God Is

Day 36

God Is In Control

Read your Bible: Romans 11:33–36

Spotlight Verse:

Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.1 Chronicles 29:12

The Los Angeles Times recently ran this headline: “Sleeping pill use grows as economy keeps people up at night.”51 The article reports prescriptions have jumped 54% in five years. I think that’s one indication anxiety is definitely on the rise.

There are others.

A dog-fancier told me the other day that poodles and Chihuahuas used to be the most popular dog breeds. Now? German shepherds, dobermans, and huskies!

A dentist said recently he has even observed that teeth-grinding is on the rise!

Anxiety’s amped up. Serenity’s in short supply.

So how do you deal with those increasing worries?

Remind yourself of the truths you’ve been investigating so far in this study: Is anything too hard for God? No. Does God promise to be with you at all times? Yes. Does God love you infinitely? Yes. Does God know all about your troubles? Absolutely.

And here’s the one that brings it home. The attribute of God you’ll dig into this week. Sovereignty. Saying God is sovereign means God reigns. He’s the King. God is in control.

If you’re looking for a job, God is in control.

If you are waiting for a child, God is in control.

If you don’t know what the doctor’s test results will be, God is in control.

That means you can relax. You don’t have to worry. God’s in the front seat driving. He might not take you exactly where you want to go, but (after what may look like a series of detours) He’ll take you to a place that’s best.

That’s awesome.

However. Sovereignty also makes my head hurt.

It raises obvious questions:

Does sovereignty mean everything that happens is in God’s perfect will?

It must not, or why would Jesus tell us to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) If God’s will is always done on earth as it is in heaven, why do I need to pray for it?

But… if His perfect will is not always done on earth, then does that mean He is not really sovereign?

Some theologians have resolved this by distinguishing between God’s permissive will and God’s perfect will. God permits some things that are not in his perfect design. But ultimately His perfect design will always prevail.

This may not work for you, but here’s an analogy that helps me:

God is like the captain of a cruise ship.

He is piloting the vessel. He is in charge of the crew. The ship will get to wherever He wants it to go, when He wants it to get there.

We’re like the passengers.

We can choose to hit or help fellow passengers, to enjoy the cruise or complain, to make a mess or keep it clean, to swim in the pool or, inexplicably, to play bingo. And the captain permits that freedom. But ultimately my choice is not going to change what the captain will do with all of us on that boat. He has our destiny in His hands.

Another metaphor: You’re playing chess. With God. You are free to make all kinds of moves, to try all sorts of strategies. But since you are playing God, He will ultimately win the game.

Of course these are both imperfect analogies, but they help me work out the problem a little, and seem to match what the Bible says: The Scripture says God holds me responsible for my decisions. My choices do have consequences. Yet it says that in the end, God’s purposes always prevail.

I appreciate the way John Morren puts it:

I read the many teachings of the Bible regarding God’s election, predestination, His chosen, and so on. I read also the many teachings regarding “whosoever will may come” and urging people to exercise their responsibility as human beings. These seeming contradictions cannot be reconciled by the puny human mind. With childlike faith, I cling to both ropes, fully confident that in eternity I will see that both strands of truth are, after all, of one piece.52

Most importantly, God apparently gives us all a choice to follow Him or not.

But why? Why should a sovereign God leave me free to choose this? Why not just make us all his puppets?

I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with the fact that God is love, and desires a loving relationship with you and me. And it seems to me that for true love to exist, a true choice must exist. Even if those choices hurt. And they might. My choices can bring healing or they can bring suffering — not only to myself, but to others as well.

In fact, the age-old choice of humans to rebel against God so shook the foundations of God’s perfect creation that it was like an atomic bomb detonation. The consequence of human rebellion against God has had an impact not only on every human’s nature, but on nature itself. So now we’re all living in the fallout of the sin bomb, so to speak, living with sin’s consequences in a broken world.

But! Even in this world marred by sin, God’s sovereign will ultimately prevails. Not only does the Bible promise that He will one day restore the earth to its perfect glory; even now God works through every tragedy to bring good. I’ll have lots of examples in the devotions this week.

Wonder and Humility

I’ll admit it — trying to comprehend the twin truths of human responsibility and divine sovereignty will hurt your head!

But again, if it’s true, and it’s about God, then that’s to be expected.

That’s why after three chapters of talk about God’s sovereign plan in the book of Romans, Paul has to throw his hands in the air and say,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33–36

In all of my God-thoughts, I need to maintain an attitude of wonder and humility like that.

Let’s talk about those implications of sovereignty this week.

God is… in control.

Questions For Reflection

What tends to make you anxious or worried? What are you anxious or worried about right now?

How does trust in God’s sovereignty help overcome anxiety about these things?