“God is big.” I recently heard this comment while driving home by a radio talk show host. Such a comment holds much weight. One may look to the thriving Christian Music Industry, which has grown into a lucrative business. The “Left Behind” book series has sold millions of copies and topped various best-seller lists. Maybe the most telling evidence is the recent phenomenon that is “The Passion of the Christ.”
When looking at the messages conveyed through these various mediums, several themes seem to hold prominence. One is the often heard expression “God is love.” God is a caring being who loves his children unconditionally. Another theme is the slightly different yet still related concept of God’s mercy. God is merciful in that he offers us salvation through Jesus Christ even though we are undeserving of it. In this we also find a hint of another of God’s much espoused qualities: his compassion. God not only gives us a means to an unearned salvation upon death, he also cares for us in this life.
All of these characteristics are true and valid. They are in fact sources of great comfort and help to those who profess the Christian faith. However, by seemingly limiting the nature of God to these three characteristics, those who adhere to and seek to spread the faith leave out a fundamental part of God’s nature. This is his power, or sovereignty. The Bible abounds with references to the power of God. Psalm 115:3 states, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” Ecclesiastes 7:13 says, “Consider what God has done. Who can straighten what he has made crooked?”
Personally, I at first took such verses in a very passive, generic manner. Of course God is sovereign. However, only recently did I come to grips with the true breadth and depth of such a statement. Some claim that God is in ability all-powerful, yet intentionally limits himself. This however, is false. According to the Bible God is in complete and absolute control of all actions, thoughts, and events occurring throughout history.
There are a plethora of verses which assert God’s control over the actions of men. Lamentations 3:37 asks, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” Proverbs 21:30 states, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” There are also numerous instances of God exerting control over man’s thoughts and will. Ezra 1:1 says “…the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia….” In Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:20, and 11:10 it is stated that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Romans 9 references these occurrences, adding in verse 18, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”
Some may ask if such control extends to the bad events that occur. Biblically, the answer is yes. Lamentations 3:38 asks, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” In Isaiah 45:7 God declares, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God made the one as well as the other.” Does this make God the author of evil? The answer is absolutely not. John 8:44 rightly declares Satan to be “…the father of lies.” God does, however, exert final control over what transpires on this earth. Though he may allow evil to an extent (the story of Job), such allowances never thwart his divine will. He instead uses apparent evil to further his plans. One example is the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was sold into slavery by is brothers. Joseph later, after much hardship, became the second most powerful man in Egypt. By this he was able to save his family from starvation. Obviously the act of selling Joseph into slavery was a sin. Yet God used it to spare Jacob and his sons from starvation. Joseph himself summed it up when he later in life told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
One may ask why the depth and breadth of God’s sovereignty is such an important issue. The fact is it is a critical one. For if God is not sovereign, if he does not possess and exercise complete control, then what good is he? The absence of God’s power is a death blow to the concepts of him as a loving, merciful, and compassionate deity. For what use are such characteristics in a being unable to fully act upon them? When I was a child, I might have possessed an intense desire to protect and aid my little brother. However, with my obvious childish deficiencies, no one could reasonably trust me to ensure his safety. Similarly, God can feel love, mercy, and compassion all he wishes. But the absence of the authority to act on these feelings rends God an impotent deity. How can we trust a God who is willingly or unwillingly limited in his abilities? If any event and occurrence lay out of the realm of God’s control, then people will forever be incapable of putting their full faith in him. On the other hand, consider how much more assurance can be found in the knowledge that God is in complete control, that he not only loves us but possesses the power to act on that love in a saving manner. God’s love, mercy, and compassion are therefore indelibly linked to his sovereignty. The former is useless without the latter. I am thankful that I serve a God who is not only loving, but sovereign as well.
Adam Carrington is a freshman from Wheelersburg, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and Communications.