“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
(Ephesians 1:11 ESV)
If you have ever tried to talk a three-year-old girl into wearing a dress she doesn’t like, or a two-year-old boy into eating his broccoli, you know that human beings like autonomy and control. We want to look at our options and decide things for ourselves.
This carries over into our relationship with God, and many people resist the idea that God is sovereign, or in complete control. Yet the Bible tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3 ESV). What does it mean that God is sovereign?
First, it means he can do anything he wants to do. God is omnipotent—his power has no limits. Nothing happens outside his kingly authority; he is the first and final cause of all things. This is true in every area of life on earth. God accomplishes his purposes in the natural world (Revelation 4:11), in human history (Psalm 33:10; Acts 17:26), and in the life of each and every person (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4). There is nothing that he sets out to do that does not come to pass. We may resist his will, and this brings negative consequences into our lives, but ultimately we cannot prevail against the purposes of God.
There is nothing that God sets out to do that
does not come to pass.
God’s sovereignty even extends to the sinful things that people do. God does not tempt us to sin or cause us to sin, for he is holy. But he has the ultimate say over whether a human does something or not.
Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but many years later he told them, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).
Similarly, Peter declared that the greatest evil humanity has ever committed—murdering Jesus—was done according to God’s will: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23 ESV). Human responsibility does not conflict with God’s sovereignty; both are true.
God’s control over everything is a great comfort. His sovereignty is why we can trust the promise of Romans 8:28: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). The bad things that happen to us are under God’s control. The good things that happen to us are because of him as well. Nothing comes into our lives that he does not either cause or allow.
So we may rest in the sovereignty of God and let it give us peace and courage to face anything in life.