Summary: A message briefly discussing the sovereignty of God.

God is in Control (Really!)

Ephesians 1:11-12

October 26, 2003


Last week I talked about six strategies for living a life that¡¦s filled with the peace of God.

I said that before we can live in the peace of God, we need to have peace with God, by placing your faith in Christ.

And then we looked at those six strategies. The first was understanding God¡¦s sovereignty. Next was to adopt a biblical mindset. The third strategy is to pray about everything. Fourth, we need to plan ahead, but submit to the will of God, allowing Him to modify your plans through life.

The fifth strategy I mentioned was to live in obedience, and the last strategy was to live in anticipation of heaven, and of God fulfilling His promises on earth in the meantime.

And as I was reflecting on the message, I was convinced that God wanted me to spend a little more time on some of these before we got into the Christmas season.

We talk every so often about prayer here, and about obedience quite frequently, so I thought we should spend time on the other four strategies, and today is the first message of that idea.

Today we¡¦re going to talk about God¡¦s sovereignty. The Bible talks in many places about God¡¦s sovereignty, but I have chosen just one passage to help us get a handle on this concept a little better.

But before we look at it, and look at how it should affect us, let me give a quick disclaimer. There are multitudes of books written about this subject, and we¡¦re barely going to scratch the surface today.

This is important to understand, but if you¡¦ve known me for any length of time, you know that I¡¦m more about being able to use something than about being able to have everything figured out.

For instance, I don¡¦t know all there is to know about redemption, justification, sanctification, and all those other ¡§ations.¡¨ But I know that if you don¡¦t have Jesus, you ain¡¦t got any of that stuff.

And as it comes to the sovereignty of God, I don¡¦t pretend to understand it all, but I¡¦m grateful for it, and as you will see as we go through the message, it has a significant impact on how I go through life.

Ephesians 1:11-12 says this:

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of

his glory.

Sovereignty basically means that God is in control of all things, whether or not we see or understand them.

Another name for a king is a ¡§sovereign.¡¨ In other words, God is sovereign because He¡¦s the king. The king of creation.

Everything that goes on is under His control. As we begin to work through the note-taking guide, I want to begin by pointing out two things to keep in mind about God¡¦s sovereignty.

Two things to keep in mind about God¡¦s


1. His purposes prevail.

Look at verse eleven of our passage, particularly the part where its says¡K

who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

The key to understanding the sovereignty of God is to get a hold of the fact that God is working everything out to fit His purposes.

Colossians 1:16b in the Message Bible says this:

Everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.

That¡¦s everything. Guess how much everything is? That¡¦s right! All of it. And He¡¦s using it all for His purposes.

This means that no matter who is in office, no matter who is running around loose in the world, no matter what the economy does, God is in control, and that ultimately, it¡¦s for His glory.

Remember when I said at the beginning of the message that I don¡¦t necessarily understand everything about God¡¦s sovereignty? This is one of those areas I just don¡¦t get.

I don¡¦t understand how God can use famine, war, crime, and all that stuff. But the Bible says it¡¦s true.

But you know what all this tells me? It tells me two things primarily. First, that no matter what goes on in this ol¡¦ world, He¡¦s got it under control and using for His purposes. Nothing catches Him by surprise.

Second, it tells me that God can use even me. And when you¡¦re a short, skinny, balding guy with a high squeaky voice, that means something, know what I mean?

And of course, that also means that He can use you for His purposes as well. You might be sitting here this morning wondering if God can use you, and I¡¦m here to tell you He can. Because He has a purpose for everyTHING and everyONE.

The purpose of our existence and all that happens is to further His purpose. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so we could have eternal life. Why? Because our salvation serves HIS purpose.

And just what is that purpose?

2. His purpose is His glory.

Look back at our passage, particularly in verse 12, where Paul says¡K

in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Our salvation serves to bring glory to God. It¡¦s His good pleasure to offer forgiveness and a home in heaven. It brings Him glory.

Let me say something that is extremely important to understand. And I need you to listen up here because many people, including many Christians operate under a false assumption. Ready?

WE are not the purpose of all things. HE is. It¡¦s not about YOU, it¡¦s about HIM.

God¡¦s purposes flow around Him and His glory, not around us and ours, understand? God provides wonderful things for us, and offers us a full and abundant life, but it¡¦s because it pleases HIM and brings HIM glory.

Everything is under His control, and everything happens so that He will be glorified. That¡¦s His purpose.

Now all this would be nice and academic, if weren¡¦t for the question that people are asking all over the world today when they consider the sovereignty of God.

If God is really in control, what about all the

bad stuff?

This is a tricky area. The heart of the question lies in another question. Does God make bad things happen?

And if so, how does this work for His glory? Allow me to offer you two very brief answers to this.

These answers on the surface may not seem to give you satisfaction, but I hope they will give you some direction in grasping the idea that God is in control no matter what.

„« There is a difference between what God causes and what He allows.

Scripture talks about episodes when God brought earthquakes, famine, and other disasters that took the lives of numbers of people, and it was always in judgment.

But I think God allows things to happen that are not what we would like to see happen, but that serve the higher purposes we are unable to see.

For instance, I¡¦m not convinced from Scripture that God causes all sickness in people, or that all sickness is a judgment from God.

Some think AIDS is a judgment of God. I think that¡¦s possible. But I don¡¦t see anything in Scripture that tells me God judges innocent babies because Mom and Dad were foolish in their sexual or drug habits.

The baby is suffering a natural physical consequence of the actions of the parents. God has allowed that, but I don¡¦t think that God necessarily caused it.

Why does He allow such things? I don¡¦t know, except that somehow they serve His purpose, to bring Him glory in the end.

Again, He is aware of everything. He can stop if it would serve His purpose. But He chooses not to for the time being. So for now, I need to believe that God knows what He¡¦s doing, and I can do that because of the next point:

„« God sees the big picture.

Allow me to read Isaiah 55:8-9

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.¡¨

I¡¦ve used this illustration before, but I think it really helps to see this.

A pilot¡¦s flying over a mountainous terrain, and as he¡¦s flying, he looks down to see two vehicles driving down the highway.

The first vehicle is a semi-trailer, pulling his load up and down that ol¡¦ highway. The second vehicle is a sports car driven by a guy who¡¦s got better things to do than be stuck behind a semi that can¡¦t always maintain the speed limit up the mountain grades.

Well, what the pilot can see that the drivers can¡¦t is that there is no traffic coming the other way. The car could easily pass the truck with no danger.

The problem is that neither the truck nor the car driver can see that. They can only see what¡¦s immediately in front of them.

They can¡¦t see the big picture.

You see, we only see things from the perspective of the created, not the Creator. We don¡¦t see the big picture. Only God does.

And you know what else? You¡¦re not going to want to hear this, but I¡¦m going to tell you anyway. God does not owe you an explanation.

You see, God¡¦s not answerable to us. Rather, we are answerable to Him. God is not obligated to us. We are obligated to Him, and we need to understand that if our Heavenly Father chooses for now to keep things as a mystery, that¡¦s His prerogative.

Let¡¦s recap for just a moment: God¡¦s sovereignty is characterized by the fact that God¡¦s purposes prevail, and that His purposes are related to His glory above all else, including our own salvation.

We¡¦ve also looked at the fact that in regard to God¡¦s sovereignty in light of all the bad stuff, there are some things that God causes, some things He allows, and most importantly, He sees the big picture from the perspective of the Creator, where we see things from the perspective of the created.

So now what?

What do we do with all this, then?

1. Avoid attitudes of resignation and fatalism.

In view of this, I don¡¦t throw up my hands and say, ¡§Oh well, que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. No sense doing anything like telling others about Jesus, working for social justice, peace, or anything like that. And there¡¦s absolutely no sense in praying, for crying out loud. What good will it do? God¡¦s agenda is set, so why bother?¡¨

God commands us to do these things. You see, He uses them for His purposes. We are His tools to accomplish His purposes. That should be opportunity not for resignation, but for excitement that you can be a ¡§partner,¡¨ if you will, in the work of Almighty God!

God works and moves through people to bring about good things, and to bring as many people as possible to faith in Christ. Why? For His glory!

You know, I still ask God about and for stuff in prayer. Even though God is not answerable to me, I still ask Him about stuff. I just ask knowing that He is under no obligation. And if He does give me insight into something, it¡¦s because He is showing me grace.

Don¡¦t slip into resignation and fatalism. Jump into activity for the kingdom!


2. Rejoice and relax, knowing that you¡¦re in good hands!

You see, folks, there is no denying that times are troubled. That¡¦s why it¡¦s so important that you know how to live in the peace of God.

Understanding better this whole thing about God¡¦s sovereignty goes a long way to doing that.

In the context of what we¡¦ve talked about today, it means that we can rejoice and relax, knowing that no matter what happens, God is in control, even if I can¡¦t see it.

Nuclear war could start today and God would still be in control. A new law could be passed in America like it is in other countries that makes it illegal for you to be a Christian or own a Bible or worship in public. And you know what, God would still be in control.

Your personal world could fall apart, and as hard as that would be, God would still be in control.

Can you believe that? I mean really believe that? It¡¦s not enough to just believe it in your mind. It needs to be in your gut.

Can you claim that for yourself today? And if not, are you willing to let God do something in your life right now to help with that?

I¡¦m going to pray right now. And if are not in a position right now where you can truly rely on the fact that God is in control, I¡¦m going to ask that you pray along with me for God to give you a sense of peace about His control, and a sense of joy about it as well.

Are you ready for that? Let¡¦s pray.