God is sovereign and trustworthy.
Because God is sovereign, He is trustworthy. His domain, power, and authority are unparalleled and unrivaled. There is no restraint or inhibition placed on Him that prevents the exercise of His will. God is without limits and needs no permission to act. Guided only by His personal attributes, He rules over all. God knows the beginning and the end of time and sees into eternity as if it were today. I can trust God because He is sovereign.
God is not controlling.
We are inclined to interpret God’s sovereignty as a concept akin to control; and we, therefore, assign expectations, anticipating protection from harassment, hurt, and harm. We then look forward to being prospered exponentially by being healthy, wealthy, and wise. However, God’s sovereignty is not accomplished through His being controlling; nor is it synonymous with control. God is sovereign but not controlling. We have trouble conceptualizing how God could be all-powerful and over all if He does not control all. Is God really trustworthy?
God will accomplish His plans.
Control implies the necessity for others to cooperate in order for something to be brought to completion. Intimidation is also implied, insinuating that there is someone or something able to overpower the threatening interest. But God is trustworthy. He accomplishes His plans regardless of any willing cooperation. He possesses ultimate authority over all the kings of the earth, the devils that roam the earth, and the will of humans upon the earth. But God does not need to control any of these interests to perform His plan. Therefore God can allow all to have free will, and still, His plans will come to fruition.
The ways of God are past finding out.
People are very uncomfortable with the concept of God’s sovereignty. The idea of God acting solely according to His plan often provokes fear. Instead, we would rather He be controlling, or better yet controllable. Believing that an all-powerful, all-knowing, always-present God can be influenced to accomplish what we want produces much comfort and presents great appeal. If God can be an extension of my control, this elicits much motivation to beseech Him. Yet, it is an erroneous understanding and has been the impetus for much criticism that God has let us down.
Truly it is impossible for the human mind to fully comprehend the concept of God’s sovereignty. With our limited insight, we attempt to justify all the ramifications, but the ways of God are past finding out.
It’s impossible to understand God.
Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?
For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.Romans 11:33–36 NLT
Why does God allow people to suffer?
The most frequently asked question by both the hurting of heart and the skeptical of soul is “Why does God allow people to suffer?” God is certainly moved by our infirmities, but He is not controlled by them. This is illustrated in Paul’s own prayer for healing.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:8–10 NLT
Satan is the god of this world.
So, “Why does God allow people to suffer?” The honest intent of this question fails to understand the context in which we live. God is sovereign, but He does not have jurisdiction over the earth. God respects the authority of Satan’s claim to the earth given to him by the sin of Adam and Eve. Their vote to usurp God’s authority in favor of Satan’s deception entitled him to rule the world. This effectively placed humanity under the domain of evil, and therefore we are daily affected by evil even to the point of abuse.
The Bible refers to Satan in succinct terms as “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2 NASB). James, the half-brother of Jesus, added,
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.James 1:13–15 NASB
God is Sovereign in my life.
Satan’s dominion extends only to the unredeemed aspect of this world, which at this point is everything except the church. The church, though not of the world, is in the world and is therefore subject to harassment, hurt, and harm from the ungodly element.
Paul testified that God had commissioned him “…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”Acts 26:18 NASB
God is capable of redeeming from every evil.
God allows people to be touched by evil because He is capable of redeeming them from it. As God’s dominion is expanded through evangelism and His interests are advanced by disciple-making, the more evil will be restrained and the innocent protected. Then we will witness the fulfillment of the biblical admonition, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21 NLT).
Scripture asserts that people suffer because this world is ruled by Satan, dominated by sin, and because sinful people do sinful things. All the carnage in this world that is often attributed to God can be traced back to the origin of evil present and at large in the world today. Yet, our sovereign and trustworthy God remains connected. He has in no way been ousted by Satan. Satan was defeated at the cross, but his final consequences have not yet taken effect. In time he will be removed.
“Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol [hell],Isaiah 14:15–17 NASB
To the recesses of the pit.
“Those who see you will gaze at you,
They will ponder over you, saying,
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms,
Who made the world like a wilderness
And overthrew its cities,
Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’”
God is sovereign, and He is trustworthy.
God’s sovereignty promises that when we encounter the evil of this world we will be encompassed by the love, mercy, and grace of God to the perfecting of our souls, the performing of God’s will, and the proclaiming of His faithfulness. Therefore, it is imperative for us to believe “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB).
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6 NASB
Because God is trustworthy, I can be confident.
Turn Scripture into prayer.
Lord, I am confident that You began a good work in me. I am certain that you will continue Your work until it is finally finished on the day You return. . . .Philippians 1:6
- Do I really want what God wants, or do I just way I want what He wants?
- I am afraid to want what God wants for me because . . .
Excerpts from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis.
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