Episode 8: The Perfect Providence of the Almighty

Peace to Live By Episode 8: The Perfect Providence of the Almighty - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       As many of you know, I am a student of NASA history. It is one of my hobbies, as I really enjoy the history behind America's space program. This morning, I want to talk about one of the shuttle missions that occurred. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that the United States is not currently launching any vehicles into space. I think of the previous programs from NASA, the space shuttle, in my mind, was the most interesting. And probably this is because I grew up in the shuttle era. For those who have seen it, you know that the space shuttle on a launch pad is really a beautiful site to see. For this of us who've been to the pads, you will realize that they aren't as big as they look on TV, nor is a shuttle on the pad as big as it's looks.

       Now, on the morning of Monday, January 27, 1986, the second space-worthy Shuttle to be built—Challenger—sat on it's launch pad waiting for flight, which was launch pad 39-B. Hours before the shuttle would be launched, seven astronauts, including high school teacher from New Hampshire, Christa McAuliffe, boarded the vehicle. As many of you know, Mrs. McAuliffe was picked as part of the teacher in space program for NASA at the time. The astronauts would wait for several hours to be launched into space. The shuttle mission STS-51L had already been rescheduled twice, and scrubbed twice, and the crew was hopeful to get up into space on this Monday morning.

       However, after closing the hatch on the shuttle, there was a bolt that was giving some of the pad workers a problem. A handle that was supposed to come off the Shuttle was still attached to it, and the workers couldn't get it off because of a bolt that wouldn't come lose. A drill was driven out to the launch pad, but the battery died before getting the job done. So, the workers sawed off the bolt. But, by this time, winds had kicked up at the landing site and weather was not favorable to land the shuttle in an emergency after launch. So, the mission was scrubbed for a third time.

       So, we come to the morning of Tuesday January 28th, 1986. The crew again boarded the shuttle, in hopes of launching. However, again, there was a delay. This time the delay was due to a problem with one of the Shuttle components. So, the astronauts waited some more. The problem was resolved, and Space Shuttle Challenger was cleared for launch. This morning, though, wasn't a picturesque morning. The temperatures had dropped into the lower 20s, which for that area in Florida, would be an unusual event. Nevertheless, the mission was cleared from launch, and the astronauts were undoubtedly excited as they anticipated the flight into space. Only this morning, instead of the flight lasting the typical 8 minutes, 30 seconds into orbit, which was the norm for an ascent for a space shuttle, this Shuttle's flight would only last half that, at about 4 minutes. Just over a minute would be successful flight, followed by 3 minutes of free-falling back to the earth.

       At the moment of launch, all looked good as Challenger made its way into the sky. But on that day, on this morning, there was a problem. As with the launch of any space shuttle, there are two rockets and an external fuel tank that go with it, at least in ascent for a while. On the right rocket, one of the seals that blocked hazard gas from leaking became non-responsive. After about a minute in flight, there was an explosion. Space Shuttle Challenger was knocked out of its aerodynamic plane. It is like a car hitting a cement wall, where in this case the Shuttle hit a wall of air that it was riding next to. The shuttle broke apart into pieces, crew cabin still completely intact, and all fell toward the ocean.

       So, what I want to get at in reviewing this piece of NASA history is where was God when Challenger broke apart? Couldn't God have prevented it? Was this circumstance just a failure on the part of humans in that they just made a bad decision, or series of bad decisions, which led to the disaster? I want to answer these types of questions today, as we consider the providence of God.

       First, let's obtain a definition. This is what God's providence means: God keeps the earth, the sky, and the universe in order, causing it to continue along as he created it. God guides the affairs of men and women in such ways that his purposes are accomplished. God has say in all the details, as he rules everything. When God wants to, he can decide to interrupt the creation's or people's general, predisposed processes, and thereby accomplish his own purposes. People, through a will contrary to God, can never cause God's will not to be accomplished, though they may not follow his will for their own lives. God is never surprised by anything that happens in our world.

       Let's consider a key text in understanding what is behind the providence of God. If you would, turn with me to 1 Samuel chapter 2, and we're going to look at verses 6 and 7. This is a prayer from Hannah, who was Saul's mother, the future king of Israel. I will be using both the New Century Version and English Standard Version of the Bible today. Please obtain a transcript for references. We'll start with the NCV:

"“The Lord sends death, and he brings to life. He sends people to the grave, and he raises them to life again. The Lord makes some people poor, and others he makes rich. He makes some people humble, and others he makes great. The Lord raises the poor up from the dust, and he lifts the needy from the ashes. He lets the poor sit with princes and receive a throne of honor. “The foundations of the earth belong to the Lord, and the Lord set the world upon them. He protects those who are loyal to him, but evil people will be silenced in darkness. Power is not the key to success."

Many people in our world today do indeed believe that with power comes greater success in life. But that's a trap. Humble and poorer people can be happier and more successful than those who are rich. Being in right relationship to God, it is the state of one's mind, to use some psychology, that ultimately matters. Your perspective of the world, your worldview, is what can make you happy or sad. The only worldview that truly fulfills life to its fullest extent is one that is included in a right relationship with God.

       But, as we just read from Hannah's prayer, we can note that God is indeed in control of everything. He is the one who decides people's place in life. He is the one that decides when a person is born, and when a person dies. Job 14:5 notes that, “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,” (ESV). Therefore, how a person dies, really, in the end, is a facade. That is, since God has already appointed how many days, we, as people, will live, then how we die really doesn't matter. We die when God has appointed it for us to die. But what about when groups of people die at the same time? Well, God has orchestrated the details so that those people, whom he had appointed to die at the time, will indeed be together. In other words, if those people were somehow apart at that time, they still would have died independently at that time.

       But what about people who are born different? Does that prove that God is not in control? If you'll remember, in Exodus chapter 4, God had appeared to Moses in a bush that was on fire, but wasn't burning. Anyway, God was telling Moses that he was appointed to be God's leader for the Israelites, and he was telling him what he was to do. Let's look at a section of text from Exodus 4:10-11. We read: “But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (ESV). Therefore, God is the one who makes people the way they are, disability and all. But doesn't that make God evil? Isn't that wrong? Remember, we look at these things as disabilities, from our own human perspective. In reality, however, all people are equally important, but may not be created equal. God doesn't have to give life to anyone, and he is not wrong in how he decides to create a person, even though we, as humans, may see the difference as a detriment.

       You may be puzzled at this point, and say, “I caught you now. I know you're not right. Why did Jesus heal if God is right in creating people in these ways?” Remember the verse, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV). Because, we, as humans, have the inner sin nature, that deficit causes people to have problems and sicknesses. In other words, if this world did not contain sin, there would never be any deformities or sicknesses.

       Now you may be wondering about all this, in God's providence, of of why bad things happen in the world. There are two points I want to make about this topic. Number one, Is God responsible for everything that happens in the world? And Number two, Is God evil because he allows bad things to happen? First, it is true that God, in the end, God is responsible for everything that happens because, after all, he is God. Let's take a look at Isaiah 45:5-7. It says:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (ESV)

So, here we learn that God creates “well-being” and “calamity.” God is the one who is responsible for prosperous times, and unprosperous ones. King Solomon would put it this way:

“Look at what God has done: No one can straighten what he has bent. When life is good, enjoy it. But when life is hard, remember: God gives good times and hard times, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, NCV)

This is one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament because it shows that we, as Christians, ultimately have nothing to worry about. It tells us that God gives us times in our life in which things are going good. And it also tells us that God gives us bad times, and these times are for are ultimate good. There is always hope no matter what the time or situation may be.

       Now is God therefore evil because he allows so called 'bad' things to happen? First, remember that this is God's creation. He can do whatever he wants to do. Turn with me to Romans chapter 9. We are going to consider verses 14 through 24:

“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

“You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (ESV)

So, God in the end is always right, and he, in his providence, is the ultimate decider and ruler of all. Jesus said in order for a person to come to know God, that God himself has to draw that person to himself. Sometimes God will use non-Christians to display his power for everyone to see, like he did with Pharaoh in Egypt.

       Sometimes you will hear the question, “Why do bad things happen to 'good' people?” Or, someone, in referring to a tragic event, will say, “those poor innocent people.” In discussing why bad things happen to 'good' people, when we come to the Bible, we learn that all people are not 'good' in God's eyes. I mentioned just a short while ago Romans 3:23, which again says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV). So, in God's eyes, taking God's perspective, people are only right before him when they have a payment for their sins. They are only right before him when they are in right relationship with him. God told Adam in the day that he ate the fruit off the tree that was forbidden, that if he did it, he would die. Therefore, God says that anyone who sins against him ultimately deserves to die. That is why it is so important to be in right relationship with him, through Jesus Christ.

       In conclusion today, going back to what I talked about earlier with Space Shuttle Challenger, I think many wonder at what happened to the crew after the shuttle broke apart. One has to wonder what was going through the minds of the astronauts as they fell back toward the earth, toward the water, head on. Some say they were unconscious due to the altitude, but why would they have been? It doesn’t appear the crew cabin was punctured. We know that God is in control, and God never guarantees us, as humans, another moment in time. God is the one who decides our fate.

       Today as we have looked at the fact that God really is in control, perhaps you have believed what I've been talking about. Perhaps you really believe that God really is God, and that he is the one with the power over all things. Well, no matter who you are, God wants you today to come into a personal relationship with him. He wants you to believe that he really is God, and accept his provided payment for your sins, so that you can come into personal relationship with him. God doesn't want to have to send anyone to hell, but in his righteousness and justice he must do so for people who will not accept Jesus.

       You see, Jesus came to the earth as a human and died on a cross to provide the ultimate sacrifice for sins that God's righteousness requires. Since we as humans have all sinned against God, he have to be made right with him to be approved by him. Jesus makes this possible. You can have a personal relationship with God today through Jesus Christ. God will guarantee that you will escape any of his wrath to come, which includes hell, and that you will always be at peace with him.

       If you would like to believe in Jesus today for the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life, then follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I have sinned against you in my life. I have not lived following what you want, but I have done what I have wanted. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead so that I might have a new life with you. I give my life over to you so you will give me your peace and accept me. Please give me a new life, and make me pleasing to you, like Jesus. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

       Let's pray:

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the opportunity today to learn about your providence, the fact that you are in control at all times and that you control all the elements around us. Father, we do not have to fear death but realize that our death dates have already been decided by your perfect plan. Help us, Father, as Christians to be pleasing to you, and if our time comes we will not be ashamed before you because we were not ready. I pray for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior today, that you will build that person up in the newfound faith that they have in you and that you will teach them your truth, so that they might be at peace in their own minds, and more pleasing to you. Father, please bless us as we go about the rest of this day. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton

Scriptures quoted (NCV) are from The Youth Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Daniel with Atlantis
Daniel with Space Shuttle Atlantis on November 5, 2013 at Kennedy Space Center, FL.