A while back I was having a theological conversation with someone. They were taking issue with my belief in the sovereignty of God, that is, the belief that God is in control of all things at all times. The person’s main concern was that if all Christians believed that God was in control of all things, none of them would do missions.
I thought about that on Wednesday night while I sat and heard a woman telling a story of the sovereignty of God. She and her husband and their five children packed up everything and left behind the comforts of Georgia for the challenges of Romania. For eleven years now the family has been working to break down barriers or racism, rescue women who are or otherwise might be caught in the sex trafficking industry, pulling children out of orphanages and giving them a better home, providing an education and yes, evangelizing the lost.
This family’s belief in the sovereignty of God didn’t keep them from the mission God had for them. It fueled their mission.
Christians like to say that God is in control but I wonder how many of us really believe that. Sure, we can say that he is in control on a random Tuesday morning. But what about on a Wednesday morning when a tornado hits? Or when there’s a bad phone call from your brother? Or when it feels like you can’t possibly go any further? Is God still in control then?
The Bible answers that question with a resounding yes.
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 (ESV)
This would be quite scary were it not for God’s goodness. Hitler had a pretty good measure of control over Germany. An abusive husband can control his wife. But neither Hitler or the abusive husband are good.
It does us no good to speak of the sovereignty of God if we do not also speak of the goodness of God.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)
So the sovereignty of God is not intended to free us from the mandate to make disciples of all nations or from any other more specific mission God may have for us. But there are a few things that the sovereignty of God, when understood in union with the goodness of God, will free us from.
Things like fear and anxiety.
It’s interesting to hear how people talk about the upcoming presidential election in the United States. Here’s a basic summary of one point I hear frequently.
“Well, neither one of the candidates are any good but we need to vote for ______________ because at least God can work through that one.”
But God can’t work through the other one? Read the Bible. It’s one big, long story of God working through tyrants to accomplish his perfect will for the good of his imperfect people. Or, to put it another way, the Bible is an account of God’s complete control over all things. That doesn’t mean that we have to support tyranny or some supposed lighter version of it. It just means that we don’t need to be afraid when it comes knocking on our door.
God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness work together to free us from the constant hand wringing that so many have given in to.
God was good and he was in control when he created the heavens and the earth.
God was good and he was in control when Jesus was crucified.
God was good and he was in control on the day that I was saved.
God was good and he was in control on the day that my parents divorced and on the day that my mother got sick and on the day that she died.
When we have our presidential election, God will still be good and he will still be in control, no matter who wins.
And, whether God calls you to Romania or to stay in the states to make disciples, he will still be good and he will still be in control.
Because God is both good and sovereign, we can trust that when bad things happen, God will eventually, some way and some how, work them for our good. We don’t need to know all of the details. When tragedy strikes, the world is better off without us trying to excuse God, speak where he has not spoken or explain away his sovereignty.
We say something much more powerful when we simply trust God and worship him.
He really is in control.
He really is good.
And that frees us to obey him boldly and worship him gladly.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)