Who’s in Control?

June 3, 2011

The news of the day can be disturbing — natural disasters, wars, brutality, and human deceit. Our world careens along, and we may wonder: who’s in control?

Early Christians had an answer for that question even when it seemed the forces of the world were against them. They were encouraged by a psalm of David , Psalm 2 (see Acts 4:25). So influential was this psalm that it has 18 allusions or citations in the New Testament.

The first stanza of the psalm speaks of the nation’s conspiracy and rebellion (2:2-3). In the ancient world, kings were often vassals (subordinates) to a greater king. In the ancient near east, when a new king assumed the throne, vassal nations often used the circumstances to revolt. But this revolt is against the sovereign God and his Anointed One (Messiah).

The second stanza (2:4-6) emphasizes God’s power and ends with the line: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6, ESV). The third stanza (2:7-9) affirms the sonship of the Anointed One, the King. We must recall the promise made to David. God speaks of the kings in David’s dynasty and assures David, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 7:14a). Jesus is the Son of God in an even greater sense than the other kings of David’s dynasty. The third stanza affirms the ability of the Son. He will conquer.

The final stanza (2:10-12) makes an appeal and ends with a beatitude. The appeal is to “serve the LORD” and “kiss the Son.” The concluding beatitude is: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him (i.e., the Son).”

This psalm finds its way into a prayer of the early church when faced with persecution. After citing from the first stanza of Psalm 2, they pray:

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:27–30, ESV)

The early Christians took comfort from Psalm 2 that God and his Anointed One are in control despite outward appearances. They knew that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” (see Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10-11). “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”


February 19, 2009

Peter Kreeft tells this story about C.S. Lewis in his book, Christianity for Modern Pagans.

C. S. Lewis was asked by a media interviewer during World War II what he would think if Germans got the atom bomb, dropped one on England, and he saw it falling right on top of him. “If you only had time for one last thought, what would it be?” Lewis replied that he would look up at the bomb, stick out his tongue at it, and say, “Pooh! You’re only a bomb. I’m an immortal soul.”*

Whether a bomb drops on us or not, none of us are getting out of this physical life alive unless Jesus returns first. Our confidence in life cannot be in ourselves, our finances, our health, or anything else rooted in this world alone.

That clearly is the message of scripture. Christians are victorious, but it is because of Christ.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39, ESV

The person who is in Christ cannot be defeated by anything that life throws at him. Defeat can only occur if we give up our faith (see Romans 11:17-24).

The assurance of victory in Christ is incredibly liberating. Life is going to throw “bombs” at us one way or another. Yet, I must confess that my first inclination may not be to stick out my tongue at an atom bomb. Christians may have to combat fear with faith. Why is this so?

Christian living involves faith in God and Christ. The ones in whom we trust are able to deliver us. If I focus on myself, however, my confidence is likely to waver. I’m only too aware that I have flaws and weaknesses. It is at those moments I need to reassure my heart by focusing on God. My boast is in the Lord, not in myself. My confidence is in the Lord, not in myself.

Christian living also involves the testing of our faith. That should lead to endurance. Endurance leads to character, and character leads to hope (see Romans 5:3-5). In other words, as we go through the struggles of life and keep our faith in the process, our faith grows stronger. We grow in our understanding through experience that the one in Christ cannot be defeated.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1, ESV

*Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, p. 56.