Living in the Reality of God’s Sovereignty
One of the topics which I have preached in my fifty-one years of ministry has been the “Sovereignty of God.” When I think of the chaotic world in which we live, the sovereignty of God gives me assurance and peace. Sovereignty can be defined as having supreme authority, control, and power over all that has happened, is happening, and will happen in the future. Simply put for believers, it is the biblical truth that God is in complete control of everything and there is nothing that is done that is not done by or allowed through His will.
John Piper writes, “There are no limits to God’s rule. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at loss. Whenever God acts, He acts in a way that pleases Him. God is never constrained to do a thing that He despises. He is never backed into a corner where His only recourse is to do something He hates to do. He does whatever He pleases.”
There are well over a hundred verses that tell us of the varied aspects of God’s sovereignty. We read story after story in the Scripture where we see His wisdom and sovereignty played out in the lives of individuals, kings, and nations. “Our God is in the heavens, He does all that He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
I have sat with church members who have lost jobs, health, and family and experienced horrendous circumstances. I have assured them with many passages that God is in control. I have referenced Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 50:20), how evil was meant for him, but God turned it into good. There have been a few bumps in my road when I have had to lean into the truths of God’s sovereignty. Armed with some Scriptures, I would move forward with hope that God knows what He is doing and all things will work out for good.
“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes” (Psalm 119:68). For me, this has to be the foundation to understanding God’s sovereignty. In application of the great truth of sovereignty, it also has to be the basis of trusting God when we do not understand His ways. He is good. This deals with His character. I believed that for years. Then the next phrase declares, “He does good.” This is where theology and life meet. This is where truth is tested in our lives, when our circumstances do not resound that He does good. In fact, it seems like He just allowed or ordered bad.
The last phrase of the verse cannot be ignored: “teach me your statutes.” The learning of God’s statutes, His ways, takes more than a Bible study at times. This is the hard part of the laboratory of life. As most pastors do, I love to teach God’s truth. Sometimes, I am not as excited about learning it beyond the classroom.
Recently, this verse has become my reality and my anchor. I have been privileged to live with almost zero health challenges. I have stayed active over the years. I have run marathons, hunted up and down mountains, played hundreds of hours of pick-up basketball and competitive racquetball. My wife and I regularly speed walk 4-5 miles at a time during the week and go to Nautilus to work out. On May 27th, in a matter of a few minutes, that all changed. I had a very rare incident which doctors determined was a spinal stroke. Less than 1% of people experience it. Within 30 minutes I found myself in the ER at our hospital, paralyzed from my waist down. Four weeks in a hospital and rehab center allowed me to begin to learn what I have taught for years. I had to wrestle many nights alone in a hospital room with the reality of God’s sovereignty. Is God good? Does He do good? I must confess, those questions ran through my mind for many hours at night.
It is one thing to teach and recite truth from Scripture. I am learning in a fresh way what it is to apply it in life. With much doubt, I laid in a rehab center on one of my dark nights and tuned in to Pandora. Through my ear buds came a song I had never heard that fed the truth of God’s Word to my heart. Ray Stevenson wrote and sang these words:
“In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.”
Doctors are not making any promises for my future. There are not enough case studies to make an accurate prognosis. Through hours of physical therapy, I am able to walk with the help of a cane to stabilize me. From the waist up, I remain the same. From the waist down, I do not know what the future holds. I continue to work hard at physical therapy in hopes that someday nerves will be restored. Meanwhile, I am learning that the sovereignty of God is more than a doctrine. It is the reality of a trusting, dependent relationship with the God who is good. Though I still struggle some nights, I do believe because of the crucible of physical challenges that God is good and does good. The goal for all believers is that God will be glorified in their lives. Thus, the reality of a deeper trust, prayer life, and clarity of purpose must be a learning laboratory at this season. We are called to live in trust and dependence each day. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a prayer of sovereignty. Whether you see your circumstances as good or bad today, that is not the reality God sees. His goal is to conform us to His image, thus we must trust that He is good and does good.
Copyright © 2018 Dennis Henderson. All rights reserved.
Dennis Henderson has served in pastoral ministry for over 50 years, and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of Fusion Bible Church in Durant, Oklahoma, which he helped plant in 2012. Dennis has helped to develop and equip countless leaders during his ministry and also serves as a member of Strategic Renewal’s Transformational Ministry Team.