People always want to know why things go bad. Most people are perfectly content to take credit or ignore cause-and-effect when things go well. But when times are difficult or things go awry, they often ask ‘why me?’ Or If God is a good and powerful god, how could He do this, or how could He allow this to happen? Sometimes good things happen to bad people. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes good things happen to good people. Sometimes bad thing happen to bad people. Get the pattern there? We do not always know why things happen. But one thing we do know, God is in control. Isaiah 14:24 tells us, “The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand.’ ”
In fact, that is the topic of today’s message: God is in control. God does what He desires. The text is Jeremiah 18:1-10:
1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. 4 But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 6 “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. 7 “At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; 8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. 9 “Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; 10 if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.
We can learn a lot about God in this passage. Notice verse one: “the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD.” GOD SPOKE TO JEREMIAH. It may be that this was something Jeremiah head in his head, or maybe it was a feeling or a leading in his heart, but it was GOD’s word and it came to Jeremiah. No matter what you might want to think about HOW God’s word came to Jeremiah, God spoke to Jeremiah. God may or may not choose to speak to you on any given day or in any given situation, but one thing is certain: in one way or another, God speaks to people.
Another thing we can learn from this passage is seen in verses 3 and 4: “So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” The potter works the clay. The potter shapes the clay, and then if it does not do as he wants, he shapes it into something else that seems good to him. Just as the potter is sovereign over his clay, God is sovereign over his creation. God shapes and works with his creation. God interacts with His creation. God works His creation with intent. God, as the creator, is free to shape it anyway He desires. God is in control. God determines how and what He wants us to do. Indeed, that is what He tells us in verse six, ‘“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”’ If God can do that with Israel, He can certainly do it with you and me. This is what we need to remember: God is in control. Oh, we have our free will. We have responsibility for our choices. We can decide what we want to do and how we shall act. We can choose to obey or disobey God. But in the end, God is still in control.
Have you ever known someone to turn their lives around? Ever known a bum or an alcoholic or a group of people, like say a nation, turn around from how they were moving? God says in verses 7-8, “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.” What do we learn from this? Three things come to mind. The first is that God is righteous. God will not tolerate evil for long (by HIS standards). Sooner or later, disobedience and evil will be dealt with. The second thing to notice is that God warns people of when He will deal with them. Sometimes we may not see it or recognize it for what it is, but God does gives warning. The third thing is that God is gracious and relents if we change. Its not that God changes, but that He is being consistent with His character. God is holy, righteous and loving and gracious in mercy. When He gives warning of what is to come and we change, He remains consistent with who He is by relenting from bringing about disaster when we change from being disobedient.
But just as God remains true to His character when He relents from bringing disaster to those who change for the better, so does He remain true to His character when He punishes evil for those who change for the worse. We see in verses 9-10, “And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” When someone was moving or acting in the way God desires and then changes to act in disobedience to God, God will deal with that person. This is true whether we speak of an individual or a nation. God again remains true to His character. He will be consistent with Himself.
But while God is always consistent with His own character, don’t think that all things happen to us because of how we act – because that’s just not so. Things sometimes happen so God’s glory can been seen. John 9:1-3 reads, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’”
And while sometimes things happen so God’s glory can be seen, sometimes things happen to help us grow, mature. As Hebrews 12:10 states, “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” God wants us to be like Him and when we are not, He acts to help us grow to become like Him. Discipline is intended to help us grow to become Holy like Him.
But regardless of why things occur, we need to keep in mind that God loves us. As John 3:16 states, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God love us. But He even so, He is in control.
Indeed, Romans 8:28 reads, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.“ Note that GOD causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to HIS purpose. GOD does it. God is in control – not you, and not me. We have freedom to choose how we will act. But that does not change the fact that God remains in control. As I stated earlier, God will remain consistent with His own character. If God warns us of upcoming disaster and we change, HE too can choose to not punish us. And if God tells us of a blessing to come and we change for the worse, HE can choose to punish us instead. And this is not God changing, but Him remaining true to His character.
You have a choice to make, daily. You can choose to be faithful and obedient to God. Or you can choose to be disobedient to God. Either way, there will be consequences. Which do you choose? Do you choose to obey God or to obey your own desires? If you are headed to hell or if you think you will get into heaven because you are a good person or you do good things or your parents are saved or you go to church, then I implore you to CHANGE! We can never do well enough for God to let us into heaven. You need to trust GOD for your salvation, instead of your own actions or status or that of someone else. Each of us needs to repent and turn to God (trust in what Christ did for our salvation) and then live like it. Paul himself said in Acts 26:20, “they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” What is your choice?