that have become a beloved hymn we still sing today:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows, like sea-billows, roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
And no doubt thinking of the day when he would be reunited with his daughters, he penned the final verse:
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
These are the words of a man who had discovered the solid rock of God’s providence. Having lost his 4 daughters, he had not lost his faith in God. All is well because God is in control of all things, even the hardest tragedies of life. This truth does not remove the pain but it makes a way for us to keep believing even while our hearts are breaking. May God give us this same faith so that when all earthly hope is lost, we may still say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.” Amen.