Savoring the Sovereignty of God


There is perhaps no doctrine that has consumed my thinking so much over the years as has the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.  If you have ever greatly loved God and ever been greatly wounded by God, you know what I mean.  As Piper says, “Many of us have gone through a period of deep struggle with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.  If we take our doctrines into our hearts where they belong, they can cause upheavals of emotion and sleepless nights.  This is far better than toying with academic ideas that never touch real life.  The possibility at least exists that out of the upheavals will come a new era of calm and confidence”  {Desiring God}.

Such has been the case for me.  Truly, countless nights that I have spent tossing and turning over this doctrine in particular and its glorious and difficult implications.

As Jonathan Edwards said, “It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me.  But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God” {quoted in Desiring God}.

So what is this doctrine, some of you may ask?  Essentially it is that God is always utterly in control, that He has the right and the power to do that which pleases Him at all times.  None of His purposes can ever be thwarted or frustrated {Ps. 33:10-11, Ps. 115:3, Isa. 46:9-10}.

Of course, therein lies the rub.  The greatest of minds have wrestled with and labored over this doctrine, volumes upon volumes written about it, and yet it remains somewhat enshrouded in mystery.  If God is utterly in control, and none of His purposes can be frustrated, then what He intends to occur always occurs, and what He sets forth to accomplish is always perfectly, completely accomplished.  So how can He be good, if He not only permits evil to occur, but actually allows it with great intention?  As Piper says, “People lift their hand to rebel against the Most High only to find that their rebellion is unwitting service in the wonderful designs of God.  Even sin cannot frustrate the purposes of the Almighty.  He Himself does not commit sin, but He has decreed that there be acts which are sin–for the acts of Pilate and Herod were predestined by God’s plan” {Desiring God}.

What Piper is referring to here is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the ultimate and most evil act every committed by mankind in the course of history.  And yet, “the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely” {Isa. 53:10 HCSB}.  Because God saw the greater design in allowing, no, in foreordaining such evil {Acts 2:23}, He was pleased.  He was pleased for the joy that would come.  He was pleased for the redemption that would be wrought.

“Consider that God has the capacity to view the world through two lenses.  Through the narrow one He is grieved and angered at sin and pain.  Through the wide one He sees evil in relation to its eternal purposes.  Reality is like a mosaic.  The parts may be ugly in themselves, but the whole is beautiful.” {Piper, Desiring God}.

Of course, the mystery can never be exhausted.  Of course, if God could be utterly explained and reasoned away, attainable by our finite minds, He would cease to be infinite, He would cease to be God.  But what He has revealed of Himself brings great comfort.

What a comfort it brings to my soul to know:

He is never surprised by what occurs.
He is never frustrated.
He is never impotent.
He is never scrambling to come up with plan B.  (The crucifixion of Christ, “the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world {Rev. 13:8}” was never His plan B to rectify the sin problem of man.  It was the plan before the world was created.)
He accomplishes whatever He purposes, always and all times.

To hold this doctrine together with the truth that “He is good and His tender mercies are over all His works” {Ps. 145:9} brings such comfort, though not perfect understanding, in times of trial and confusion.

We were not meant to understand everything about our pain, our suffering, our trials.  We were not meant to have all the answers.  But we have these truths: He is in control, and He is trustworthy because He is good.  And one day we WILL have all the answers.  One day we will know completely, even as we are known {1 Cor. 13:12}.

What peace, what security I find here.

“His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What are you doing?'” {Dan. 4:34-35}.

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