“He’s got the whole word in his hands.”
This familiar tune from childhood rings with a lot of truth, especially today.
Every morning brings another news cycle, and things only seem to be more confusing than ever. Why does there seem to be more conflicts now than in the past? Why are so many people running from war or persecution? Why does the future seem so uncertain at times?
Truthfully, we may never know the answer to these questions, but the gospel story provides hope and reminds us that God does, indeed, have the whole world in His hands.
In His word, God proclaims with a loud voice that He is in control of all the nations of the world and every one of their inhabitants. What’s more, God is not only in control, but He is also working to bring about a grand purpose.
When Jesus delivers His Great Commission to His newly established church, He makes His purpose clear: the making of disciples from every nation (Matthew 28:19-20). God controls the nations, and He has established the church to bear witness to the gospel for the sake of discipling the nations. And the Bible confirms that this mission will be accomplished, which is the hope of the church. God will have for Himself a multitude around His throne that no one can count from every nation of the world (Revelation 7:9).
In uncertain times, God’s sovereign hand over the nations is a comfort and a guide. It reminds the believer that no matter how crazy the news cycle, God is patiently working out His grand plan for human history. He is not reacting to news like we do, God is sovereign over the destinies of mankind. What a comfort for those who know the end of the story!
But it is more than a comfort, it is also a call to action. God not only controls these uncertain days, but He is also using His church in these days for the sake of His mission. Paul’s words in Acts 17:26-27 do more than assert that God determines when and where people live. Paul adds that God controls the nations so that the peoples of the world may know Him. The church is in the disciple-making business, and the growth of the gospel among the nations is the church’s responsibility.
When viewed through this biblical lens, the mass movement of peoples today becomes clear. Global migration is at its highest point in a decade. The most recent data from the United Nations International Organization for Migration claims that approximately 700 million people around the world want to migrate. Of this number, 66 million claim they are making plans to do so, with 23 million having already started the process.
Of course, many of those 23 million may not make it to another country, but millions will. Add this to more than 230 million people already living in a country that is not their birthplace, and it is clear that the world is entering a new era of mobility. The church must remember that God is sovereign over the nations, and He has a purpose.
Policy and practice concerning the movement of peoples is complicated. Questions about immigration rates and governmental response are hard to answer. Furthermore, passions run deep concerning the cultural shifts that are inevitably occurring due to migration. What is clear, however, is that none of this escapes God’s plan and purpose, and that He is active in the process for the sake of His name.
For the church, this must translate into hope and action. Hope stemming from God’s sovereign control and action that burns with love of neighbor. Regardless of the purposes presented by the news media, our new foreign-born neighbors have a reason for landing in the heartland of evangelical Christianity.
May we make much of Christ to our new neighbors, and remember that God has the whole world in His hands.
Editor’s Note: Keelan Cook is a senior church consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, Texas, and is working on a doctorate in missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the International Mission Board (IMB) and doing ethnographic research in Washington, D.C., with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). His focus is urban and diaspora missions.
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