The news recently has been full of talk of the Corona-virus and the UK Government has a four stage plan to (1) contain, (2) delay, (3) research and (4) mitigate the impact of the virus. Currently we are in the containment phase but cases are mounting up fast and we know from other countries that this virus has proved impossible to contain.
Something that is uncontainable cannot be restrained, checked or controlled. Something else that is challenging to contain is water. It works hard to refuse any such level of control placed on it: unless the right materials are used it will always finds a way through. In this blog I am going to use the word uncontainable as a description of God. Though we might often try, we cannot God put in a box: He simply will not allow it. By nature God is everywhere and there is nowhere we can flee from Him. His power reaches beyond anything we can comprehend and perhaps most importantly God is in control. The subject of God’s Sovereignty is very much holy ground and my attempt to describe it here will at best only scratch the surface. It is worth saying that God’s Sovereignty goes hand in hand with His wisdom and His love which I will handle in the next two sessions. It is also worth saying that the Sovereignty of God is weighty and ideally something we consider when things are going well rather than when things are going to pot. When we all need is a deep conviction that God is in control – at times however when life is tough that could be the last thing that we want to hear!
God’s Purpose will always prevail
In the beginning God set in motion all that there is. He made something out of nothing and continues to work tirelessly to sustain all of His creative work. Whether or not we feel in control or that God is in control, we can be confident that He really is still on the throne. Nothing that happens is a surprise to Him – nothing escapes His Sovereign Plan. Proverbs includes a series of statements that makes this plain:
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”Proverbs 16:9, 19:21 & 21:30-31
There is no wisdom, insight or plan that can succeed against God. Victory will always rest with Him. I like what God says in the quote below in Isaiah 46:9-11:
9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfil my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.Isaiah 46:9-11
There is a uniqueness about God and as we saw in previous blogs there is none like Him. God has no equal. God says that He makes known the end from the beginning…what is still to come. God’s purpose will stand and He will do all that He pleases. I don’t know about you but I find it immensely comforting to know that God’s purposes will always prevail. God is the unanswerable God to whom we must all one day answer.
God is Sovereign Over all
The Bible is full of examples of how God is Sovereign over all things. Jesus famously said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matt 10:29). God is Sovereign over nature: He is the creator and sustainer of all created things. God is Sovereign over life itself: He is the giver of life and the healer. No virus can get around His Sovereignty. He even knows the number of days which have been ordained for us (Psalm 139:16). He is Sovereign over our Governments and authorities (Romans 13:1, Psalm 33:10-11). He is Sovereign over all eternity and nothing can evade His plans and purposes.
I am sure that many of us would want to affirm all these things. More tricky however is what to think when life takes a difficult turn. Will we still trust in the Sovereignty of God even when things are hard? Do we believe that God is also Sovereign over the difficult things of life? Before we consider what happens if we do go down that route I want us to look at three more passages that demonstrate how God is Sovereign over both the good and the bad things of life:
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?”
“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.”
Lamentations 3:37-38, Ecclesiastes 7:14 & Isaiah 45:7
“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.”
These are hard verses to get our heads around but I think we would have to conclude that if God is Sovereign and in control then He must be in control of even the hardest things in life: the times when life seems so painfully unfair or unjust. In the words of Paul He works in ALL things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We don’t necessary understand how but God ultimately works all things for our good and His glory.
The Temptation to diminish God
I acknowledge that at times it might feel convenient to diminish the idea of God’s Sovereignty but there are huge consequences if we do so. Read this helpful quotation from a sermon at my church back in 2015:
“We might be tempted to walk away from the idea of the Sovereignty of God. We might be tempted to try and diminish God, tempted to try and get Him off the hook for the awkward and nasty things in our lives. Here is a great lesson in life for us. It is precisely at those moments when life seems most uncertain and most fragile that we need to cling hardest to the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God…What do you want really, when life is tough? Do you want a mighty God even though you can’t understand Him or do you want a cut down little God who can’t really help and who is no bigger than your own capacity to imagine? I want the mighty God, the Sovereign God. This is the bedrock for our souls. This is our comfort and the source of our strength…the Sovereignty of God.”John Risbridger, Sermon at Above Bar Church 2015 (link)
I don’t know about you but I don’t want a little God who cannot help me either. No I want the mighty, uncontainable, Sovereign God. Yes it is true that most of the time I cannot fathom what He is doing but then I am not God and should not expect to. He is the true God and has control over our health, our finances, our relationships and our future. Though we might choose to panic about these things (corona-virus, stock markets and Brexit to name but three) the reality is that our hope is not in any of these things but in our Sovereign God who works tirelessly for our good and His glory.
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honoured and glorified him who lives for ever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’Daniel 4:34-35
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