Last week we sang a song called, "All Is Well". This song deals with some ideas of the sovereignty of God, so I wanted to take a bit to help explain a few key points:
- What does it mean to say that "God is sovereign"?
- How is a sovereign God still a good God?
- What are the implications for me as a Christian?
What does it mean to say that "God is sovereign"?
The dictionary definition for "sovereign" is "[a] supreme ruler; possessing supreme or ultimate power".
I believe that the Bible makes a case for God as a God who is "all powerful," "all knowing," and "all existing." You may have heard of these ideas through the words: "omnipotent," "omniscient," and "omnipresent." If not, then now you have. 😉 Know that those are just the big words for those three concepts. I want to focus, though, on the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) being "all powerful," or sovereign, in our world.
The Bible makes this point many times throughout the Old and New Testaments, but I just want to reference a few here and now.
In Isaiah 45:6c-7, it reads,
"I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make success and create disaster;
I am the LORD, who does all these things."
In John 9:1-3, Jesus is traveling with His disciples and they pass by a blind man. "As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," Jesus answered. "This came about so that God's works might be displayed in him."'
In Exodus 4:11-12, Moses is told by God to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to free the Israelites from their captivity. Moses is afraid to go though, and God responds, "The Lord said to Moses, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth.'"
There is time and time again in scripture when God shows Himself to be in control of all things. Which brings me to answer the question, "What does it mean to say that "God is sovereign'?"
I believe it can mean a varying degree of things. Some who believe in the sovereignty of God go so far as to believe that every cloud formed, every gust of wind, every lightning strike, is from Him. I believe David believed this, as you can read in Psalm 135:6-7. Then there are others who believe that God doesn't cause everything to happen, but He allows things to happen. Sometimes those things might be bad, but God doesn't ever cause them. You can see this reflected in Job, when Satan has to request permission from God to afflict Job.
Ultimately though, whichever side of the fence you land on, I believe that the Bible supports that our God is a God
who can do whatever He wants, with whomever He wants, whenever He wants.
How is a sovereign God still a good God?
If you were at the service on Sunday, February 2nd, Mario gave an amazing illustration of how God can become sin for us, and how we can become the righteousness of God (found in 2 Corinthians 5:21). I want to highlight a few key points that I think it's important for us to remember when we think about God's goodness, the heinous things that happen in our world, and quite possibly the terrible things that have happened directly to us.
James Dolezal wrote, "God is good by virtue of God, not goodness." Meaning God defines what is good by His very nature.
So, let's paint a picture:
- In the beginning is God. A sovereign God who is the ultimate power over all things.
- He created this world and all of us in it.
- We rejected Him, and chose our own glory.
How can we trust in a God either that allows all bad things to happen, or causes them?
Because we deserve hell. We deserve to be obliterated; blotted out.
The fact that you're breathing and reading this right now is an act of grace! God extends common grace to all of us (including non-Christians). We cannot look on the face of God because our sin is an abhorrent stain on us, but He has allowed us to live and to pursue Him. Also if we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are promised to live with Him forever!
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ
even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!"
A sovereign God can be a good God because he is not a sadistic madman delighting in our pain & suffering. He has
seen our affliction, and has provided us rescue! We can see through the act of salvation, that God desires good for
us. His word even says it explicitly.
What are the implications for me as a Christian?
Now that we've hopefully established a general understanding for what the sovereignty of God means, and how a sovereign God is still a good God, we can now apply that to our lives as Christians. And I think it can be best summed up like this:
Sovereignty = Trust
If we believe that the Bible is true, and that God has the ultimate power and authority in this world, then we have to trust God in all things.
As simply as I can put it, I believe that we can trust in a God who controls all things because of the stated relationship that we have with Him as a Christian. We relate to God as our Father. This means that there are going to be times when our Father has to do things that we don't understand. It's possible that He will do something that we outright reject. However we have to fall back on this truth in Matthew 7:9-11:
"Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him."
Romans 8:28 says, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
But Kennon, in the song we sang lyrics that say,
He lowers us to raise us
He makes us rich and poor
He clothes us now then strips us
Those are extremely difficult words to sing (especially in light of that passage from Isaiah), and even more so when you see verses that say He desires our good. Half of those lyrics don't sound like good things at all.
What is the chief end of man? Or put another way, what is the purpose of humanity? It is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.
Romans 11:36 reads, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen."
If we are a Christian, then (based on the next verse in Romans 12:1) we are called to be living sacrifices. We are called to give up control of our lives to God. Our primary purpose is then not to amass wealth, to have a comfortable life, to enjoy going to sporting events, watching movies, etc... Not that there is anything wrong with enjoying the good things God has allowed us to have. Our primary purpose is, or should be, glorifying God and enjoying Him.
I thought of an analogy that I think makes sense, but as with all analogies it breaks down if you go too deep with it.
Imagine that our relationship with God is like our relationship with a surgeon. We have a condition that needs repair. We willingly lay ourselves on the operating table to fix whatever is wrong with us. The surgeon's desire is to heal you. Their desire is for you to have a full life. Their desire is not to do you harm. But (stay with me here 😉) as he's operating he realizes you have a knee that needs to be replaced. The surgeon performs the necessary operation and it's a success, but you wake up and you're in a LOT of pain, and you think, "I didn't ask for this!". You immediately call for the surgeon and begin yelling at him. "How dare you ruin my life! How dare you make this massive scar across my leg!" You say, "I can't walk. My leg is in a brace and I can't move it. How has this helped me?"
Sometimes, the surgeon never explains why He chose to do what He chose to do. He allows you to yell, and leaves the room.
But let's imagine the surgeon explains that he had to replace your knee cap. That the ligaments in your joint were giving out, and they had to be replaced as well. You will be in pain for a while, but ultimately you won't lose the use of your leg. You'll continue to be able to walk for years to come because of the surgery.
If you look at that surgery myopically instead of as a bigger picture, then all that surgeon has done is hurt you.
Who is to say what parts of our lives will give the most glory to God? Once we become a Christian, God is going to change us. He is going to make us more and more like Him. Some of that is going to be amazing, but some of it is going to hurt.
I think in light of that it's important to remember these things:
- God is for us, not against us.
- God desires His good for us, but we cannot know the mind of Christ.
- Our purpose is to glorify God.
- God has not abandoned us.
- The end is eternity with God, not comfort on this earth.
2 Corinthians 4:14 - 5:5 says,
For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit so that, as grace extends through more and more people, it may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
Let's read those lyrics again like this:
He lowers us to raise us because He wants us to boast in Him, not ourselves
He makes us rich and poor, so that we may not find our foundation in the things of this world, but in Him
He clothes us now then strips us, so that we will be clothed in all the splendor and majesty of our Savior Jesus Christ in eternity with Him
Everything is centered around us bringing glory to God!
We can endure sufferings we do not understand in this world, whether caused by God or allowed by Him, because our God (who loves us and has given us salvation) promises to be with us... now and forever.
That is all we need.