The Sovereignty Of God In Providence

Six Basic Principles

Let me first list the six principles and then cover them one at a time:

  1. God has a definite plan and purpose for the world. Job 23:13; Eph. 1:8-12.

  2. God is always in control of all things and is constantly at work in accomplishing His plan. Hab. 1:1-11; Isa. 10:5,6.

  3. God controls and uses everyone, even the devil, in working out His plan. Isa. 10:7-11; Ps. 76:10.

  4. God punishes people He uses to accomplish His purposes when they act out of wrong motives. Isa. 10:12-16; Acts 2:23,24; Mt. 27:15-26.

  5. All things are from God, but the devil is the agent of all evil. II Sam. 24:1; I Chron. 21:1.

  6. Although all sickness and affliction are part of God's purposes and  under His sovereign control, it does not follow that all sickness and affliction are necessarily chastisement for sin. Job 1:1,6-2:10; 13:15.

Before we look closely at these six principles, let me "kick the needle of your mind" so that you are mentally "in gear." This will test both your basic knowledge of Scripture as well as your ability to apply it to real life situations. We are all naturally averse to hard thinking, especially about anything new. Like the needle in the hi-fi, we go round and round in the same groove. I want to be sure your mind is in gear and that you are really thinking.

Just suppose next Lord's Day morning you were shaving and listening to the radio. The newscaster announced that the night before at exactly midnight every house of prostitution, every pornographic shop, every gambling casino, and every house of any kind of sin very mysteriously collapsed and were totally destroyed. Your reaction would probably be, "Praise the Lord." When you went to Sunday School somebody would ask you, "How do you account for that? What do you think happened?" I am sure you would reply, "It was the hand of God. God was surely in that." Of course, you'd be right. The unbelievers may not accept your explanation, and the newspapers and TV newscasters may be inventing all kinds of theories, but you would attribute the whole thing to God and rejoice in His sovereign work.

God or the Devil?

Now just suppose the following Sunday morning you were again shaving and the same newscaster said, "Last night at exactly midnight every single Bible-believing church in the country very mysteriously collapsed and was totally destroyed." I wonder what you would say then? Would most Christians say, "Bless the Lord," or would they say, "It was the devil"?

Why would anyone blame - or rather, credit - God for the first situation (the destroying of the bad places), and then credit the devil with the destruction of the churches? If we understood the Scripture clearly, especially texts like Romans 11:36 and Romans 8:28, we would be forced to acknowledge the hand of God both times. The whole burden of this booklet is to teach us that God sovereignly controls every single thing that happens, whether it be "good" or "bad." God is involved, in one way or another, in every event and each minute detail of that event. This is what we mean by "The Sovereign Providence of God." If this is not true, then we really have no sure hope for our lives in this confused generation.

When people blame all the good on God and all the bad on the devil, they are guilty of an ancient heresy called "dualism." Dualism basically sees God and the devil (good and bad) as two independent and sovereign powers struggling for ultimate control of this world. We earnestly hope "our side" wins, but at times it does not look too good. Unfortunately most Christians today are guilty of believing that very heresy. This is especially true of the charismatic movement as well as anyone else that emphasizes health and wealth as the birthright of every Christian, and blames the devil for everything that hinders our "personal happiness". This is the heresy of dualism at its worst.

"Dualism" Is Heresy

Why do sincere Christians do this? Why do they blame the good on God and the bad on the devil, unconsciously denying the sovereignty of God? It is probably because they are trying to "protect" God. They are trying to make it easier to believe and love Him by exempting Him from anything that appears to be bad and crediting Him with everything that appears to be good. A young nurse who worked in the emergency ward of a hospital told me that when anyone from a particular church in that town had an accident, the pastor would rush down to the hospital. His first words to the victim and family were, "Remember, God had nothing to do with this." I suppose the poor man was afraid the people might desert the faith. If you'll just think that preacher's statement through for a moment, you can see it is ridiculous. The man may have been trying to "protect God," but in reality he was laying the groundwork for despair and unbelief. He was leaving the injured person totally in the hands of either Satan or blind cruel fate. He was unconsciously moving God right out of the picture when the person needed most the assurance of God's sovereign control.

A Personal Example

The other evening a man gave his testimony and told of a friend that had died in a tragic Army plane crash. The officer in charge of the situation was seeking to comfort the mother and said the following:

"It is impossible for this to ever be repeated. It was a freak accident that could never occur again. No one could have predicted or controlled the events. There simply is no explanation."

The mother was a Christian that understood the truths we are talking about, and she replied:

"Sir, you may not believe that God was in that plane with my son, but I do. I have no idea why God chose to allow this to happen, but I know that this was part of His sovereign purpose and His hand was in total control of the plane, the weather, and my son's life."

How different is that mother's theology and hope from that of the preacher in the emergency room!

How Powerful Is God?

Suppose you were the victim of an accident and you were laying in the emergency room in pain. Would that preacher's theology and "words of comfort" help you? How would you feel if someone told you that God had nothing to do with what happened? How long would it take you to start thinking some very serious and logical questions like, "Where was God when this happened? Could He have prevented it? Why didn't He prevent it? Was the devil stronger than God in this situation? Did the devil really cause this accident, even though God was desperately trying to keep it from happening to me?" You would soon begin to wonder whether you were on the wrong side. You might think, and correctly so, that if the preacher were right, then maybe God is not nearly as powerful as you thought He was.

I am sure you can see that if God isn't big enough to control the bad things as well as the good things, then we are in deep trouble. When the bad things get more numerous than the good things (in times like today), then it looks as if we are losing the war. It looks like "our side" is the weak side. Whether you realize it or not, that is exactly what has happened in the hearts of many present-day Christians. This generation has forgotten the sovereignty of God and exalted the sovereignty of man's "free will." We have forgotten the holiness of God and exalted man's personal happiness to be the chief goal and obligation of the gospel. We are so occupied with ourselves and our own pleasure that we literally believe that God exists for the sole purpose of making us "happy" by giving us whatever our sinful and selfish hearts desire. He is viewed as a heavenly bellhop that is ready to carry our suitcase of self-ambition anywhere we instruct Him_we call it "praying in faith." When we do not get what we want, then we either condemn ourselves for lack of faith or lose confidence in God's promises (what we falsely believed were His promises).

The Cause of Modren Despair

The more self rages, the more sin and man's selfish nature appears to triumph, the more it looks like God is losing the war because He is weak and helpless. The despair, frustration, and depression of this present existential generation is in direct proportion to their misunderstanding of the sovereign control of God over all things, and the worst is yet to come. The "God wants you rich and healthy" gospel will prove to have been the primary cause of the forsaking of the faith in this generation. The "loving God" that is supposed to give you anything your heart desires will be despised and ridiculed when He does not deliver the goodies.

If a Christian living in wicked times like today really understands the Scripture, he is like the little boy who was playing baseball. A man came along and said, "What's the score?" and the boy replied, "Forty to nothing." The man asked, "Who's winning?"; the boy answered, "The other team." The man wanted to be sympathetic and said, "You must be very discouraged." The little boy's face lit up and he said, "Oh, no, we're not discouraged. We haven't come up to bat yet!"

The Christian doesn't look at the newspaper headlines, he doesn't look at the odds or the experts, he is not impressed with either the "doomsayer" or the "false prophet". The child of God with a clear understanding of the Scripture looks to the sovereign God clearly revealed in that Scripture. A knowledgeable believer knows that he is on the winning team regardless of what the world's scoreboard says. He knows that Jesus Christ is Lord regardless of what is taking place either in the world or in his personal life; he is confident that everything will, in the end, be for his own good as well as for the glory of God.

Calvary Was A Day of Victory

Jesus Christ was never more our Lord, and His Father was never more in total control of all things than the day that sinners "with wicked hands" unknowingly fulfilled the decrees of God and nailed our Saviour to the cross. Our blessed Lord was never more in control, never more sovereign and powerful, than He was the moment men cried out in derision, "Where now is your God?" and challenged Him to prove He was the Son of God by coming down from the cross. If you and I had stood under the cross that day we probably would have wondered whether God was really the Father of our Lord Jesus. If He was, why didn't He come and help? Why did the Father allow all of these things to happen to His dear Son? We would have never understood, apart from revelation, that this hour of this day was the specific point in time toward which God had been moving ever since the day that Adam sinned.

There has never been a day when God was more triumphant in His power, in His love, and in His holiness than He was that day at Cavalry. Jesus Christ was not a martyr; God's Son was not a victim. That day at Golgotha was the day of God's victory, not a day of defeat. God was the Master of Ceremonies and controlled every single detail of that event. The world and the devil may have thought that God's plan and purpose had been thwarted, but they were wrong. Calvary was a day of glorious victory for sovereign grace. Sinners gloated and mocked without being aware that their very thoughts and actions were fulfilling God's ordained purposes.

Let us now examine the six principles of the Word of God upon which these glorious truths are built.