One of the big questions that Christians face both within their own minds and sometimes by the questions of others outside the church is this; "Is God sovereign over everything that happens and especially over the bad things that occur in life?" In other words, is God fully or only partially in control of His universe? You need to know what the Bible says about this important issue of doctrine and of life because the practical implications are far-reaching and actually very comforting.
Recently I received a publication from the writings of a Bible teacher named Chet McCalley. He used to fly up to Lincoln, Nebraska (where my dad attended his weeknight study) from his home in Kansas City and did this for a number of years. Chet has provided a succinct, biblical answer that I believe will prove to be very helpful to you. Enjoy!
"The Sovereignty of God
The sovereignty of God is the most encouraging teaching of Scripture. It simply means God is the single supreme ruler of the universe. The passages stating this great truth are many. ‘The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19).'
God is Sovereign over Man
I Samuel 2:6-7 gives this truth eloquent expression saying, ‘The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.'
God is Sovereign over Nations
The prophet Isaiah says, 'Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.' Even the evil Chaldeans of the OId Testament were ultimately controlled by God. Through the prophet Habakkuk, God said, ‘For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people...'
As clear as the bible is concerning God's sovereignty, we must beware of false conclusions. That God controls does not mean God condones the actions of men or nations. It does mean He works all things toward the end of His honor and glory. The cross is a prime example. No more sinful act has even been committed by man than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. At the same time, His death has brought the ultimate of all blessings---salvation. How could such a sinful act bring such a blessing? It is so because God is sovereign---the last word is always His!
God is Sovereign over History
This is why the Bible can make prophecy and tell us things that will happen in the future. How could an event be prophesied to come about if God were not in control? The sovereign control of God guarantees that predicted events will occur.
God is Sovereign over Satan
Once again, we should be reminded that Satan is the arch enemy of God and His plan. All that Satan does is evil for he is truly ‘the evil one' as John reminds us. At the same time, Satan cannot push God off His throne. Paul was given a ‘thorn in the flesh,' which he called a ‘messenger of Satan.' Paul appealed to God to remove it. Why would he make such an appeal? Because Paul knew God was sovereign over Satan. Proof of that sovereignty is found is God's reply to Paul saying He would not remove the thorn in the flesh because it was an opportunity to manifest God's grace in weakness.
Twice in the 1st chapter of Job, Satan requests permission of God to act toward Job. In each case, he is granted permission to bring disaster into job's life but may do so only within the limits set up by God. How can god do this? He can so this because He is sovereign.
God is Sovereign over Sin
In Genesis 45: 5-8 Joseph faces his brother who had sinfully sold his into Egypt and attempted to take his life. And yet Joseph asserts that it was God who sent him into Egypt to preserve the life of His people. One should guard against false conclusions that sometimes rise from an attempt to understand God's sovereignty. We should repeat: God controls sin, but this does not mean that God condones sin---ever.
In many fields of learning, the word of God included, one faces antinomies. An antinomy is an apparent contradiction between two established truths. They therefore present problems to human logic. The crucifixion of Christ was unquestionably a sinful act; and yet, it is undeniably part of God's plan. Antinomies are usually the result of lack of information or capacity to understand.
The sovereignty of God does not mean man has no volition or choice. Scripture is full of imperative mood commands. The imperative mood appeals to volition. The sovereignty of God and responsibility of man stand side by side in Scripture (acts 27:24-25, 31, and 35).
Sovereignty is not fatalism. Fatalism means all things are the result of blind chance; sovereignty means all things are directed by an all-wise and perfect God.
Sovereignty teaches that God is the primary cause of all things, whereas other events are secondary causes. The mature believer is able to see this and therefore look beyond sinful human actions and see the sovereign hand of God and thus have peace of mind.
Paul was placed in prison by Nero (secondary cause) but viewed himself as the ‘prisoner of Christ Jesus' (primary cause), Ephesians 3:1. In summary we join Paul saying, ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).'"
1Used by permission. Article is taken from the writings of Chester A. McCalley, "Window on the Word, Tapes and Literature by Word of Truth," P.O. Box 10514, Kansas City, MO.