Summary: God’s the infinite Ruler of all; He is “running the show.” Nothing can prevent His predetermined plan. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Those who see God’s hand in everything can best leave everything in God’s hand.
It’s been said, “How do you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans” (G.K. Chesterton). Our plans aren’t always in line with God’s. We may try to fight God’s will, but someone pointed out, “Your arms are too short to box with God” (J. W. Johnson). The Lord God has a plan nothing can hinder--because He is sovereign. The unbelieving world sees life as a matter of chance. Believers see the world as God’s, and we are confident that He will prevail. To those who think they’re in charge God says, “You have not considered My Providence.”
Sovereignty is another way of saying that God is supreme and in control. God’s the infinite Ruler of all; He is “running the show.” Nothing can prevent His predetermined plan. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Ephesians 1:11, God “works all things after the counsel of His will.” Nothing can happen that is unplanned. God governs what happens. He will not fail to accomplish His purpose. Although at times our world seems “God-forsaken,” He is working behind the scenes with a design unknown to us. Like a tapestry turned over, we see only the messy loose ends, while God sees the beautiful finished picture. And while the world certainly seems bad enough, should God restrain His hold on evil, things would be far worse. He allows us to make sinful choices, which have consequences. While permitting evil, He keeps a reign on it. Who’s really in charge of this world? If not God, we’re left with chaos and anarchy.
We trust His plan; God’s sovereign will is:
• Certain--it will be fulfilled;
• Detailed--it includes all things;
• Hidden--except when revealed by prophecy; and
• Perfect--what’s best for us, in good times and bad (Garry Friesen).
God is sovereign in salvation. He convinces us to respond to the Good News. We don’t save ourselves; we are drawn to the Cross. God opened our eyes and ears and caused us to seek Him. Salvation is from first-to-last God’s doing. It was not by chance that we heard the saving message of Christ and saw our need for a Savior. And it is God’s plan to use us to communicate His saving message to a needy world. Evangelism is our work, and the awakening of faith is God’s. “It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us” (Thomas Merton). “Outside of God’s intervening grace no one would seek Him or want Him” (David Wells).
God is sovereign in situations. He decrees what will be. He ordains the affairs of individuals and nations. C.S. Lewis points out, “If there is Providence at all, then everything is providential.” There are no accidents in life, no chance encounters. Every interruption is by design. God’s will is never frustrated. Nothing can derail His plans. What He has determined will come to pass. It can’t be missed.
God’s sovereignty is not fatalism. Fate is an indifferent, impersonal force--destiny without deity. Fate implies that people are powerless. We trust in a Sovereign God, not in karma, luck, or chance: “What will be, will be.” Providence is God bringing about what He has planned. We’re thankfully not bound by or resigned to the arbitrary whims of fate. We are directed by a personal, loving God. Our lives are in His hands. God directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
If God is sovereign, why does He allow evil? We don’t have all the answers. Jewish author Chaim Potok has suggested that evil exists so that we may enjoy all the more our coming into God’s presence. We wrongly assume that since we can’t come up with adequate reasons why God permits evil, there are none. God doesn’t have to justify His ways to us (and we likely wouldn’t understand them). But the silence of God is not the silence of indifference. Pastor Tim Keller suggest that God may have reasons that “outweigh the desirability of the non-existence of evil.” Whatever God’s reasons, evil will one day be finally defeated.
Knowing God is sovereign is comforting. When life hurts, it is a solace to know there is a “why”, a purpose behind our pain. The unbelieving world tries to make the best of hard times, and often people sink in despair, but we believe our times are in God’s hands. We don’t know God’s reasons, yet we’re content to submit to His will. We accept what we can’t change. God is the Potter and we are the clay (Jeremiah 18:6). “Even our failures are never enough to disrupt God’s plans for us” (Dave Harvey).
Where does free will play into this attribute of God? If God brings all things to pass, where does that leave us? Are we free? Or are we like puppets, made to do whatever God ordains? We are like passengers on a ship headed for England. We’re predestined to make port. We’re free to do as we like aboard the vessel, but we’re being carried along by the Captain of the ship till we arrive in England. Human freedom can never overrule God’s sovereignty. We are free within limits--within the confines of God’s plan--which He does not disclose to us, and which we cannot miss.