Theology Thursday: Is God in Control?

Cross on a hill in front of a sunset

Our world often seems to be spinning out of control with natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, not to mention the countless manmade calamities such as wars, child abuse and addictions. Then there are the choices we make in life, some which greatly alter the course of our lives, perhaps tragically. The “what ifs” are endless!

Is God really in control? Or did he just create all things, set them in motion, but out of his control? The Bible teaches that God’s sovereignty is an essential aspect of who he is, that he has supreme authority and absolute power over all things. And yes he is very much active, despite our perplexity. Scripture says, God works “all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).

The Fall

The tragedies of life are a result of the fall of humanity (Genesis 3). Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned they became estranged from God; sin has this effect (Genesis 3:9; Isaiah 59:2). This is why it is critical that we find our way back to God, back to walking with him, back to the close relationship we were designed for. And God has provided a way for this reconciliation through his Son Jesus Christ. H2 The Great Paradox

Divine sovereignty and human responsibility (free will) are like two seemingly parallel lines that do not meet, though outside of our finite human understanding they do meet. This is surely one of the “secret things” of Deuteronomy 29:29. We may seldom see God’s hand of providence at work, yet he has his ways of revealing himself as we walk with him. H2 What about Sin?

It is not at all necessary to believe that God directly ordains everything, even sins. Everything is in God's permissive will, but that doesn't mean that he is the cause. If you are a parent watching your children, you can intervene when you see a child with a crayon heading for the wall or you can allow the child to mark on the wall and use discipline for training. God has far more that he can do, working even in our hearts and through other people and circumstances. The child sins on his own and so do we. The parent is in control and so is God, only more so.

What Does the Bible Say?

One of the most powerful passages that reveals the sovereignty of God is Isaiah 46:9-11:

Remember the former things of old;

for I am God, and there is no other;

I am God, and there is none like me,

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,’

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.

What about Prayer?

First we need to realize that God ordains not only the outcome but also the means, including our prayers. When we pray we enter the spiritual realm, fighting “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It a privilege that God has called us to be a part of his plan to reconcile the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). All of our work should be considered as mission work, letting our light shine so as to point people to God (Matthew 5:16). God has his sovereign plan, and it may and often does involve calling someone from a far country to do his will.

What about Bad Choices?

We all make bad choices in life; yes, some worse than others. But God is a master at working “all things together for good” (Romans 8:28), a promise for all who truly love God. God’s plan for us is not health, wealth, and happiness, though we may receive these blessings. His desire for us is “to be conformed to the image of his Son,” (Romans 8:29), and as the Westminster Shorter Catechism question one teaches, that we “glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and enjoy him (Psalm 37:4) forever.”

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