Pretend you’re on an ocean liner that has embarked from New York City and is sailing to England. You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more. You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers, or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.
A.W. Tozer gave us this illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper & Brothers, 1961), to help us understand God’s sovereignty: 1) Our all-powerful God has total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship. 2) We have been given much freedom, within the confines of God’s sovereignty, to move about and make choices.
Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships. I, for one, find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.
For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God. As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives, as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.
The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He has chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow man free choice.
Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who could not fulfill their responsibilities. But our Ruler is supremely capable. Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17). As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.
In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2). What God says, happens.
His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Ephesians 1:11).
God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13). No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!
And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on mankind (Jeremiah 32:27). That would include the barbaric Babylonians of Jeremiah’s day, who destroyed Jerusalem, murdered the nobles of Judah, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon. God’s over-arching rule also applies to the wicked forces creating havoc in our day.
Good people are often hurt in the process, and it breaks our hearts. Every century has had its martyrs for the faith. And our questions of why God allows bad things to happen to good people don’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or to all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).
What we do know is this: Evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he is doing. He will have the last word.
So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Is God in control?, apply the oil of gladness in who God is—our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!
Take joy in the knowledge that “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?
And rest in the affirmation that “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).
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Sovereign Lord of the universe, we bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! We stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.
“And when I cannot understand” [your plan or your ways], “help me just to stand” (Selwyn Hughes).