Summary: God's Sovereignty raises some honest questions about life in this world.
Christians declare that there is a God and He (being an involved Creator) is in charge. His power is absolute. In fact, if there was some area over which God was not in charge, He would not be God because at least in that one area there would in a sense be a power that was over Him (thus making it/he/she God).
As we look at the world around us we see evidence that there is a Creator. We see the hand of an artist, the intricacy of design that defies the notion that creation happened by mere chance (whatever that is). We conclude that life has meaning and a purpose and we are not an accident.
These beliefs lead to what we call the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. To be the Sovereign is to be the King or the ruler. One commentator defines it this way.
When we say that God is sovereign, we mean that He is in charge of the universe and that He can do as He pleases. In saying that, however, we know that, because He is God, He will never do anything wrong, unjust, or unrighteous. Therefore, to say that God is sovereign is merely to allow God to be God. We should not be afraid of this truth or apologize for it. It is a glorious truth and should cause us to worship.
Listen to these verses from Proverbs which assert the Sovereignty of God.
10:3 The Lord will not let the godly go hungry,
but he refuses to satisfy the craving of the wicked
Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps
16:33 We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.
19:21 You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
21:1 The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord;
he guides it wherever he pleases.
The Sovereignty of God asserts that God is ruler over all. He gives and He takes away. He causes some things to happen, allows other things to happen, and prohibits some things from happening (I believe we will be humbled and blown away when we get to Heaven and find out all the things God spared us from experiencing).
If there is not someone or something that is sovereign, then life is like a car without a driver. Life is arbitrary. It is headed nowhere in particular and there is no way to know when you have gotten there. Consequently, life becomes just an exercise in meaninglessness.
We are OK with the idea of a God being “out there” somewhere. Almost everyone believes this instinctively. What people don’t like is the idea that God’s sovereignty extends into their own personal lives. A Puritan writer said,
But unless he has control over the workings of the human heart and the volitions of the human soul, how could this purpose be realized? If He controls not the thoughts and the impulses of the human mind, He has no control over the human race, and His purpose have no guarantee for their fulfillment. (David Thomas, Proverbs p. 486)
God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Freedom
One of the biggest objections to the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God is that it seems to remove our freedom. If God is truly in control of everything, then do our choices mean anything or are they simply the way God programmed us to act? And if we are acting only in the way we have been programmed to act then how can God judge us for acting sinfully? It would appear this is what He made us to do!
When we talk about human freedom we need to understand a couple of things. First, because of sin our freedom is not absolute. In other words we really never make truly free choices. Every choice we make is made because of a bias.
Why is it that you can walk up to two people and say, “Do you want to go fishing this afternoon?” and one person will say, “You bet, let me get my pole!” and the other person will say, “I’m not really a fisherman. I think I’d rather stay home and read a book.” Why do these people make different choices? It is because one was taught how to fish at an early age. They were taught the love of fishing, the other was not. The decision they make is based on their bias, what they have learned to love. We will always choose that which seems more desirable to us. Every day of our life we are developing or strengthening our tastes, desires, beliefs, and biases. We will make decisions on the basis of those things.
Watch a dog. If you put two different bowls of food in front of them and even if they were equal in their nutritional value they will first sniff them. They will choose which to eat first on the basis of which is more attractive to them. That attraction is determined by experience. If they don’t like either food they will simply walk away.