Sunday, June 23, 2013

Positive Sovereignty

I like the Sovereignty of God. For much of the time, I like it in a negative connotation. Here's how it works. Bad things happen -- things that are unpleasant. (Remember, God works all things for good, so nothing that happens to a believer is ultimately "bad".) So we face illness and injury, loss or pain, trials and tribulations. So, my child is ill or I lose my job or the doctor tells me I have cancer. Unpleasant. What do I do with it? Well, besides the emotional response, there is always this fact of the Sovereignty of God. Nothing happens that He does not allow. Nothing occurs that He doesn't plan for. He is never surprised and even works the evil that people do into His own good purposes. He works all things after the counsel of His will. So, when times are difficult, I have this solid place to stand that we call the Sovereignty of God. I like that. But it's a "negative", you see, because it's when things are not going as we would like that I find it most comforting.

What about the other way? Funny thing. When things are going as I would like, I'm not quite as good at appreciating God for His Sovereignty. We all, I think, tend to think when things are going well, "Thanks, God; I got it from here." Or something like it.

Solomon wrote, "The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Prov 16:9). He wrote, "Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand" (Prov 19:21). As it turns out, even the good things that happen in life are ultimately a product of a Sovereign God. It's not like Satan produces the evil but we manage the good. Not at all. According to Scripture, we are required to "work out your salvation" (as if we're capable) precisely because "it is God who is at work in you to will and to do His good pleasure" (Phil 2:12-13). So we work, but not because we're so capable. We work because God is so capable. In fact, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Eph 2:10). And do you recognize where that comes from? It's the verse immediately after the very clear statement that we are saved by grace through faith and not as a product of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:8-9). That's right. We're not saved by works, but we're saved for works. And even those aren't ultimately our doing.

I like God's "negative" Sovereignty. It's comforting when times are hard to know that it's not out of God's control. No matter how dark it gets, He's always in charge and always doing what's best. That's a relief. It is equally good to appreciate God's "positive" Sovereignty. He is the One who, when things go right, has actually accomplished it. He's the One that enables and empowers us to do. He's the One that directs and guides. That job you just got or that sudden clean bill of health or that unexpected bonus check was not a product of your diligence, but God's Sovereign faithfulness. That's a wonderful thing.

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