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God is still in control

By Charles Qualls

A man named Dean lived a quiet, but remarkable life. He lived through the Great Depression, taught school in a one-room schoolhouse by the time he was 16. He briefly played minor league ball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, then flew for the Navy in WWII. During the war, he married the love of his life.

With her, he buried the first of their children. He worked and raised with her two more children. Dean sang at pie suppers, in churches and at community events with his siblings, all of whom he eventually outlived and mourned. Dean’s faith was grounded in a God who held tight to him all the way through.

Dean never forgot the love of a persistent God. The love that stayed with him for his 89 years. He lived out his love as a response to God. He shared it with his family and neighbors, they say. They say he knew God to be faithful, gracious and merciful. Dean’s family would say that Dean knew how to love because he knew God’s fierce, persistent love.

In fact, in his last days a visitor says that Dean could be heard feebly singing, “God will take care of you through every day, o’er all the way; God will take care of you … God will take care of you.”

Well, I have good news for you today in tough times. God is still in the business of calling those who believe and who respond to God’s love. That’s pretty important if you’re curious as to whether God will let you go. That’s pretty important if life sometimes makes you wonder where God is, or whether your faithfulness really matters. It’s also important if you’re afraid that you can lose God’s love.

Here in Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32, the apostle Paul is talking about his heritage and he’s talking to Christians. He’s reached a conclusion: “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (v29b). Maybe you thought you had missed what God wanted you to do, and so now it won’t get done. But you’re not that powerful. Perhaps you thought that some cultural shift, some movement in our country or even the move of people away from God, will thwart what God’s trying to do in our world. But I’m here to tell you we’re not that powerful. You think you’ve got it figured out who’s in and who’s out, but the apostle Paul indicates that maybe you don’t have everything quite as buttoned-up as you thought.

My disclaimer I gave to our congregation last week still holds: Paul’s assertion both teaches us (or reassures us), but also raises questions that I can’t completely answer. Nor will you, this side of Heaven.

Here is what was important for them then, and for us now. God is still at work in Creation. God is still redeeming humanity, bringing about Heaven on Earth as it was supposed to be. Somebody is going to want to argue with me about this. I would point out to you that your argument is with the apostle Paul and Romans chapter 11. Paul assures them (and us thousands of years later) that God’s promises are still good. That even if the chosen people have rejected Christ, God will not reject them.

He asserts that if God has called them, they are still called. If God has loved you, Paul seems to be saying you are still loved. If God has included you in where God is headed, you are still invited to walk alongside God.

That becomes important when you grow to a point that you believe you are beyond God’s repair. Or, when you believe that you have lived yourself right out of the scope of God’s reach. It becomes important when you believe you have neglected your faith or your church. Or when you wake up one day and realize that you have been asleep at the wheel of your faith.

Paul says that God has not been asleep. He submits that God is still in control. God is still calling those whom God has ever called, and loving those whom God has ever loved. I think that’s pretty good news, especially in tough times.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.