God’s Hand and Worldly Success (or Failure)
by Ted Cockle
In this great article for The Atlantic, Boyce professor Owen Strachan talks a bit about how God directs our paths through both “primary” and “secondary” causation—and how it relates to Tim Tebow’s crazy season. While it may be what Owen is inferring, I would make this statement clearer: Regardless of how Tebow plays—or God’s intervention in his playing—God’s purpose is never for someone or some team’s worldly success, instead, they for His own glory.
Here’s a great section from the article:
Does he win because God miraculously propels him to victory? Is the “hand of God,” as footballer Diego Maradonna famously called it, directing his passes (or at least his fourth-quarter attempts)?
Yes and no. The Bible says that God oversees everything that happens in this world. He ordains what socks we put on in the morning, how burnt our toast is, what we think about in the day, and everything in between. All things happen “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” as the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 1:11. So does that include Tim Tebow and his playmaking? Yes, it surely does.
But, as you can see, this is saying less than you might initially think. I believe that God is overseeing all of Tebow’s passes, but he’s also overseeing the typing and reading of this paragraph. He’s overseeing the Denver Broncos, but he’s also overseeing the Boston Celtics (much as it may seem otherwise at present), the Museum of Modern Art, and the playtime of your nephew. He’s in control of all things. In this sense, which is called “secondary” causation (God’s oversight of all things), the Lord is directing Tebow’s life.
But is God directly intervening on the football field in the same way that, for example, he did to cause the virgin birth of Luke 2 (in what is called “primary causation”)? That I don’t know. It’s not clear to my human eyes how this all shakes out. I do know that the Lord is working everything out according to his wise and mysterious counsel which, try as we might, we cannot fully understand.
I can say from the Bible that God oversees the lives of his people, of those who trust the death of Christ for their life in heaven, with special concern. According to his Word, God is carrying out a mission of salvation (John 3:16; Rom. 10; Eph. 1). He has a special interest in directing the lives of his people so that in every endeavor, in myriad fields, they bring him glory. That’s why Paul said to Christians, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Life affords countless opportunities to simultaneously speak the gospel and live in a distinctly Christian way and thereby advance the kingdom further.