What comes to mind when you think of the word sovereign? It is a title given to only the most powerfulthose whose authority cannot be overruled, by any person or thing (seen or unseen). Through scripture, we come to understand God as sovereign. This means, because He is supreme, He does whatever He desires. Isaiah says it plainly, "For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me," (46:9). He is supreme ruler over all creationseen and unseen. John Macarthur, pastor of Grace to You church in Panorama City, California was asked his view on God's sovereignty. He had this to say: "Sovereign was a designation of the person who reigned, the single ruler, the king, the monolithic power, the unilateral authority and that is essentially what ... to say God is sovereign means, that He is the sole ruler, He is the sole authority." Because God is sovereign, nothing catches Him by surprise. In fact, His sovereignty is played out in the direction the world is heading.
Sovereignty through History
Some people have a hard time believing that God controls the universe and the details of our lives. Instead, they believe that mere chance and coincidence is what happens to us all. Scripture tells us otherwise. In Ephesians 1:11, we read that God " works all things after the counsel of His will" and in Isaiah God is, "Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'" (46:10). Through these passages we come to understand that 1) God knows the end from the beginning, and He has declared it to us in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, we find the history of the world, and not one word will go without being fulfilled. 2) We read that God does what He wills. God's desires will come to pass. When we watch the news, it seems the devil's will is being played out and God is losing the battle. Killings, thieving, deception from corporations and sexual assaults are all on the rise. Yet, we know that it is all working towards a greater purpose. The book of Revelations gives hope to God's people. We know the end resultsGod's Kingdom will triumph.
God's Sovereignty Over our Lives
We also read, "Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places" (Ps. 135:6). The unfolding of the world is like a book and God is the author. Whatever He pleases will happen.
I've always been a sort of anxious person. Worrying has always been my downfall in life. The "What if this happens" scenarios tend to find commonplace in my mind. However, I've learned to counterattack those thoughts by remembering God's sovereignty over my life. Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31, emphasis added). Nothing can happen in our lives apart from God's will. It may seem tedious, but not even a little sparrow's life is hidden from the sovereign will of God. If God's sovereignty is that detailed, who am I to worry about my life? Worrying will not change anything.
At the same time, the picture of our lives is not going to be squeaky clean. It is not going to be without pain and sorrow, death and sickness. Nonetheless, this does not lesson God's sovereignty over our lives. Rather, we are to trust God in every area, knowing that He knows best. Charles Spurgeon describes it as follows:
There is no attribute more comforting to His children, than that of God's sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials--they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend, than the doctrine of their Master over all creation--the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands--the throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne.
Knowing God is in total and complete control of our lives, gives complete and utter peace to those who trust Him. To know that our lives are in His control removes the burden and worry of the future.
God's Sovereignty in the Midst of Evil
Many people cannot accept God's sovereignty, due to the amount of evil they see in the world. They ask questions we've all wondered at some point: If God is sovereign why is there sin? Why doesn't God heal all the sick people? Why does God not stop pain? Why do we suffer? We expect rosy days and sunshine rays, and when we get pesky weeds and unending needs, we assume He doesn't exist. I've heard many a time "If God was real, my loved one wouldn't have died." People suspect that God is good and therefore bad things shouldn't happen. Pain is associated with an absence of God. One fact is right: God is indeed good. However, the part that is difficult to grasp is even bad things happen in order for His sovereign will to come into place. Jesus was proof of this. He was beaten, mocked and killed. He did not resist the evil that was being poured out on him. Why? Because it was part of God's will for him to die such a violent, open death in the hands of sinners. "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10). God is God, couldn't He have done it another waya less painful and less shameful way? He's the author, of course He could. Instead, God allowed evil intentions to bring His son down.
In John 19 we read that when Jesus was brought before Pilate, he would not respond to Pilate's questioning. Pilate, confused at Jesus' lack of response, reminded him that he was in charge and he alone had the power to crucify or release him. From the natural it looked that way. However, Jesus knew this wasn't true and had to say so. He responded "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above" (v.11). God gave Pilate the authority to approve Jesus' crucifixion. Without God's approval, Pilate could do nothing against Jesus.
God's Sovereignty for our Good
I grew up in a church that said God doesn't allow bad things to happen. The devil has equal power as God and they are essentially in a tug-of-war on who is the most powerful, was the mindset. I was taught, when the devil does something bad in your life, you have to pray and confess the positive and maybe then God's power will break through and deliver you. This false mindset gives much power to the devil. It strips God of His sovereignty and gives an equal amount to the devil. This cannot be.
Regardless of the amount of pain and suffering we deal with, it all works out for our good in the end (Romans 8:28). God's end purpose is for our good. We see only a small window into our lives. God sees the whole picture and works, in our lives, to complete that picture.
We see this played out in Jesus' life. When it looked like he was out of God's sovereign will and left to die, God was still in the conductor's seat. When all seemed hopeless, God was still on the throne. We know how the story ends. Three days later, Jesus rose! It was all part of God's plan.
The sovereignty of God is not a new concept. It has always existed. Knowing and believing this, will change your outlook on life. I'll end with a popular quote from R.C. Sproul, "For if there is one maverick molecule, it would mean that God is not sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God. If there is any element of the universe that is outside of his authority, then he no longer is God over all. In other words, sovereignty belongs to deity. Sovereignty is a natural attribute of the Creator. God owns what he makes, and he rules what he owns."
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