Let’s try to shed some light on this quandary of God’s sovereignty versus our free will or the idea that “stuff just happens.” Obviously, Scripture is clear that both sovereignty and free will exist, but sometimes, it is hard to get a grasp on how they work together.
In the beginning, God created the world and all that is in it, including mankind, to be without sin and to live forever in fellowship with Him. However, when sin entered the world, did God lose control? Did this change His plans or His ultimate purpose? I don’t believe so. In His sovereignty, God knew the direction that mankind would choose; however, He had the next “move” already worked out. His desire is still that we be eternal beings in fellowship with Him. He chose the cross to accomplish this plan. The purpose of God never changed, in spite of mankind’s choices.
In our daily lives, I believe that we can choose right or wrong, in or out, up or down; however, I believe that in God’s sovereignty and in His omniscience, He already has the next “move” ready to play, no matter what we may choose. Here are a few picture studies by James MacDonald to help us comprehend how this works.
“Imagine we are taking a cruise to England. The ocean liner has left New York enroute to Liverpool. Nobody is going to stop it. You and I are playing ping-pong and other people are swimming in the pool. Passengers are doing their own thing all over the boat. Each is making choices. Yet the choices we make don’t affect the face that this ocean liner is going to England and nothing is going to stop it. In that way, God has set some sovereign purposes in the world. The little choices we make will never alter His ultimate purposes. I choose what to do on the boat, but either way it’s going to England.
A few years ago I was in Indonesia and got to play against a chess master. I’m a lousy chess player, and it was brutal. There were 10 of us, each with a chessboard set up, and he played us all at the same time. he would walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In 15 minutes we were all out of the game. It was crazy!
In some ways that’s a bit how God works. We make our moves, but God’s purposes are not affected by them. He has always known both what we would choose and what He would do. But don’t ever think that God is playing a game with us. God made all His moves in eternity past! We’re stuck in time; God is not. He’s not limited to our little life calendar. He is eternal. He completely controls the universe – with His feet up! He’s not stretched or stressed in any way. That’s what it means to be sovereign.” – Gripped by the Greatness of God by James MacDonald
I am the Lord, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these. Isaiah 45:6-7
“Here’s the truth: God created a world in which we have the freedom to choose right or wrong, good or bad, sin or righteousness. God is not the author of sin, but His is the One who created a world in which we can choose. And from our choices flow the sin and suffering we see all around us. Much of the pain in our world is the direct consequence of individual sin. But there is also suffering we all must bear as members of a fallen race. The effects of a sinful humanity show up randomly in human sickness, natural disasters, and the very process of aging itself. While God does not hurl these hardships at individual people or nations, He most often refuses to prevent the fallout from a fallen world. In that sense it can accurately be said that God is the author of a world in which calamity does strike.
In spite of that reality, the world He made is a good one for all who receive the gifts He offers freely. Into this world of sin and suffering God does not hesitate to say, ‘I’m the One who made the world this way, and if you trust me you will see that My ultimate plan is good.’” – Gripped by the Greatness of God by James MacDonald
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
God has not chosen to reveal all things to us. Some of the truths that He has revealed hold paradox and confusion to us. We must trust these mysteries to Him, knowing that He is God and we are not.
The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever. Deuteronomy 29:29 (HCSB)
As we have said before, God’s sovereignty will either be your bondage or your freedom. The choice is truly yours. You can embrace your life the way that God has allowed it to be, or you can choose a life of bitterness. Eventually, if you refuse to bend your knees, He will break your legs. He will bring you down. His purposes will be accomplished, in spite of you or through you. You can choose.
“None of us get to choose the words that are written across the blue-print of our lives. The only choice we have it whether we are going to submit to a sovereign God or shake our fist and demand answers not intended for this life. That’s the choice we get…The choice you make at this point determines the person you are the rest of your life.” – Gripped by the Greatness of God by James MacDonald
James MacDonald offers the following “declaration” that you can copy, read aloud to God, sign, and keep in your Bible to review often:
- I’m done resisting God.
- I’m not going to fight Him anymore.
- I’m not going to run from Him.
- I’m not going to turn to my own way of thinking, rationalizing, or manipulating the circumstances.
- I am going to embrace this situation as from the hand of a sovereign and loving God.
- I am going to trust that He knows what He is doing…in my life, in the lives of those I love, and in the world.
“Man proposes, but God disposes.” – Thomas a Kempis
“Can you thank Me [God] for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?” – Helen Rosevere, missionary to the Congo
Additional Verses to Ponder:
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?
I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
Original material by Holly M Besser. Perfect Joy Ministries ©2013. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bsbp24p02-06-13