The sovereignty of God is a doctrine that often causes a quagmire for the evangelical community. Some of our brothers and sisters in the faith are ready to storm the stage with pitchforks and torches when the song, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, starts. Then, there are others in our tribe who’ll rail against sovereignty-of-God preachers. Yet these very same friends will stand and pray, “God, we know you have exactly who you want here in this service tonight. No one is here without Your say so.”
This topic can be both confusing and divisive when men speak from their own power and understanding. However, this attribute of God can be both comforting and convicting when men preach it with the authority of the Scriptures and the power of the Spirit.
This we know for sure: the Scriptures teach the sovereignty of God, therefore, we must boldly preach it.
What does the term, “sovereignty of God” mean? Here is a simple definition for a very complex doctrine:
There is nothing that happens in creation that is outside of God’s influence and authority. He is in control. Nothing surprises Him, or catches Him “off-guard.” The Lord is King and Ruler. He does what He wants.
The Psalmist said it like this, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Ps 135:6).
Here are at least three things we have to keep in mind when preaching God’s sovereignty.
God’s sovereignty is comforting. In a time where it appears as though chaos rules the day, we can take heart knowing that God is still in control. He has a plan and a purpose that He will accomplish. No matter how dire things may seem, God’s will cannot be thwarted. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). This is a message the church desperately needs to hear. Often, we operate by responding with fear to what is going on in the culture around us, instead of operating by faith in the Christ that is sovereign over us. Teach the people that God has entrusted to you that if they have been bought with the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwells insides of them—they are a part of God’s mission and movement that cannot be stopped. Be comforted; God is in control. The church is on the winning team.
God’s sovereignty is confusing. Let’s be honest. There are times when knowing that God is in control is like a “warm blanket.” It is comforting, protecting and soothing. However, there are other times, when knowing nothing happens without His knowledge is both challenging and confusing. It’s truly impossible for our finite minds to wrap around the infinite mind of God. The depths of this attribute of God cannot be completely understood with our limited knowledge. We know it. The people in our churches feel it. Therefore, we must acknowledge it. It takes a faith that surpasses understanding.
My wife and I have five children. Yes, that is a prayer request. One of our sons, Titus, is adopted from Uganda. His mom died during delivery, so he experienced a very traumatic birth. He has epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and suffers from seizures on a daily basis. At the writing of this article, he is six-years-old and currently gets around in a bright orange wheelchair with a Miami Dolphins sticker on the side of it. He can’t talk, walk, or feed himself. As parents, there is no kind of suffering like watching your child suffer. And yet, God is still in control. Now, did God cause this? Does He just allow this? Honestly, I do not know. That is for a different article on a different day, and hopefully by a different author. But, this I do know: God is still in control. Even if it’s confusing, I can still trust it. As leaders, we have to help our people realize that faith in God’s sovereignty is not saying, “God, once I understand it, then I’ll trust it.” No, rather faith in God’s sovereignty is being able to proclaim and live this truth, “God, I don’t understand it, I can’t see what You’re doing; heck, I don’t even like what You’re doing, but I still trust You because You’re doing all things for Your glory.” “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:7).
God’s sovereignty is convicting. As Christians, there is a constant battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Our flesh wants us to be in control, to be our own gods and to be in the center of our own universe. However, the Spirit is daily convicting us to repent of those desires and to realize that God is in control, He is our King and He is the center of the universe. Much of the everyday stress, anxiety, and worry that we all experience are fruits from a root problem—control. When we are trying to be in control, we are trying to be God. The reason this overwhelms us and the people we are assigned to lead is because we’re trying to do a job above our pay-grade. It’s not our job to be in control, because that is God’s job and He doesn’t contract that responsibility out. Our job is to trust God to do His job with the full confidence of knowing that He is really good at His job. May we as preachers be convicted by God’s sovereignty on a daily basis, so we can faithfully preach the truth of this attribute to a people who desperately need this conviction.
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17).
Shane Pruitt is the Director of Evangelism of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.