He’s STILL Got the Whole World in His Hands

Week 1

Open with child singing He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Did you ever sing that song as a child? I did.

In our childlike faith it was easy to believe that God had everything under control. But as we get older, and as we find out more about what’s happening in the world, and as the news of what’s happening in our world keeps getting worse, perhaps you find yourself wondering at times, does He?

Does God really have the whole world in His hands, even in places like Russia, Ukraine, Uganda? Even here in America? With all the chaos and confusion that is going on in our world today, do you ever wonder if God’s still got the whole world in His hands? Is God still in control?

Jesus had gathered His disciples to celebrate one more Passover meal together. This compelling night took place near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Passover meal was to remind the Jewish people where they had come from. For 400 years, they had been held in captivity. All they had known was slavery.

On their final night in Egypt, the night of the first Passover, the Hebrew people had their final meal in Egypt. The next morning, they walked out of Egypt. They had prayed for deliverance for four centuries, but their prayers had gone unanswered. But they kept believing, they kept praying, and God finally sent them a deliverer.

Many of you know the story. The deliverer’s name was Moses. The Lord had given Moses detailed instructions for their exodus. He explained that an angel of death would pass over the land of Egypt. The first born of both people and animals would be killed as a sign of God’s judgment.

For the angel of death to Passover their home, the Israelites were to slaughter a young lamb that was to be used in the Passover feast. They were to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they would eat the Passover meal.

That night the angel of death would pass over the land of Egypt and the next morning, the Pharaoh released all the Israelites following 430 years of Egyptian captivity. The next day, the Israelites gathered their families, all their belongings, and they set out for a land that would be known to them as the Promised Land.

Now 1,400 years after that event, Jesus has gathered his disciples to observe the Passover Meal together. They had done this before, but this time was different.
In the past, it almost felt like Jesus was a star. He was gaining celebrity status.
Jesus was becoming a cultural icon. Thousands were gathering to hear Him speak.

The disciples surely felt like the momentum was going in their direction.
Jesus’ popularity had continued to grow. The crowds kept getting bigger. Everyone was talking about the incredible miracles Jesus had performed. But this time, as they gathered in the upper room for the Last Supper, things were definitely different, and everybody knew it.

This would be the last time the Jesus would share Passover with His disciples. The momentum had already shifted. There were rumors that there a group of people were trying to arrest Jesus. They wanted to isolate him from the crowd. If they could get Him alone, they could arrest without much fanfare or resistance. He was being accused of all kinds of things. The disciples knew that if Jesus went down, they would all go down with Him.

Jesus was talking about His death, but they didn’t want to hear it. Their line of thinking was a lot like us. Many tend to believe that if God is with you, and if God is for you, and if God is at work, and you are doing His will, then things will continue to get better. Because wherever God shows up, things are supposed to get better, not worse. Right? But things weren’t getting better. In fact, things were not going well at all.

Jesus had already warned them about what it would be like to go back to Jerusalem. They tried to talk him out of going, but it was almost like He had a death wish. So here they are, meeting in this secluded place – just Jesus and His disciples. “As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.’” – Mark 14:18 (NLT)

The news is getting worse. They were saddened and disappointed by this news.
One by one they began asking Jesus, “Am I the one?” Jesus replied…“It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me.” – Mark 14:20 (NLT) He goes on to tell them…“The Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” – Mark 14:21 (NLT)

The Bible is full of stories that take place in moments of extraordinary uncertainty.
But today, it seems like our world is facing uncertainty like we’ve never experienced before. I am convinced that in times of uncertainty, there is no better place to look for confidence than to the unchanging Word of God.

The Bible provides an ANCHOR when the storms of life roll in.

The Word of God is not a book about ease, comfort, and pleasure. The Bible isn’t a book about how things went great on Monday, and even better on Tuesday, then you got a job on Wednesday, and a raise on Thursday, and a bonus on Friday. Those wrinkle free life, happily ever after stories where there is no sickness, sadness, heartache, or pain, are not in there.

The narratives that bring us hope from the Word of God are the stories of people, just like us, who discovered that in times of uncertainty, HOPE and CERTAINTY are found in our God who is capable, trustworthy, and in control. In so many of these stories, even when it seemed like God was absent, He was always there.

If ever there was a time to pick up your Bible and read it, that time is now. There are so many incredible stories of faith, hope, and confidence, even in the middle of such uncertain times. Stories of Old Testament heroes like Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, David, and Elijah to name just a few.

One story that most of us heard growing up was about a mother who had a baby boy. She knew that Pharaoh had decided to murder all the Hebrew baby boys as a way of restricting the growth of the Israelite population.
So, over the threat of the crocodiles, and the plans of the Egyptian butchers, this Hebrew mother wrapped her newborn son in a blanket, and she placed him in a basket that she floated down the Nile River.

If you know the story, you will recall that God was there in the face of uncertainty. That little baby boy was found by the daughter of Pharaoh. She named him Moses, and she raised him as her own. This Hebrew boy would grow up in the heart of the Egyptian culture, and go on to become the deliverer of the nation of Israel.

Moses’ mother didn’t know how the story would end when she sat that basket in the river. She must have been wondering where the Lord was in the middle of these horrific circumstances. But God had a plan! He always does.

The story of Moses foreshadows the birth of another baby deliverer. Mary and Joseph had discovered that King Herod had ordered that all baby boys under the age of two were to be killed. In his jealousy, the King was determined to exterminate the potential of a future threat to his kingdom. Herod sent his butchers to Bethlehem and the surrounding area, where an entire generation of Jewish baby boys were wiped out. Well, almost. There was one they missed.

You might recall that Mary and Joseph had escaped with their baby boy. Of all places, they wound up back in Egypt with an infant named Jesus, who would become the Deliverer of the entire world.

As you read these stories, you’ll discover that God has always been right there in the middle of all the chaos that was taking place. Even when it seemed impossible, and even when circumstances were so uncertain, somehow, He still had the whole world in His hands. Every time it seemed like things were spinning out of control, and all the momentum was going in the wrong direction, and the bad guys looked like they were going to win, and all God’s activity had ceased, you discover that in midst all the turmoil, and all chaos, there’s God who was, and who is still in control. Nothing has changed.

God has ALWAYS held the whole world in His hands.

Back to the upper room…“As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.” – Mark 14:22 (NLT) The disciples had been eating the Passover meal since they were children. It is about to take on an entirely new meaning for them. Jesus is preparing them for an event that will take place in just a few hours. He will be nailed to a cross and where He will die for their sins, and the sins of the world, right before their very eyes.

“And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.” – Mark 14:23-24 (NLT)

Then they left that room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, and where He would be arrested. There was so much drama that night. It must have felt like things were spiraling out of control for the disciples. This is not what they were hoping for, even though it was exactly what Jesus had told them would happen. He was not caught by surprise. He never is.

Jesus had told them…“All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” – Mark 14:27 (NLT) He was quoting prophecy from the book of Zechariah. I don’t think they heard this next part…“But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” – Mark 14:28 (NIV)

Peter is following along, and it is no surprise, he has had enough! He has heard enough negative, enough bad news, enough about death, enough about arrests, enough about betrayal. He is thinking there is no way we are going to allow this to happen. If God is with you, and if you are the Son of God, this isn’t how the story goes.

So, Peter made this bold declaration…“Even if all fall away, I will not.” – Mark 14:29 (NIV) Even if everybody else abandons Jesus, Peter pledges he will not. He will still be there. I’m not going to fall away, Jesus. I’ll stick with you to the end. You can count on me. But that very same night, that very same man who made this bold declaration, would deny even knowing Jesus. It was just as Jesus had said.

Now, here is my question for you. As we continue to experience extraordinary uncertainty personally, in our families, with our jobs, with our children, in our culture, with the economy, the leadership in our government, and with all the tension that is unfolding around the world…

Can you trust God completely?

Can you continue to embrace faith in a personal Heavenly Father even when you can’t see any immediate evidence of His activity in your life or in the world around you? Your answer to that question will determine your response to the continual and continuing uncertainty in our world right now. Your answer to that question will determine your response to the uncertainty in your personal life, and in your family, and at your work.

Sometimes I think we tend to equate God with prosperity, and forward motion, and why shouldn’t we, we’ve been so incredibly blessed. Can you imagine going to the disciples as they gathered around the table with Jesus in the upper room that night, and asking them about the darkest moment they had faced as a follower of Jesus?

What do you think they would say? When did their hope seem like it was fading away? Did they ever wonder if they had made a mistake by following Jesus? I think they might say, their concern began to grow as they gathered around the table that night and Jesus told them what was ahead. He explained that one of them would betray Him. Another would deny Him, and all would fall away.

Imagine what it was like for them to watch as He was arrested, tried, and crucified.
And then they watched Him die. Those had to be the darkest most difficult hours for them. Apparently, they had wasted their time. Obviously, God wasn’t up to anything new.

Then, if we were to ask, when you were with Jesus, when do you think God was doing His greatest work? Would they say it was when He was healing a blind man, or preaching to the masses, or was it when He multiplied the loaves and fish? Maybe it was standing outside the tomb of Lazarus calling a dead man to come forth?

When was God doing His greatest work? It was in the darkest hours at the cross, when it seemed like God was absent or missing, that is when He was doing His greatest work. In those darkest hours, when it seemed God was inactive, He was the most active because it was in those darkest hours that the epicenter of God’s saving work was being accomplished.

If we had asked the disciples what they were thinking in those moments, I think they might have said…“We thought it was game over. We wondered if we had wasted our time.” And yet God was so powerfully, and so profoundly at work and we didn’t see it.

Do you understand that God is able to use broken things, and disappointing things, and discouraging things to do His most amazing work? Sometimes God seems to wait for the last minute to do His most amazing work. And there is no question about it…God has proven Himself again and again.

God is more than able to bring GREAT things from big MESSES.

It seems like the most amazing works of God generally are launched in times of brokenness, and in periods of darkness when it seems like He is nowhere to be found. That is what God does. But the question for you and the question for me is this: Can I maintain my faith in God, even when I can’t see His hand at work?

That is a question we should all consider carefully today. I wonder – has your faith in God waivered at all in the past 2-3 years? Have circumstances caused you to doubt or question Him at all? I want to remind you that the story of our salvation was birthed at a time of extraordinary darkness, turmoil, and uncertainty, maybe like we are facing in the world right now. We can embrace uncertainty with the certainty of knowing that God is still in control.

Even though life may feel UNCERTAIN at times, God is still CERTAIN.

Although life is uncertain and family is uncertain and the economy is uncertain, and even the world can seem to be so uncertain. God is not uncertain. He’s still got the whole world in His hands. There is how you can have peace even in the midst of this storm.

Our confidence is in a God who keeps His promises. In Roman 8:28 Paul tells us…“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (NIV) Do you think the disciples would echo these same sentiments after seeing what God was up to in all the uncertainty that they faced the night of Jesus’ arrest?

How about Moses’ mother? Do you think she would agree that God was at work in ways she could not see? Sometimes it takes a while. On the faith journey, you typically can’t see the end from the beginning. We may not see the final outcome in our lifetime, but God is at work, even in the darkness, and even in the uncertainty that sometimes surrounds us.

Even when life seems uncertain, God is not, and He’s still got the whole world in His hands. And if you are a believer, He has your life, and your family, and your world in His hands too. He still has your education, and that relationship, and your work, and your personal finances, and all the things that tend to worry you, they are all in His hands as well.

I want to remind you that our God is at work, He is active, He is present, and He is working together for the good of those who love Him in all things. None of us know what the future holds. I don’t know what the future holds for you, for me, for our families, for our nation, or for our world. But I have absolute confidence in the One who holds the future.

Regardless of what we see or don’t see, we have the opportunity to embrace a faithful God, who through circumstances that are difficult, or situations that may seem impossible, we believe He is still at work, and we are confident that He is still in control. I want to encourage you to make a commitment to embrace our faithful God regardless of what is going on in the world around you or how you feel about it.

Even when my situation seems HELPLESS, God is still at work! Even though my circumstances feel HOPELESS, I can be confident that God is still in control. He is still on His throne, and He can be trusted.

The condition of the world may seem uncertain (our nation, our economy, our family, or finances, our future, you name it – fill in the blank…) but God is not. Even in the darkness, we can still choose to remember what we have learned about God in the light. He is at work in ways we cannot see. He is faithful! He can be trusted. And that is why we can be confident – He’s still got the whole world in His hands.