Nothing big or small comes to pass outside of God’s will
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” to which our Savior expounds, “And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29 ESV).
Here, Jesus asks his audience a general question about an insignificant species of bird. This particular species weighs no more than a few ounces, has a short lifespan and is usually around four inches long.
Despite their inconsequentiality, our Father cares for these birds. He cares for these little creatures in such a tender and intimate way that not a single one of them dies outside of his will! From this graciously sublime premise, our Lord presses on to speak to his disciples, and thereby, you and me.
He continues teaching in the succeeding verse: “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30). Jesus moves from a general principle of providence and gets personal with us. God not only knows and governs the smallest animal, but he knows and governs you. His knowledge of you extends further than you know yourself. What person objectively knows how many hairs they have atop their head?
Yet, the beauty of this passage does not end there. Jesus asserts in verse 31, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:31). If God values the sparrows, then how much more does he value you?
By telling his followers of the Father’s intimate knowledge and providence, Jesus empowered them to be fearless and preach the Gospel to all nations. The disciples were able to face unspeakable odds and suffering for the Gospel’s sake because they understood God’s hand to be in control. If their Father was not going to allow a mere sparrow to die outside of his will, then he was assuredly not going to allow his disciples to die outside of his will.
What hope lies within this truth for us? What grace does this statement provide us in this season?
The truth is that Jesus’ disciples were going to suffer. Inevitably, they would be forced to tread treacherous waters. As a matter of fact, Jesus warns them that they were to take up their cross and follow him if they desired to be found worthy of him (Matt. 10:38).
This image of someone taking up a cross was a radically vicious image. By simply saying these words Jesus evoked the most vile and ignominious death one could suffer in the Roman world. One in which a criminal was repeatedly flogged, publicly mocked, forced to hang naked for all to see and ultimately killed by asphyxiation and compression of the heart.
This very cross is what you and I are called to carry.
Undoubtedly, this strikes fear into my heart, and it should strike fear into yours as well. Naturally, I do not want to follow Christ. My heart’s fallen inclination is to pursue its own way; to rebuke God and embrace its deleterious desires (Is. 53:6). Yet, having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit according to God’s decree, I am enabled to passionately pursue the commands of my Redeemer.
So, I press on, knowing that though I may face various trials, God’s hand is in control.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is such a profound comfort and solace in coming to the realization that the Father holds the world in his hands, that our Lord has overcome it and the Holy Spirit will empower us to walk through its deepest, darkest valley (Ps. 139:7-12).
In light of what many of us have suffered throughout the past year, I exhort you to take heart, because our Christ has overcome the world. No matter what we may have experienced and endured, the Holy Spirit is beside us right now as our comforter, constantly reminding us of the supremacy of Christ and the providence of the Father.
Paul’s doxology in Romans 11:36 should provide us with serenity as the Holy Spirit prompted him to write, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
All things stem from the Lord. All things occur through Him. All things are dedicated to Him. Therefore, He will be glorified. Whether a sparrow falls from a tree, or you and I die for the Gospel in a foreign land, God will get the glory!
Let us not view any occurrence as insignificant, but as glorious and wonderful. For we know “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Even when His purpose seems like a mystery, our Father knows the outcome. Therefore, we can walk forward in confidence, knowing that God has our best interests in mind.
As we pick up our cross and follow Christ, may we remember that the Lord has written our days in his book (Ps. 139:16). There are no surprises for God. So, whether we prosper or suffer, eat or starve, live or die, let Paul’s inspired assertion echo throughout our souls: “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”