Sovereign Comfort for Uncertain Times
From John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the times are always uncertain and our lives in this world are far less stable than we realize. More and more, it seems like the only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability. So, in the middle of the current social and medical and economic upheavals that very few of us could have foreseen, what eternal promises root us? We have some amazing promises from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who apparently knew our lives would remain unpredictable until he returns. So, he left us with his closing words in Matthew 28:16–20. We read this:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18 NASB). Now, that’s a very lofty claim for anybody to make. It has been given to him by God the Father. Because he died, he overcame guilt — he overcame condemnation. Because he rose again, he overcame suffering and he overcame death. And since he has triumphed over guilt and condemnation and suffering and death, he has also triumphed over Satan. Because the only way, ultimately, that Satan can damn the people of God is with guilt and condemnation. And the only way he can rough us up is with suffering and with death. And if suffering and death and guilt and condemnation have been conquered by Jesus in his death and in his resurrection, Satan is empty-handed today in his ability to destroy believers.
This is a tremendous thing. Philippians 2:9–11 says,
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This is just another way of saying “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Jesus Has All Authority
So, here’s our King, who’s commissioning us. This lofty claim, “All authority has been bought by me, possessed by me, given to me. I have all authority in the universe” — let’s ponder it for a minute. All authority. Really? All authority.
All authority over Satan and all demons and all angels, good and evil.
Authority over the natural universe: natural objects and laws and forces, like stars and galaxies and planets and meteorites.
Authority over all weather systems: winds and rains and lightning and thunder and hurricanes and tornadoes and monsoons and typhoons and cyclones, and all their effects like tidal waves and floods and fires.
All authority over molecular and atomic reality: atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, subatomic particles, quantum physics, DNA, chromosomal reality.
All plants, all animals. Doesn’t matter what size: whales, redwoods, giant squid, and giant oaks. All fish, all wild beasts, he has authority over.
All invisible animals: bacteria and viruses and parasites and germs of every kind — he has authority over.
He has authority over all the parts and functions of the human body. Every beat of your heart, every movement of the diaphragm, every little jump across a million synapses in your brain — Jesus has all authority over all those physiological phenomena in your body.
He has all authority over nations and governments and congresses and legislatures and kings and premiers and courts.
He has all authority over armies and weapons and bombs and terrorists.
All authority over industry and business and finance and currency.
All authority over entertainment and amusement and leisure and media.
All authority over education and research and science and discovery.
All authority over crime and violence and all families and all neighborhoods.
And he has authority over his body, the church.
And he has authority over every soul in the universe and every moment and every second of every life lived, now or previously or forever and ever, anywhere in the universe.
He has all authority. Jesus has all authority. And that’s why he has a right to say, “Go everywhere.” Matthew 28:18 is the search warrant for breaking into other cultures. Almost nobody in America believes we have a warrant to do this today. This is a massively politically incorrect thing for us to do — namely, world evangelization. But we have a warrant. We have a warrant. You don’t do this kind of thing without a warrant. You don’t go into somebody’s culture or house and say, “Jesus is Lord of this house; Jesus is Lord of this culture,” without a warrant. What’s the warrant? Matthew 28:18 is the warrant: “I have died. I have risen. I have triumphed over all my enemies. I have all authority in heaven. I have all authority on earth. Go.”
He Gives and Takes Away
Jump over verse 19 with me to verse 20 to see not only the lofty claim, but the loving comfort: “And behold, I am with you always [literally, all the days], to the end of the age.” There are three pieces to this. I call them identification, continuation, and duration. That’s the three pieces in verse 20 at the end.
What do I mean by identification? I mean: Would you please, for a moment here, ask the Lord to reveal to your heart what stands in the page, that the One who promises never to leave you and always be with you is the One who has all authority in the universe? Would you please, right now, whisper a prayer in your heart? I’m whispering it right now for you that God would open your eyes to what that means. Lord, just do it. Would you come at this moment and put these two verses together? Lord, you have all authority in the universe, all power, all right, the right and the power to do as you please in every area of life, every culture, every people, every religion — the right and the power to be Lord and King. You have spoken to your people, “I will always be with you to the end.” Friends, do you get it? The One who said, “I will always be with you,” is that One. That’s the identification.
The continuation is found in the word always or all the days. And what I mean by that is not just length of time, but unbroken time. Do you see the point? He doesn’t go on vacation on Mondays. Pastors think he goes on vacation on Mondays, and so they get real depressed and discouraged on Monday morning. “Where’s God?” Well, the answer is this: as close as your skin, because he doesn’t break his word. He does not break his word. I don’t care how blue the day is, Jesus doesn’t lie. “I will always be with you.” Dark, bright, up, down, bad, good, death, life — “I will always be with you.” Hebrews 13:5: “Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
Though he giveth or he taketh,
God his children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them, pure and holy.
Swedes have good theology. “Though he giveth or he taketh, God his children ne’er forsaketh.”
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ.