It is time to dig deeper into last weeks sermon. Mark preached on the weighty topic of God’s sovereignty this past Sunday. What does it mean for God to be sovereign? What does sovereign mean? Christina Fox answers: “To be sovereign means to have supreme power or authority. Kings are considered sovereign rulers over their nation…God is the supreme sovereign because he is Creator and sustainer of all things. He is ruler over the cosmos and over every living thing. “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). What I want to do next is just lay out some verses that pertain to God’s sovereignty.
“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:33
“For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” Isaiah 14:27
“Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.” Jeremiah 14:22
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:16
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Isaiah 46:8–11
John Piper comments on this last passage from Isaiah 46 and says: “the reason God knows the future is because he plans the future and accomplishes it. The future is the counsel of God being established. The future is the purpose of God being accomplished by God. Then, the next verse, verse 11b, gives a clear confirmation that this is what he means: “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” In other words, the reason my predictions come true is because they are my purposes, and because I myself perform them. God is not a fortuneteller, a soothsayer, a mere predictor. He doesn’t have a crystal ball. He knows what’s coming because he plans what’s coming and he performs what he plans. Verse 10b: ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ He does not form purposes and wonder if someone else will take responsibility to make them happen. “I will accomplish all my purpose.”
Piper continues and give us a definition of the sovereignty of God based on Isaiah 46: “So, based on this text, here’s what I mean by the sovereignty of God: God has the rightful authority, the freedom, the wisdom, and the power to bring about everything that he intends to happen. And therefore, everything he intends to come about does come about. Which means, God plans and governs all things.”
Piper again helpfully summarizes many of the verses I included above when he says: “The roll of the dice, the fall of a bird, the crawl of a worm, the movement of stars, the falling of snow, the blowing of wind, the loss of sight, the suffering of saints, and the death of all — these are included in the word of God: “I will accomplish all my purpose” — from the smallest to the greatest.” Just reading over these verses and thinking about the sovereignty of God, I thought that Psalm 46:10 is a proper response:
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
If God Wasn’t Sovereign
What would it mean to your life and my life if God was not sovereign? How would that impact us? If God wasn’t sovereign this would be a deeply troubling reality. How could a God who isn’t sovereign be trusted? Jerry Bridges said: “If God is not sovereign in the decisions and actions of other people as they affect us, then there is a whole major area of our lives where we cannot trust God; where we are left, so to speak, to fend for ourselves.” If God was not sovereign, how could we trust His promises? For example in Jude it says: “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling…” If God is not sovereign, how would we be able to trust that he is able to keep us from falling?
How would we be able to face temptations, trials, and the sorrows of life if God was not sovereign? James Boice said: “Temptations and sorrows come to Christians and non-Christians alike. The question is: How shall we meet them? Clearly, if we must face them with no clear certainty that they are controlled by God and are permitted for his good purposes, then they are meaningless and life is a tragedy.”
Jerry Bridges is helpful again here: “If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control then we cannot trust Him. His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited and His purpose can be thwarted, we cannot trust Him. You may entrust to me your most valuable possessions. I may love you and my aim to honor your trust may be sincere, but if I do not have the power or ability to guard your valuables, you cannot truly entrust them to me.”
Thankfully, we serve an incomprehensibly great, sovereign God! We have a sovereign God who is totally trustworthy. As Jerry Bridges said: “we can entrust our most valuable possession to the Lord. In 2 Timothy 1:12, Paul said: “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
Bridges goes on to say that: “No plan can succeed against God. No one can straighten what He makes crooked or make crooked what He has made straight. No emperor, king, supervisor, teacher, or coach can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not first decreed to either make it happen or permit it to happen. No one can say, ‘I will do this or that,’ and have it happen if it is not part of God’s sovereign will. What an encouragement, what a stimulus to trusting God, this aspect of God’s sovereignty should be to us.”
Two Wings of a Plane
Mark reminded us this past Sunday that we should view God’s sovereignty as one wing of a plane. We must not forget the other wing of the plane. The other wing of the plane is that God is also a loving father. Jerry Bridges helpfully put it like this: “God is in control and He loves us.” Those are the two wings of the plane. So, let’s examine this other wing of the plane. Below are some verses that will help us as we consider how God is a loving father.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” -Luke 12:6-7
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”-1 Peter 5:6&7
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Hebrews 13:5
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” -Romans 8:28&29
The first passage from Luke 12 Jesus talks about five sparrows being sold for two pennies, and not a single sparrow is forgotten before God. There are probably hundreds of millions of sparrows in the world right now, and not a single one is forgotten before God. Then Jesus tells us that we are of more value than many sparrows and even the hairs of our head are all numbered. This is amazing, that the sovereign God of the universe loves us and even numbers the hairs of our head.
1 Peter 5 tells us to humble ourselves before God, and then tells us to cast all our anxieties on God, because he cares for us. Again this is amazing that the sovereign God of the universe wants us to cast our cares upon Him, because he cares for us!
Then Hebrews 13 tells us to keep ourselves free from the love of money and to be content, because God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Jerry Bridges speaking on this passage a few weeks before he died said that our English translations don’t quite get the forcefulness of the Greek on this passage. He said it is as if God is pounding His fist on a desk and adamantly saying that He will never leave us, He will never forsake us!
Then Romans 8 Paul tells us that for those who love God all things work together for good. So, the sovereign God of the universe is causing all things in our life to work together for our good. This is amazing.
I think we need to continually remind ourselves of the sovereignty of God and the love of God daily. If we are struggling trusting in the sovereignty of God we must remember that the throne of grace is wide open. We can go pour our hearts out before the Lord. In our small group discussion last night I believe Erin mentioned the old hymn that says:
“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”
We can plead with the sovereign God of the universe for more grace to trust Him more fully. We can come before the Lord and just say: “Heavenly Father, I am really struggling with this painful situation in my life. I am hurting. I know in my head that your are working this together for my good, but I am struggling to believe that in my heart. Give me grace Father, to trust you more and more.”
I think we also need to cultivate gratitude in our hearts to God when things are going well in our lives. We can so often forget to be grateful to God during the sunny days of our lives. I remember George Mueller said that he sought to not let any mercy of God go unnoticed. He sought to be thankful for the new mercies of God every day. I have slowly tried to follow George Mueller’s advice. So, I seek to just go to the throne of grace with thankfulness in my heart for all the goodness and mercy God has shown me in my life. So, if you are married, start by simply thanking God for the precious husband or wife that you have. If you have children thank Him for those precious children. If you own a Bible thank Him for access to His precious Word. If you have a job, thank Him for your job. If you get to see a beautiful sunset thank Him for the chance to behold His glory in the sunset. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Paul in Philippians 4 reminds us how we should pray with thanksgiving: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
I hope all of us will begin to cultivate gratitude in our hearts to God daily. I hope we will all begin to trust Him more fully, and will all continually remind ourselves of His sovereignty and His great love for us. We must remember Jesus who has suffered before us. Richard Baxter said: “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than he went through before.”
Lastly, when we see our friends or family members going through suffering, the first words out of our mouths should not be: “You just need to remember Romans 8:28.” Jerry Bridges wisely said: “Above all, we need to be very sensitive about instructing someone else in the sovereignty of God and encouraging that person to trust God when he or she is in the midst of adversity or pain. It is much easier to trust in the sovereignty of God when it is the other person who is hurting. We need to be like Jesus of whom it was said, “A bruised reed he will not break” (Matthew 12:20). Let us not be guilty of breaking a bruised reed (a heavy heart) by insensitive treatment of the heavy doctrine of the sovereignty of God.”
Picture from here