Friday, May 15, 2009

The Practical Relevance of the Sovereignty of God

When I was first persuaded by the Word that God is absolutely sovereign over all things, I accepted it but decided I would never teach it. I believed it was not an essential doctrine. “It’s too hard for people. It raises more questions than it answers. It could destroy the faith of a weaker believer. It just paints a picture of God that would be too much for most people – they would doubt whether or not He is loving.”

However, the more I study theology the more I recognize that the doctrine of the sovereignty to God is absolutely foundational to our understanding of who God is, who we are, and the nature of salvation itself. Without this great doctrine, God is God Most Lucky rather than God Most High, man is exalted rather than brought low, and salvation is by obligation rather than by grace. Essentially, if God is not meticulously sovereign over all things, we are left with a sad shell of a religion. God’s sovereignty is an indispensible part of our whole system of theology.

But what about on a practical level? Does God’s sovereignty make any difference in the way I live my life? By God’s grace, I have recently become convinced that it makes all the difference in the world.

I’ve just finished another semester of seminary. I have two weeks to prepare for my first summer class – Typical Problems in Biblical Counseling. There is tons of reading to do for this class and the book I’m currently reading is “The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms” by Marshall and Mary Asher. The book takes what seems like every psychological term in the universe, defines it, gives a description of the term from a psychological perspective, and then gives a description of the term from a Biblical perspective. The terms are laid out in alphabetical order. I’m only up to Bipolar 1 Disorder, and already I’ve been struck by how many of these disorders, when looked at from a Biblical perspective, stem from a faulty view of God, and a faulty view of His sovereignty in particular.

Here are just a few quotes from the book, with the secular psychological term and the Biblical perspective on it:

- Acute Stress Disorder – “[The counselee’s] lack of trust indicates a possible lack of understanding of God’s sovereignty and His active involvement in the life of His children.”

- Adjustment Disorder – “The counselee may not understand the sovereignty of God and that God has brought this new situation into his life for his good. The counselee is not trusting God. He does not see that God is using this new experience to conform him to the image of Christ.”

- Agoraphobia – “Agoraphobia is indicative of a wrong view of God’s character, particularly His sovereignty.”

- Anosognosia (defined as the refusal to acknowledge the contraction of a specific physical illness) – “The godly response to weakness is illustrated by Paul (2 Cor 12:7-10): …Acknowledge God’s hand in the circumstances…Recognize God’s power working through the circumstances…”

- Anxiety Disorders – “Ungodly fear/anxiety focuses on what might happen to you without consideration of the love, wisdom, and sovereign power of God…Fear is focused on circumstances without regard for God.”

There are two Scriptures that are essential for us to keep in mind if we are to find hope and help in the sovereignty of God. The first is Eph 1:11, In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. There is nothing outside the control of God. He is bringing all things to pass. There is no such thing as a random event.

The second is Rom 8:28, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Not only is God in control of all things, He is making sure that all things are accomplishing good for His believers.

If you take these two references, memorize them, meditate on them, love them, and lean of them, you will have an antidote to many of the things that plague us in this life. The loss of a loved one will not be with sorrow alone, but also with an understanding that this death is not a random mistake, but is part of God’s eternal plan (Deut 32:39). That pain has purpose. It is accomplishing your ultimate good.

Fear, anxiety, worry, disappointment, physical and emotional pain, and less than ideal circumstances can all be met with a conviction of the sovereignty of God. When all those things are looked at through the lens of Scripture (particularly the two verses above), they are put in their proper perspective and can be dealt with in a God-honoring way. In the heart that has embraced a view of God actively working all things for our good, there can be found no place for despair.

If that’s not practical, I don’t know what is. That’s why at PBF, we won’t hide this beautiful doctrine under a bushel. We’ll not wrongly relegate it to the wasteland of impractical theological debate. Rather, we will love it, proclaim it, and bring it to bear on every circumstance, knowing that it is essential not only for our doctrine, but also for our lives.

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