One evening in late October 1962, students at Hertford College, Oxford, were coming down the college stairs after dinner when one of them gripped my shoulders and looking terrified, cried out, ‘I am going to die, I am going to die!’ It was at the height of the Cuban crisis when America and Russia had a critical stand-off over missile bases in Cuba, and we were all uncertain of the outcome. My fellow student believed that within hours we would be obliterated in a nuclear holocaust.
That same evening two Christians met in the street in Harrow, north-west London. One said to the other, ‘I am frightened of dying tonight.’ The other believer simply replied, ‘The Lord God omnipotent reigns.’
In the event, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, backed down from launching Russian missiles and the world breathed a sigh of relief.
The Lord God omnipotent reigns
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is one that has been an immense help and comfort to the Lord’s people down the centuries. There is nothing theoretical about it. God, himself, is in charge of his creation. He rules over the affairs of men. He guides history. He controls our destiny. He cares for his children. What a glorious truth this is!
One Tuesday morning in September 1970, my mother phoned me to say that my father was critically ill after a severe brain haemorrhage. His life was in the balance. With my wife Pam, and our three children, I left London and drove to Neath, where my parents lived. My father (affectionately known by his initials ‘I B’) was deeply unconscious in their front bedroom. The previous Saturday evening at our church anniversary in Kenton Evangelical Church, Harrow, Anthony Williams, with his glorious baritone voice, had sung the hymn, ‘The Lord is King.’ For two nights I sat with my father not knowing whether he would live or die. The words of the hymn and Anthony’s voice rang through my mind.
The Lord is King, who then shall dare
Resist His will, distrust His care,
Or murmur at His wise decrees
Or doubt His royal promises.
We knew that whatever the outcome we were in the hands of our sovereign Protector, as was my father. The comfort was palpable and real.
My father survived the stroke but was unable to resume his ministry. After a second stroke some months later he could neither speak clearly nor walk. But God was his refuge and strength. God gave my mother the daily help she needed to care for my father until his death in 1976, and the Lord became yet more real and precious to us all.
The sovereign God of providence is the sovereign God of grace. We know that ‘all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.’ We know that ‘in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’ How do we know? Because, ‘He who did not spare His only Son but gave Him up for us all,’ has also promised, ‘with Him freely to give us all things’.
The Lord is King. He is good. He is gracious. And we know this because of Calvary.