The children of God are rather different from the children of men. We have been reborn by a sovereign God. They have not. We have been redeemed by a sovereign God. They have not. We are being remade by a sovereign God. They are not. Despite these things that distinguish us, that set us apart, there are yet ways where we are very much like those outside the kingdom. We, both inside and outside the kingdom, have drunk deeply of the modernist conceit that we are defined by what we know. Thus, we think the difference between us and them, between sheep and goats, is a matter of knowledge. We are those who have been blessed to have the truth revealed to us. Once those outside the kingdom have the truth revealed to them, we seem to think, they will become just like us.
Jesus, of course, dispelled this nonsense. Indeed, His harshest words while ministering on the earth were directed at the scribes and Pharisees, the most widely read, the most highly educated, the most in the know. What separates us in the end isn’t that we know that Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah. What separates us isn’t that we know He suffered the wrath of the Father in our place on the cross. What separates us isn’t that we know that the third day He rose again. Remember that the Devil himself believes all those things. The difference is that we not only know these truths but trust in them, cling to them, depend upon them.
Now, inside the kingdom of God, among His children, there are still differences. We who are Reformed, or Calvinists, know that we have been reborn from above. Others affirm that they were reborn from within. We know that we have been sovereignly redeemed. Others affirm that they cooperate with God in their salvation. We know that we are being sovereignly sanctified. Others affirm that they determine themselves how, and even if, they will grow in grace. But once again, we who are Reformed make the mistake of thinking that it is what we think that separates us from our less-than-Reformed brothers. We think it is because we know that God is sovereign and that if they will but be so informed, they will join us.
This too is nonsense. Our calling, in the end, isn’t merely to affirm that God is sovereign, but to rest in that sovereignty, to trust in it, to cling to it. Which means, in turn, that we ought not to worry. God’s wisdom literature draws for us a stark contrast between how those within and those without deal with fear. Solomon tells us that “the wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). The difference is not that the wicked don’t know there’s nothing to be afraid of, but the righteous have been informed. Nor is it that the wicked are well aware of the dangers and are afraid, but the righteous overcome those fears. The distinction runs on two difference tracks. The wicked have fear when they need not. The righteous have courage even in the face of danger. A leaf rustles, and those outside quake. Whereas the godly man finds himself in the valley of the shadow of death, and he fears no evil. What sets us apart from them is that they are craven cowards, while we are, at least we’re supposed to be, courageous heroes. The difference is found in actually believing in, trusting in, resting in the sovereignty of God.
How, though, can we move from simply affirming the sovereignty of God to resting in it? We will rest in His sovereignty when we remember not just that He is almighty, but that He who is almighty loves us with an everlasting love. It is because He is with us in that valley of death that we do not fear. It is because He has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies that we can be assured that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. Our fears in the end are grounded in either a failure to believe in His strength or a failure to believe His gospel. The solution is to believe both.
If our consuming zeal is to see the kingdom come in its fullness, if we are about the business of seeking first His kingdom, and if we know that He will indeed bring all things under subjection, what could we possibly have to fear, save the King Himself? This, in the end, is why we are more than conquerors, why we not only have the courage of a lion, but have the courage of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Should we not be of good cheer, knowing that He has already overcome the world? And He has made us His own, just as the psalmist describes in the following (46:8–11):
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.