My Times Are in Your Hands — Part Two
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My Times Are in Your Hands — Part Two

Psalm 31:1–24  (ID: 1976)

Providence, teaches Alistair Begg, is the ongoing exercise of God’s power through which He upholds all creatures and administers all that occurs in the world. From this foundational truth, several important implications emerge: our pride is humbled, uncertainty no longer leads us to fear, and adversity need not lead to self-pity, because God is in control. If we wish to know such comfort, we must humble ourselves and rest in the security of God’s sovereignty.

Series Containing This Sermon

My Times Are in Your Hands

A Study in God’s Faithfulness in Affliction Selected Scriptures Series ID: 22301

Sermon Transcript: Print

Can I invite you to take your Bibles and turn to the Thirty-First Psalm—Psalm 31—where our text this morning is, as it was last Sunday morning, in the opening phrase of the fifteenth verse, “My times are in your hands.”

Now, before we turn to the Scriptures, let’s turn to God.

Father, it is in no sense of routine that we pause before your powerful Word to seek your help. We come in our weakness, in our frailty, and in our need. We come to hear your voice.

Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
While we wait on thee;
Hushed our hearts to listen,
In expectancy.[1]


We pick up where we left off last Sunday morning, having dealt with three statements which came under the heading, “My Times Are in Your Hands.” We said that in light of that essential biblical truth, there were three things that were initially true: number one, we are able to declare, “I am not trapped in the grip of some blind force”; number two, “I am not tossed about on an ocean of chance”; and number three, “I am being trained in the school of God’s providence.”

And in addressing the matter of providence, we pointed out that it was by definition the “continued exercise of [God’s] divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all of His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.”[2] And as a result of having said that, we then were going to go on and consider other important elements which emerge from that essential truth. And to these we now come. I have six more to tell you of this morning. Therefore, I need to be about my business.

Prosperity Shouldn’t Lead to Pride

“My times are in your hands.” Therefore, prosperity should not be the occasion of pride. Prosperity should not be the occasion of pride.

The proud man or woman—the arrogant individual—has never come to grips with providence. The person who delights to say, “And so, in all that, I did it my way, I didn’t do it in a shy way,”[3] and so on—the person who likes to turn that up full blast on their stereo, and reflect on the last little period of their lives, and puff out their chest and look in the mirror and congratulate themselves is on the absolute wrong end of a discovery of the doctrine of providence. And Calvin, addressing that very issue, says, “It is an absurd folly that miserable men take it upon themselves to act without God, when they cannot even speak except … he wills!”[4]—that miserable men take it upon themselves to live their lives as if they can go ahead without God, when in actual fact, whether they are prepared to accept it or not, they are unable to even put sentences together without the providential rule of God.

So, if I know, as a farmer, success in my sowing, and I look out on the fields of plenty, if I understand the doctrine of providence, then I will not be quick to congratulate myself on how well I did. I will be thankful for the fact that I was diligent and my workers were also, but I will recognize, as 1 Corinthians 3:[6] says, that while one can plant and another can water, only God can make things grow—Paul referring it to spiritual things in 1 Corinthians 3, but using the principle which is clearly from the physical realm.

In the same way, if, as a businessman, my enterprises have proved successful and I am able to reflect upon a twelve-month period where I have known great encouragement, then I will praise God if I understand providence. The degree to which I congratulate myself and make much of myself and tell others of my prowess and boast of what I have achieved is an indication of the fact that I have not comes to terms with the fact that my times are in his hands—that I haven’t appreciated the words of Deuteronomy 8, which tells us so very clearly that when we find ourselves experiencing wealth, it is the Lord our God who gives us the ability to produce wealth, and in doing so he confirms his covenant with us.[5]

And what if we have known success in interpersonal relationships? What if everything is going particularly well at the moment, and whereas, at an earlier period, we were in conflict with one and with another, and now it seems that even our enemies are getting on with us, and we’re even taking telephone calls from people that were, prior to this, very antagonistic? What are we going to say? Well, if we don’t understand the doctrine of providence, we will say, “You know, I’m really quite a likable fellow after all! I’m glad that these people have suddenly understood it.” Or, “I’m so glad that I did what I did. I’ve certainly won them over.” If we understand that our times are in God’s hands, then we will recognize, as Solomon says in Proverbs 16:7, that “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies [to] live at peace with him”—that he’s the one who gives us favor with people, and even with those who are our enemies.

Moses understood it when he was called to go before Pharaoh. You can read about it in Exodus chapter 3. He thought it was a daunting prospect. And God tells him, he says, “You should understand this: I have my promise given to you that I will bring you up out of the land of Egypt. And unless you’re in any doubt—although you will be the one that is stretching out your hand over the sea—you need a mighty, powerful hand to lead you out, and it will be my hand that leads you out. You have not only my promise in my Word, but you have the power of my presence. And also, you will discover the provision that I am prepared to make for you.”[6] And when you go back to Exodus 3 and read on, you will discover that those things are absolutely fulfilled as a result of God’s goodness. And the people from Egypt go scurrying out—not simply able to lay down the bricks that had previously caused them so much heartache. It would have been one thing if they had just been liberated and left in Egypt. It would have been another thing if they had been liberated and managed to sneak out, as it were. But no, no, they went out with great chunks of the produce of Egypt with them.[7] And they must have been going out saying to one another, “What a radical change in our circumstances! Only a few days ago we were making these horrible bricks, and here we are: look at this blanket, look at this robe, look at this cutlery, look at this wonderful pottery. Isn’t this fantastic! Aren’t we brilliant!”

Prosperity is no occasion for pride, and uncertainty should not be the occasion of panic.

“This is God’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”[8] We can’t even put a step in front of the other one but for his providence. So when we walk out with all this produce, are we going to congratulate ourselves? Oh, I hope not. Because God doesn’t share his glory with anyone else—doesn’t share it with arrogant businesspeople, snobby farmers, stuck-on-themselves pastors, egotistical churches.

Uncertainty Shouldn’t Lead to Panic

The doctrine of providence takes root within our hearts, we begin to say, “My times are in your hand,” then we recognize that prosperity is no occasion for pride. Also, we recognize that uncertainty should not be the occasion of panic. Uncertainty should not be the occasion of panic.

When I travel now, my wife looks after me so well that she tells me to take my pillow. And so I do. I feel a little strange; I try and hide it under a coat or something. But I have my pillow. ’Cause it’s a great pillow! I mean, otherwise, why would you take it? Unless it’s like, you know, like that blanket that kids suck on or something, when they’re small. What do you call that? Yeah, security pillow; yeah, that’s it, security blanket. No, it’s not that. What do you put your head on at night? Well, a pillow. Yeah, but what do you really put your head on at night, when you have one of those thoughts that says, “Maybe I’ll die in my sleep”? What do you put your head on? “Oh, I hope I won’t!” The only thing you can put your head on is the providence of God. Then you go to sleep.

The Puritans said, “Providence is a soft pillow for anxious heads.” And some of us are here this morning, and if we were to look up anxious in the dictionary, there’d be a photograph of us right beside it. In fact, there isn’t enough room to put the faces of all the people who, when you use the word anxious or worrisome or panic, don’t stand up and go, “Oh yes, I understand that.” Most of the occasions of my worrying, most of the occasions of my rising fears—and, yes, I have them—can be traced ultimately to a loss of confidence in the doctrine of providence—can be traced to the fact that I am prepared to say, “My times are in your hands,” but I’m not prepared to live in the light of that truth.

So you lie awake at three o’clock in the morning, and your life is passing before you faster than a weaver’s shuttle.[9] You feel yourself on a locomotive—the one that they have in France that goes through the tunnel. It’s going 148 miles an hour, and you’ve got no confidence that there’s anybody up front. And if they’re up front, you think they’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. And if they have fallen asleep at the wheel, there’s no prospect of them waking up. And even if they woke up, they couldn’t find the brake!

Now, maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just me that reads the newspapers and goes, “I think I’m gonna go crazy. Is this really the land of the brave and the home of the free?” You see the New York Times last week? The section on “This Is Our Nation”—goes down the middle; it’s not the international section, it’s the national section. Now, this is not the Enquirer; this is the New York Times. And the stories that are in there are just the most unbelievably sad stories. Fifty-four-year-old grandfather looking after his two-year-old grandson, decides to take him sledding. Where does he take him? Takes him to “Suicide Hill.” Goes down the hill, and his grandson is killed in between his knees in the first tree that they hit. This is not good news. This crushes my spirit with that blueberry muffin and the large McDonald’s coffee. This starts that runaway train thing for me all over again.

And the kids that get the paintball guns—this is the same column. They start firing them out in the backyard, and start firing paintballs up against a fence of the sixty-four-year-old gentleman who lives next door, who decides that the only way he can settle the issue is to get a—is it a .357 Magnum? Is that what you call the gun? And come out over his back fence and load two of the bullets into the chest of the nineteen-year-old boy. And when the forty-four-year-old father of the nineteen-year-old protests, he gives him two in the chest, and two in the back just to go along with it! I say, “You know, this train is… this thing’s off the rails.”

Do I go further? To the forty-two-year-old man living in a house with a twenty-nine-year-old woman that has a seven-year-old child? The seven-year-old daughter is doing the dishes, but not to the satisfaction of the forty-two-year-old man, who slaps her so hard that she loses bladder control on the kitchen floor, and as a result of seeing that, he beats her into a convulsive pulp. And the twenty-nine-year-old mother takes the seven-year-old and places her in a garbage can in the backyard and sets fire to it!

Now, people write me letters about this. They say, “Why would you say such dreadful things on a Sunday morning? I am trying to cheer myself up!” Well, guess what? So am I! And I want to know how to cheer myself up in light of that stuff! And the only place I can lay my head is that somehow, in the mysterious purposes of almighty God, my times are in his hands. These evil times in which I live have not taken him by surprise. These dark and dreadful days have not overwhelmed me, because I know that he is still at the tiller. The pain of concern for loved ones and our agony over their lives and their hopes and their dreams and their futures and the ends of their days—how do we handle all of this? What do you put your head down on at night?

The psalmist says, “There’s only one place I can go. I can only say, ‘My times are in your hands.’”

Adversity Shouldn’t Lead to Self-Pity

Prosperity mustn’t be the occasion of my pride. Uncertainty mustn’t be the occasion of panic. And thirdly, adversity must not become the occasion of self-pity.

If Joseph had operated beyond the pale of God’s providence; if he had only looked on the tragedy of his life; if he only had looked at everything that he had missed out on in terms of his father’s company, in terms of this journey to a place he didn’t know, into slavery with people he didn’t like, to learn a language that he had never even considered; if he had focused on all of that; if he had used the passage of time and the inroads of adversity to his soul and to his mind as an occasion for self-pity, then when he had the opportunity to greet his brothers, all that would have come out from him was just bile. It just would have been vitriol. It just would have been spite.

But do you remember that wonderful scene in Genesis 45? When the brothers show up, and they don’t realize it’s Joseph, and Joseph finally says to them, “Come close to me.” And when they’d done so, he said, “I[’m] your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!”[10] I always loved that phrase—like, you mean there was another one? That’s the closest he gets to a little dig. “I’m your brother Joseph—you know, the one you sold into Egypt?” But he quickly follows it up. You know, maybe even at that point he was… maybe he was going to take the low road at that point. And he says, “And now, do not be distressed … do[n’t] be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. … God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”[11] In other words, “God knows what he’s doing. My times are in his hands.”

Job, in the experience of the loss of his loved ones, as all manner of chaos and disappointment and pain is about to descend upon him, he acknowledges that. He comes before the events that are there, and he finds himself shaving his head and putting on his robe, which is torn, and he falls to the ground in worship, and he says, you know, “‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I [shall] depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ [And] in all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”[12]

Now, don’t misunderstand that verse. People have used this as a rod to beat themselves with, because in the experience of pain and of loss they have found themselves saying, “Why God? Why is this the case?” That is one thing. The reference here is to the fact that Job did not charge God with sin, because he knew that God is incapable of sin. And if we’d seen him, we would have seen his torn robe, and we would have seen his shaved head, and we would have said, “Job’s in deep trouble.” But if we had drawn close and heard him pray, we would have known that in his tears he was trusting in the providence of God.

When David is subjected to abuse, first from his own son and then from people around him, it’s his confidence in the providence of God that gets him through. One day he’s walking down the street, and a guy called Shimei approaches—a guy “from the same clan as Saul’s family,” the “son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out.”[13] And he began just to curse and abuse David, and furthermore,

he pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones ….

[And] as he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the [house] of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!”

[And] Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”[14]

Anybody able to identify with this so far? There’s a guy cussing you out and throwing stones at you. Now, let’s be honest. How many of us are immediately going to Psalm 31:15? “My times are in his hands. Woah! Ah! Wait a minute! Hang on! Woo! My times are in his hands. Woo, missed it!” No, we’re right here with the big guy: “What a great idea! He is a dead dog. I’d like to cut off his head myself.”

But the king said, “What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah?”

In other words, “I’m not thinking the same way as you chaps.”

“If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”

[Then] David … said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will see my distress … repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.”[15]

But the fact is, it may not. And whether it is for good or for ill, my times are in his hands.

Now, loved ones, you know that in the years that have passed between us and in the time that has gone through even 1997, we have lived with one another through cries of anguish and pools of tears. And we’ve sought to get to grips with this thought, even in the middle of the storm. But the fact is that in the middle of the storm it can sound trite to say these things, although it isn’t. And often it will be time—that the passage of time, the change of circumstances—that allow us to look back over our shoulders and begin, even with the whisper of a child, to recognize that there is no trying or even tragic circumstance but that God has sovereignly permitted it.

You see, logically there is no other choice. You either have to be a deist or a pantheist, or you believe in the providence of God. You either have to say, “I am being buffeted by a blind impersonal force,” or “I am adrift on the sea of chance,” or “There is a providential God who orders the affairs of time.” If the providential God orders all the affairs of time, then by his permissive will he allows things to pass to us through his hands, but they do not take him by surprise.

He’s sovereignly involved in the life cycle of a sparrow,[16] and therefore, he is profoundly involved in the circumstances of those whom he has made the special objects of his love. And therefore, with confidence, even in the face of difficulty, we can be assured that since the fatherly providence of God has permitted these things, he has done so for our good and his glory, and he will sustain us, and he will watch over us in the midst of them, and even if it takes to heaven, he will then make clear to us what now “we see through a glass, darkly.”[17]

God is profoundly involved in the circumstances of those whom he has made the special objects of his love.

I don’t want to in any sense appear to be healing the pain of my people lightly. Time has passed now since Diane Circelli went into the presence of Christ. And in the last two weeks, as I was thinking about these studies for last Lord’s Day and today, I was thinking of Diane and what an illustration she was, to those who knew her best, of a childlike trust in the providential care of God—a bright and attractive youngster who suddenly contracts this very debilitating disease, which literally closes her down in terms of her ability to play the sports that she enjoyed, to engage in the activities which had marked her earlier years. And yet, how, along that pilgrimage of pain, she meets with Christ, she discovers the reality of his presence in her life, the nature of forgiveness, and a joy that passes human understanding. She doesn’t allow the uncertainty of her days—and they were certainly uncertain—to be the occasion of panic. She still, even though her hands were debilitated by her disease, made the meals for her dad, and delighted to do so. She still enjoyed the company of her family, and particularly her nieces and her nephews. She still labored hard to make them gifts and so on.

And she even, on the Fourth of July in 1995, found it in herself to write a letter to her parents in prospect of her passing so that they would know exactly what it was she desired. And I remembered I had the letter, and I remembered there was verse in the letter, and I wanted just to go and look and see what the verse was, because I knew there was a verse, but I just had a sneaking suspicion that it might be right up this avenue. And I was right. This is what she says to her folks: “It’s difficult expressing all that this life and my future eternal life mean to me. This verse expresses a little of my feelings and my gratitude to God for the life, the family, and the friends he has given me.” And then she quotes Job 10:12: “You gave me life and showed … kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.” “And in your providence watched over my spirit.”

I am increasingly convinced that the great issue of our day—with paganism—is the doctrine of God. And there is nowhere that the doctrine of God is seen to challenge the godlessness of our age than in humble, bold affirmations of the doctrine of providence. And the key to her lovely life was her willingness to say, “My times are in your hands.”

A Responsibility to Face

Now, I’ve spent the majority of my time there. I want just to tell you what the other three phrases are. If you’ve stayed with me, what we’ve said is that “my times are in your hands; therefore, I’m not trapped in the grip of a blind force, I’m not tossed about on an ocean of chance, I’m being trained in the school of providence. My times are in your hands; therefore, prosperity should not be the occasion of pride, uncertainty should not be the occasion of panic, and adversity should not become the occasion of self-pity.”

And finally: “My times are in your hands”; one, there is a responsibility to be faced. A responsibility to be faced.

You see, this little phrase of Psalm 31:15 does not relieve us of the need to accept personal responsibility for our lives. If we were to treat it in that way, then we would be fatalists. Although the Lord is overruling all things according to his purpose, you and I are still responsible to him for all that we are and all that we do. Therefore, we must be sensible in our decision-making, we must be righteous in our planning, and we must recognize that while, as the Proverbs say, “a man’s heart devises his way, the Lord directs his steps.”[18] So we make realistic decisions: “I think that I might move to Milwaukee”; we sit down and weigh the circumstances out, and then we make the move. We don’t wait for something to fall from the sky, a package with “Milwaukee” written on it—not if we’re sensible. Nor do we rely on our own insight. But we take the events of our lives, and we lay them out, and we make sensible decisions.

And a man’s heart devises his way. And he looks over his shoulder, and he discovers that the Lord directs his steps. We do look ahead, we do make plans, we do put our affairs in order, but we do so always in submission to his will. Nehemiah faces the challenge of the enemies in the building of the wall, and he recognizes they have to do something—and do something they will. So they post a guard. But at the same time, they pray to God.[19] In 2 Samuel 10, the word of exhortation is, “Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.”[20]

See, all the time I meet people whose reaction to the events of life is to sit down on a big chair somewhere and say, “Well, the Lord will do what is good and right.” “Uh-huh. And what are you going to do?” “Oh, nothing. I’m just going to sit here and wait till he does it.” Not a good plan! On the other hand, you have other people who are totally frantic in their endeavors, trying to take care of everything, fix everything, move everything, do everything, as if somehow or another the destiny of the world depended upon them. And then, every so often, you’ll meet somebody who has grasped the wonder of this truth. And there is about them a fragrance. And there is about them a busied restfulness. And there is about them a restful action. Because they recognize that the providence of God does not remove them from the realm of responsibility.

A Humility to Foster

Secondly—to the end—“My times are in your hands”; therefore, there is a humility to be fostered. It’s the other side of the coin from the prosperity truth. Prosperity shouldn’t yield pride; therefore, providence should yield humility.

When Pharaoh calls Joseph and he says, “I’ve heard that you’re pretty good at interpreting dreams; everybody’s talking about you, everybody’s mentioning your name,” he said, “I had a dream last night, and I’d like you to interpret it,” what does Joseph say? “I can’t, but God can.”[21] Now, who was doing the interpreting of the dreams? Joseph! Why would he say he can’t? Because he can’t. But God can.

Jesus comes to the man with the withered hand. His hand is trapped by his side. He says, “Stretch out your hand.”[22] It’s the one thing the man couldn’t do. And he did! Who stretched it out? Him. Who made it possible? God. So do you think the man went around going, “Hey, hey! Hey, hey! Look at me? Look what I did! Look what I did!” No, everybody he met, he said, “You see that Jesus of Nazareth? You can just see him going around the corner there. He came up to me, and he said what people have been saying to me as a joke for years. Kids have said to me in the street, ‘Hey, old man, stretch out your hand!’ And he said it, and I couldn’t, but I did.” I love that.

David and Goliath. Goliath: big smart guy, big tall guy, big tough guy. David: wee guy, five stones, sling, a lot of shouting, a lot of pre-match warm-up, a lot of rhetoric. The big guy says to David,

“Am I a dog … you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

[And] David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

Listen to this:

“This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and [I will] strike you down and cut off your head. [And] today I will give [your carcass and] the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the [field], and the whole world will know…”

about little David and his sling? No!

“…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.”[23]

See, we want people to know about us and our sling. And nobody knows about us, and frankly, nobody cares about us. If we started getting concerned about people knowing that there is a God in heaven, then they might find out about us, but it’s only because God knows he can trust us enough to be small enough to give him all the glory. Until he gets us there, then we aren’t going anyplace.

Don’t talk about Parkside Church. Talk about Jesus. Don’t talk about buildings. Talk about the building that isn’t made with hands.[24] At every level, our lives are utterly dependent upon God. So instead of drawing attention to ourselves, displaying pride in our power and our achievements, we ought to humbly acknowledge our total trust in God’s providential, upholding rule.

We have a real problem with this. I have a problem with this. I think until we admit this, we’re going nowhere. Until we quit being the generation with the bumper stickers on the back of our minivans that say, “I have an honors student here,” and “I have an honor student there,” and “I have an honor student everywhere,” we’re in difficulty. We really are. Twenty years ago, that was nothing other than pure pride. In an earlier generation, that was nothing other than blowing your own trumpet. We live in a generation of trumpet blowers, drawing attention to ourselves and our achievements. And we can’t even speak but for the providence of God.

A Security to Find

Finally, there is not only a humility to be fostered and a responsibility to be faced, but there is a security to be found. This is the great security in life. Says Calvin, “Ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it.”[25] And if you think it out, it’s true. Instead of living in the fearful expectation of what fate may bring, instead of viewing the world as a tumbleweed blown in the winds of chance, the humble believer fearlessly commits himself to God. And again, Calvin: “His solace … is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it.”[26] Now, that’s not to say that we like everything that befalls. But it is to say that we need not be concerned that we picked something up that we weren’t supposed to get. Here is the security: Dad’s got it under control!

It’s Corrie ten Boom, in that lovely wee book, where she talks about needing a railway ticket to somewhere. She’d never made a journey before; she was going on the train. She wondered what it would be like. Her father said, “Corrie, I’ll take care of it.” She would go to him every day and say, “Did you take care of it?” And he’d say, “Corrie, it’s three months before you make the journey, relax.” And she would go to him and say, “Did you buy the tickets?” And he said, “Yes, I bought the tickets.” And she said, “Can I have the ticket?” He said, “Why would you possibly need the ticket? You don’t go for nine weeks.” And she said, “The more I went and the more I asked and the more I continued against him, I realized that I never trusted my dad. I didn’t believe that he would take care of me. I didn’t believe that if he had the ticket he would keep the ticket and wouldn’t lose the ticket, and I couldn’t be sure that he would give it to me on the day. And I learned in that lesson that God gives you the ticket on the day you make journey.”[27]

Instead of living in the fearful expectation of what fate may bring, instead of viewing the world as a tumbleweed blown in the winds of chance, the humble believer fearlessly commits himself to God.

And as I have observed people going through heartache and difficulty, and to the limited degree that I in my own pilgrimage have faced that in the loss of loved ones and in failure in examinations and in disappointment in relationships and so on, isn’t that the case? God gives the ticket on the day we make the journey! Therefore, we must trust him. And on the day that I make the journey from time to eternity, I presume he’s going to give me the ticket on that day. And if that’s today, then the ticket’s on its way. And if it isn’t, then why lie awake and look at the ceiling wondering if it might be? My times—short or long, rich or poor, sad or happy—are in his hands.

Zechariah 2:8: “He who touches you touches the apple of my eye.”[28] Psalm 55:[22]: “Cast your care upon the Lord, he will nourish you.”[29] Isaiah 49:[15]: “Even though a mother may forget her children, yet I will not forget you.”[30] I’m not at the mercy of arbitrary, impersonal forces. I’m in the hands of my heavenly Father.

And he who employed the words of the same psalm—Psalm 31:5—when Jesus says to his Father, “And into your hands I commend my spirit,”[31] he’s quoting the very psalm we’re looking at here. That same one who used these verses is the one who says to us this morning, to a group like this, “Come to me, all ye who are weary and are heavy ladened. Come to me with all your burdens, and all your fears, and all your panics, and all your anxieties, and all your heartaches, and all your disappointments. I want you to come,” he says, “I want you to come to me. And take my yoke upon you. Live underneath my jurisdiction. Live underneath my hand. Because my yoke is easy, and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.”[32]

Is this not a message for the late twentieth century? I have Self magazine lying on my floor. I’ve read a chunk of it, the December ’97 issue. The whole issue is on spirituality: why Buddhism is hip, why meditation is helpful, and so on. And the devil looks on it and says, “My department has done a wonderful job.” Nobody would ever glean from it that our times are in God’s hands.

The last thing to say is simply this, just in case you were wondering: no, I do not have all my questions answered. In my own life, as I’ve told you before, I would still have liked, if I could write my own chapters, to have had my mother see me graduate, to have had her know that I married this American girl that came over to our house, to have her see my kids, to have her come to Parkside, to have her here for Christmas. And there isn’t a year passes but that I think down the exact same avenue. But that’s just me. Where is sanity? Where is security? “My times are in your hands.” In other words, Father knows best.

[1] E. May Grimes, “The Quiet Hour” (1920). Lyrics lightly altered.

[2] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1938), 166.

[3] Paul Anka, “My Way” (1969). Paraphrased.

[4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1.16.6.

[5] See Deuteronomy 8:18.

[6] Exodus 3:17–20 (paraphrased).

[7] See Exodus 3:21–22.

[8] Psalm 118:23 (paraphrased).

[9] See Job 7:6.

[10] Genesis 45:4 (NIV 1984).

[11] Genesis 45:5, 7 (NIV 1984).

[12] Job 1:21–22 (NIV 1984).

[13] 2 Samuel 16:5 (NIV 1984).

[14] 2 Samuel 16:6–9 (NIV 1984).

[15] 2 Samuel 16:10–12 (NIV 1984).

[16] See Matthew 10:29.

[17] 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV).

[18] Proverbs 16:9 (paraphrased).

[19] See Nehemiah 4:7–9.

[20] 2 Samuel 10:12 (NIV 1984).

[21] Genesis 41:15–16 (paraphrased).

[22] Mark 3:5 (NIV 1984).

[23] 1 Samuel 17:43–46 (NIV 1984).

[24] See Acts 7:48.

[25] Calvin, Institutes, 1.17.11.

[26] Calvin, 1.17.11.

[27] Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth Sherrill and John Sherrill, The Hiding Place (1971), chap. 2. Some details of the story are altered from the original.

[28] Zechariah 2:8 (paraphrased).

[29] Psalm 55:22 (paraphrased).

[30] Isaiah 49:15 (paraphrased).

[31] Luke 23:46 (paraphrased).

[32] Matthew 11:28–30 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.