Review: Big God
The title of Orlando Saer’s book really summarizes his goal in writing: “Big God: How to approach SUFFERING, spread the GOSPEL, make DECISIONS and PRAY in the light of a God who really is in the DRIVING SEAT of the world.”
Pastor Saer wants the reader to finish the book excited to believe that, “God is in control of absolutely everything.” But while this sentence can bring some people great comfort and hope, for others it can also bring great confusion. Many can’t stomach the idea of God being completely in control of the universe because of all the sin, pain, and sadness that goes on.
When I was growing up, I loved hearing about God’s sovereignty but I never felt comfortable talking about it. I found that nothing brought more conflict and misunderstanding than trying to draw lines around God’s sovereignty to show where his sovereignty ended and my responsibility began. The more I drew lines around God to protect his holiness and guard my freedom, I found that in reality I was slashing away at his glory. My attempts to make God fit neatly into the categories I had in my mind robbed him of glory and shrank him down to the size of my understanding.
The book Big God pushes back against our human tendency to shrink God. It’s currently the most accessible book on understanding God’s sovereignty in our lives that I have read. Over the six chapters, the author unshrinks our view of God in categories of suffering, evangelism, decision-making, and prayer.
God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility
The author begins his book by explaining how we have been shrinking God bit by bit for many years. This has happened because we feel a need to let God off the hook for every problem in the world. Since God’s ideal world was pain-free we try to explain how he’s not in control over pain in people’s lives. But in order to do that we have to say that God has no control over human decisions and we eventually have to say that God has no control over the future. What we don’t realize is that in our efforts to protect God, we end up making him small and ourselves big.
In chapter 2, Saer begins to tackle the age old argument of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Thankfully, he centers the discussion at the cross. He uses Acts 2:36; 3:13-15; and 4:27-28 to explain how everything that happened on the cross and everything that happens in our lives isn’t either-or (God’s doing or my doing) but it is both-and (God working along with all my efforts). The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a display of both man’s evil actions and God’s wisdom and love in action to rescue us from the grip of sin. Throughout the chapter the author continues to explain this idea using passages such as Saul’s death 1Chron 10:4,14. Saer explains, “Every event has (at least) two explanations: ‘The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps’(Prov 16:9).”
Over the next several chapters, Saer describes how God doesn’t want to be let off the hook for all the things we try to protect him from. Chapter 3 deals with “Unshrinking the God of Suffering,” such as: Birth defects (Exod 4:11), financial woes (1Sam 2:7), droughts (Amos 4:7), medical conditions (2Cor 12:7-8), infertility (1Sam 1:5), extreme weather (Job 37:11-12). Chapter 4 focus on “Unshrinking the God of Evangelism,” where the author uses the sovereignty of God in salvation to move us to share the gospel. Chapter 5 takes the fear out of decision-making because of the big God who rules over and works through our best and worst decisions. And the final chapter stirs a passion for prayer in the reader by helping us see that the One sitting in the driver seat of the universe wants to listen us and uses our requests for his glory.
Overall this book is easy to read. Heavy theological topics are addressed with accessible vocabulary, plenty of Scripture, clear illustrations, and practical applications to everyday life.
These days the conversations I have about God’s sovereignty are now some of the most encouraging and hope giving moments I have. I’ve read through this book several times for discipleship and it is robust enough to guide challenging conversations with a friend and clear enough to answer surprising questions from a child. Once you allow the truth about God in Scripture to explode your categories so that he increases, once you stop slashing at the beauty and bigness of God as he has explained himself in Scripture, then you can rest in your big God and his loving sovereignty that paints every corner of your life.
Copies of Big God will be available for purchase in the foyer. Please inquire if you have any additional questions.