In the day to day, it’s easy to put the sovereignty of God out of mind. We focus on our to-do lists, schedules, and families. If we’re honest, we sometimes wonder if we missed something important along the way.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to concentrate too much on the aspects of life where I struggle. Whether I succeed or not in what I’m doing determines my worth as a person, at least in my own mind.
Then I start asking questions like, “What am I even doing here? Did I misunderstand God’s calling for my life?”
It’s difficult for us as His followers to remember just how much power He has, especially when it comes to empowering us to use the gifts and talents He created us with. Even more difficult than remembering what He put us here to do—remembering who we are.
But as God often does, He uses what’s right in front of our faces to remind us who He is, and that we don’t have to have everything under control.
For me, this week, it was the Pacific Ocean. As I slipped the hood of my sweatshirt over my head and half-jogged down to the water’s edge to catch the sunset, the view I’ve seen a million times took my breath away. Again.
The sheer power of the waves reminded me how small I am in the scheme of the earth (the universe, really) and how unfathomably big God is. I remembered that He asked Job,
Who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, “Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop”?
We need those reminders because, too often, opposing voices often cause us to doubt or even neglect our calling. Our tendency to rely on our own power results not only in doing less, but being less.
Thankfully, we follow a God who doesn’t rely on human power to reign. He can use us and grow us despite our wanderings. Like a good, intentional parent, He teaches us who He is and who we are.
As I study the book of Daniel, I’m reminded of one thing: God is sovereign over those who’ve fully surrendered to Him. And He’s sovereign over the proud who’ve made a god of their own selves.
Three truths stand out as I soak in His power in our vacation house by the sea:
1) Not understanding our worth as one of God’s own leads to idolatry.
Daniel and his three friends refused to defile themselves by eating food that may have been sacrificed to idols (Daniel 1). Regardless of their new circumstances (captivity by a ruthless conqueror) or the consequences they might have faced by disobeying King Nebuchadnezzar, they never lost sight of their true King.
They knew who they were. Ultimately, they weren’t just youths captured from Israel, they were servants of the Most High God.
2) God gives us the strength to oppose those who don’t understand our worth as one of His own.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to bow to the statue Nebuchadnezzar built on the plain of Dura (Daniel 3). They had everything to lose—their positions as administrators over the province of Babylon. Not to mention their lives!
But they recognized that they were worth far more than the present status in Nebuchadnezzar’s service. They believed God could rescue them, but even if He chose not to, He would give them grace to endure the fiery furnace. They’d rather face a horrific, painful death than give up their status as God’s own.
3) Others will eventually see our lives lived out as His treasures and recognize His position as Most High God.
Nebuchadnezzar had known Daniel a long time before he recognized God as the Most High God. All along the way, Daniel kept pointing to God as the source of his ability to interpret dreams and act as spiritual advisor and prophet.
After failing to heed Daniel’s warning to “break away now from [his] sins by doing righteousness from [his] iniquities by showing mercy to the poor (Daniel 4:27), Nebuchadnezzar lost his sovereignty. Daniel 4 describes his descent into madness, how he ate grass like a cow and was driven away from other people.
As Daniel foretold, King Nebuchadnezzar finally recognized the sovereignty of God. “Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Daniel 4:37).
My prayer for you (and myself) comes straight from Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica:
God, please count us worthy of our calling and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work we do with faith and power. We want Jesus’ name to be glorified by everything we do, according to the grace You give us.
In Jesus’ name, Amen. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, my paraphrase).