God is Sovereign
Today we are onto our next instalment of God is … ? Where we together are seeking to understand God more, how do we feel in the gap, God is … ? What’s your first, or default word. God is Love or God is Faithful like we looked at last week, or some of those bigger theological themes like God is infinite, God is transcendent, I wonder how you are getting on on this journey of trying to understand God more. It’s so important, we keep saying this, how we answer this question determines how we live our lives. I for one want to live my life in such a way that i get every last drop of life out of life and give God glory in doing that. So that’s my prayer for you too, that you continue to get to know him more and more.
Today we are going to be tackling a fairly big one of these, here we go, God is Sovereign. Wow, what a concept, what an idea. If you have been in the church world for a long time or if you are a Christian or perhaps you have some other religious background, this is an idea that is often associated with God. Can you spot a word in there that gives the game away? Maybe a part of this word? For me it’s the word ‘reign’ straight away that gets me thinking about a king or a queen. It makes me think about a throne, ruling, kingdoms. All that is packed into this word and again if you have been around church for a while you’ll be familiar with phrases that are speaking about the sovereignty of God. At some point you will have heard someone in their prayers refer to God as the lord of lords, or the king of kings, maybe even sung about it. You will have heard people talk about God’s kingdom. This is all referencing the sovereignty of God. One of the classics that people like to declare is that God is still on the throne. That is a way of declaring that He is sovereign. I was once in a church in America, Michigan, it has always stuck in mind how the guy prayed. He kept on saying, God you’re in control. That’s another idea that is associated with the sovereignty of God. It does mean that God is in charge of everything, that He is in control, that He is ruling and that things happen because of him. There’s this classic statement of faith that I have used before, it’s called the Westminster Confession of Faith, written in the 1600’s to help the church at large define its beliefs and it references and speaks of God’s Sovereignty.
God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…
The sovereignty of God is an important part of our belief and has been right through the ages. In the 1600’s they were trying to capture that to remind us that God of His own will, freely, unchangeably, He makes happen whatever is going to happen. That’s what this is saying, it’s saying that He is sovereign. Another classic person is Matthew Henry and he wrote a very famous commentary on the Bible and for all I know he could have written it on our streets, he was from these parts, there’s an old chapel façade on our street that used to be part of Matthew Henry’s chapel. And here’s how he talks about the sovereignty of God in his commentary of Genesis chapter 1:
God is sovereign Lord of all by an incontestable right. If he is the Creator, no doubt he is the owner and possessor of heaven and earth.
That also sums it up, it links it in to the fact that because God created everything he is therefore the owner of everything, a bit like an artist. He paints a picture, it’s their work of art, they are associated with their works of arts. It’s the same here is what Matthew Henry is alluding to. So we’ve had the Westminster Confession, we’ve had Matthew Henry and here’s my definition everyone: He scores when he wants. That makes it nice and simple and easy for me to understand. God scores when He wants. This might seem a bit alien to you, this is the line out of a classic football chant. I think it was first sung about Robin van Persie when he played for arsenal. The song is very simple, I won’t sing it to you but I’ll recite it to you. It goes like this:
He scores when he wants, He scores when he wants, [Insert Name], He scores when he wants.
That’s it, you get what they are singing about. He’s that good at scoring goals, it’s up to him when he scores. I just thought that summed up the sovereignty of God, God does what He wants, when He wants, because He can. I was going to say, He is the the Robin van Persie of the God world but that doesn’t sound right. This sentiment is expressed in the Psalms, believe it or not. In Psalm 115 verse it says:
But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3 NKJV)
And yes, the sovereignty of God is a huge doctrine, there’s a lot of theology behind it. And there are some big questions about it that I’m going to allude to a bit later on. For example what about human choice, what about free will. How if God is in control of everything, how can people also have free choice themselves. It’s a big question, it’s worth calling the question out. It’s something that theologians have tried to work through throughout the centuries. For me I just settle on that God does whatever He pleases, He scores when He wants. And He somehow allows for some freedom for us within that, it’s very difficult. Maybe we’ll allude to some of that a bit later.
I’ve got three things in true Tim fashion that I’d like to consider that the sovereignty of God means for us. God is sovereign, God does whatever He pleases because He can, what are some of the things we can garner from that. They are all about life. Here’s the first one.
Life is Spiritual
Here’s the verse, Psalm 103:19
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. (Psalm 103:19 NASB)
All of life is spiritual. I wonder if you have ever considered that before. We often like to compartmentalise everything into different aspects of life, we do it all the time – this is my work life, this is my family life, this is my church life. We often do that about ourselves – this is my physical life, this is my emotional life, this is my spiritual life. I’ve been thinking that if all of this is made by God, and if like the verse says that God is looking after all of this from His place in heaven and His kingdom rules over all, then just perhaps more of this is spiritual and has spiritual connotations and connections and significance than we have thought before. I think about the story of Jacob when he was fleeing from his uncle, around that story, we read that he went to sleep in the wilderness, he had a rock for a pillow. He had a dream: Jacob’s ladder, in this dream showed the picture of a ladder that extended from earth to heaven. There were angels descending and ascending it. It just shows that there is a link, a strong link, between all that is around us and heaven. There is a spiritual world that is completely alive and sometimes we should do better to open our eyes to it. It is because God is sovereign, I believe that there is more to life as a spiritual experience because He is the artist, we are His works of art. We are intrinsically linked to the creator, the sovereign creator, who is having His will and say in the world today. Life is spiritual. Try not to compartmentalise it too much, maybe look out for more of God in the world. I often joke about it, it is probably related to the story of Aslan, how he says he is in other worlds, we just don’t see him. Every time I’m walking along the walls and see a cat, I just wonder if that is him. I think God is at work amongst us in so many ways. I think that we see him in beauty, in works of art, in the lives of each other. Let’s endeavour to see more of God and understand that we are spiritual beings. I think that we can garner that from that God is sovereign.We are intrinsically linked to the creator, the sovereign creator, who is having His will and say in the world today. Click To Tweet
Life is Authored
It’s a bit of a play on words here. The first is definitely this idea that God is writing His story, God the artist, God the creator, God the author of all the stories that make up the story of the world. He’s writing your story today. I found these amazing verses in Jeremiah 10:23 reminds me that my life is not my own:
LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 says
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV)
Psalm 138:8 says
You will fulfil your purpose for me (Psalm 138:8 RSV)
I find this really helpful to understand that I belong to God, that He is writing my story, it takes the pressure off. It means that we can relax again. That’s what’s amazing, we can discover life like it should be, we can unburden ourselves and say God I trust in you, you’re sovereign, you’re the one who has got this is control so i just give my life back to you, God it’s yours anyway and I’m yours, I want to live for you. I want my whole life to be a living sacrifice of praise for your glory. Life is authored but it’s a play on words because I do want to remind us that sovereignty reminds us of God’s authority that He ultimately is the go to for life. He is the one that should be the authority in our lives. It goes a bit against the grain against our intelligent democratised selves because we’re our own boss, we’re our own God, we do what we want. Actually there is a higher authority and that’s captured in the idea that God is sovereign and because of that you can go to Him with all that you are and all that you need. Many of you will be aware that for quite a long time, at least 10 years I worked in a political office, in a constituency office, I worked for Darren. One of the things I loved about the job was that people would come to us with their problems and we were in a position to help them. That’s brilliant, that felt like the kingdom of God at work. Do you know how we helped people most of the time, if someone had an issue with a company, whereas most of us in our day to day world would find the phone number for the customer helpline and we would begin our journey from the bottom, through the organisation, until we got to the point where our problems were addressed. Instead, working in that office with Darren, we would go straight to the top. We would go straight to the authority in the organisation. We would go straight to the one who was sovereign. 9 times out of 10 the problems would get solved. It’s a bit like that with God, you go straight to Him . When you acknowledge that He is the author of your life, the authority in your life, it gives you that ticket (if that’s not too demeaning) of going straight to Him and going, “God, I’ve got this to deal with, you’re sovereign so here you go, you can have this burden and I’m going to cast it upon you because you care for me.” Life is authored.When you acknowledge that He is the author of your life, the authority in your life, it gives you that ticket of going straight to Him. Click To Tweet
Life is Meaningful
Life has meaning because God is sovereign. Because if, and I believe He is, God created everything, God is in charge of everything, God is looking after everything. It means that this isn’t just a random sequence of evolved events, it means that everything about us and the life that we experience has meaning. I have the pensive philosopher here and the verses that I’ve used to describe this and help us understand this are quite philosophical. Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season and a time. For that to be true everything must have meaning. If everything has a season and a time. I do love Ecclesiastes 5:2 This really puts it into context for me. It says: Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth so let your words be few. I think that the sovereignty of God causes us to think twice before jumping to conclusions. It causes me to think twice about thinking that we know it all. It causes me to think twice about spouting off about things. Because life has meaning because God is sovereign. That’s so important.
To wrap this all up I want to come back to that tension in all of this about “if God sovereign how come this is happening” and its usual bad stuff. If God is in control, how come this is happening over here. If God is sovereign, then do I really have any choice. What about human responsibility? They’re really good questions. There are two sides: God and His divinity, Us and our humanity and our responsibility. How do we find the meeting place? How do we bring those two things together? God’s divinity, our humanity, completely met in unity and harmony in the person of Jesus Christ. He was both human and God so He brings both together in His life. Look at His prayer life, you can tell a lot about a person’s prayer life. Not only did He tell us to pray in a certain way: our father in heaven, let your will be done, etc… He then put that into practice himself in the garden of gethsemane. He brought both together and said “not my will, but yours be done”. The things that we do struggle with, perhaps acknowledging God as creator, as sovereign, wanting to hold on to all our pride and autonomy, we can begin to undo some of that and make some steps forward by praying this prayer. About everything we do, the stuff we are hoping for, the stuff we are believing for, the stuff we are struggling with, the stuff we feel like we have to do, the stuff we don’t understand. I’ve found that adopting Jesus’ stance: God, I don’t know if I get this or like this but not my will but yours be done. I found that it helps us grapple with some of the questions that sometimes emerge about the sovereignty of God.God's divinity, our humanity, completely met in unity and harmony in the person of Jesus Christ. He was both human and God so He brings both together in His life. Click To Tweet
So there we have it, we’ve looked at God is sovereign, a few definitions around that, some great verses, some stuff to think about. My prayer for you is that you would grow in your knowledge of God and get a fresh glimpse of God’s sovereignty.