As I write my next few posts about the sovereignty of God, I may at times be preaching to myself. Over the years, I have struggled with depression. During hard times, it is easy to slip into doubt; to believe I have made choices that will haunt me for the rest of my life; to think there is no way out; or to think that even God cannot help me now. Those are some of the lies of depression, and one of the believer’s weapons against it is to fill your mind with the truth of God’s word. If you need to be reminded that God is in control the same way that I do, I pray that these posts about divine sovereignty give you hope, faith, and encouragement. A clear biblical understanding of divine sovereignty is essential to a faith that can trust God in hard times.
What do we mean by “sovereignty”? The Disciple’s Study Bible (Holman Bible Publishers, 1988, p. 1738) defines it as follows: “God’s freedom from outward restraint; His unlimited rule of and control over His creation.” This is closely related to some of His other majestic attributes (being all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present, eternal, etc.) and describes how God utilizes His majestic power and glory to govern the universe He created.
In some forthcoming posts, I will share different areas where God’s sovereignty extends. For this post, I will remind you that God’s authority extends over all of creation:
“For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalms 135:5-6; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).
God created the universe. He created the sky, earth, atmosphere, seas, oceans, lands, and every part of our planet that we cannot see. He observes our planet’s molten iron core! He created every other star and planet in the universe. He is in complete control over all of them. When He became a man, Jesus Christ, He exercised His authority over nature by changing water into wine (John 2:1-11), walking on water (John 6:16-21), commanding a storm to cease (Matthew 8:23-27), and other miracles that defied the laws of nature.
Let this statement encourage you. God is in control of those things that man says are uncontrollable. We cannot control the Sun, but God can. We cannot control the weather, but God can. If problems are beyond your control, place them in God’s hands. If He can handle the Milky Way galaxy, He can handle your health, finances, marriage, job situation, etc. No matter how many bad choices you have made or how badly you have failed in different areas of your life, God is in control.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
That statement applies to all who follow Jesus. He will cause all things to work together for good for you. His hands are not tied. No matter what your problem is, He is in control and He is able to resolve it. Just trust His love, grace, and sovereignty.
Too often, we miss the mark. We make the same mistake that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did. They thought God was trying to force them to do all of the right things, to avoid all the wrong things, and know a plethora of ideas about Him from the Torah and traditions. Yet, God was calling them to know Him. Particularly, He was inviting them to know Him through Jesus. Jesus said they failed to understand the Word of God because they did not recognize who He was:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise indicated).
Years later, as St.
John reflected on his time with Jesus, he summed it by saying that
Jesus Himself was the “logos,” the living word of God:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1–3, 14).
That phrase, “the
Word,” would make his Jewish readers think of the Old Testament
Scriptures: the law of Moses, the historical books, the Psalms and
poetic books, and the writings of the prophets. This would suggest
that the entire written Word of God—the entire revelation of who
God is—dwelled in the body, soul, and spirit of Jesus.
Many Christians make the mistake of worshipping the written Word of God and losing sight of the Living Word Whom it reveals. The earliest Christians knew that God gave the Scriptures not merely so that we could read, analyze, and argue about them. The written Word of God pointed beyond itself to the One who created everything and the One who came to reveal God to us.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18–20; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat” (Psalms 19:1–6).
In my last post, we saw that there is something of an instinct to believe in a higher power. Some might argue that this really does not prove the existence of God. In fact, many will claim that science disproves His existence. Some will claim that no serious scientist really believes in God. I invite those readers to consider these quotes:
“The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan” (Henry F. Schaeffer III, https://www.azquotes.com/quote/587238).
“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…. It seems as though somebody has fine tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming” (Paul Davies, https://www.azquotes.com/author/3690-Paul_Davies).
I could go on. Early in my career in scientific publishing, when I was a proofreader, I occasionally worked on papers written by Juan Maldacena, a famed string theorist who has compared the universe with a giant hologram. He ended some manuscripts “In Jesus’ name” (this one-sentence paragraph would be deleted by the copy editor, as per editorial policy of the journal).
These are big names in science. Kaku has become virtually a household name by appearing on countless television shows about astronomy and physics. Schaeffer is one of the most respected chemists in the world, publishing numerous articles in both chemistry and physics journals. Maldacena, likewise, is one of the world’s top theoretical physicists. While atheists and agnostics, like Stephen Hawking and Neil de Grasse Tyson, are more well-known to the general public, Kaku, Schaeffer, and Maldacena are in their league in terms of respect within the scientific community.
I say this merely point out that these highly influential men believe in a higher power or intelligent designer. Schaeffer and Maldacena have openly professed their faith in the biblical God and Jesus Christ. Kaku and Davies acknowledge a designer or creator who may not be the God of Scripture (in his book, The Mind of God, Davies essentially states that he does not believe the creator is the same as the God of any religion). Other scientists who profess faith in some kind of God include NIH Director Francis Collins and Nobel Prize winner Werner Arber. Prominent scientists who openly profess faith in Jesus Christ include Nobel Prize winner Gerhard Ertl, Freeman Dyson, among others. This is a very brief list. One can visit this page to see a more thorough listing of scientists who profess to be Christians. While not all may be strictly biblical Christians (few of the men and women on this list believe in literal seven-day creationism), they profess belief in God in some sense.
Thus, the notion that educated people are atheists is simply not true. Tyson, Dyson, Schaeffer, Davies et al. have all placed their faith in a particular world view. Their faith guides their science just as much as their science informs their faith. Some scientists are atheists; some are agnostics; some believe there is some kind of God who created the universe, but they cannot bring themselves to believe in any specific religion; and some have come to know Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world.
With this in mind, we come to the place where theology and nature intersect. “Natural revelation” is the belief that God reveals Himself through nature. We see this as a central theme in the Bible itself:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
The Bible does not begin by trying to figure out where God came from (some ancient religious texts tried to explain the births of their deities, often in ways that would seem weird or repulsive to most of us). It begins by stating that God created the heavens and the earth. As Psalm 19:1 points out, the heavens declare God’s glory. All of creation reveals His splendor. The vision beheld by the eyes of faith grows in the face of greater revelation. The prophet Isaiah saw God as one who sat enthroned above the “circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22—no, Christianity has never taught a “flat Earth,” contrary to a notion popularized by fiction author Washington Irving). The modern Christian, informed by modern science, realizes that our universe is so much bigger than the heavens that the biblical authors could see. As we look at the universe, we merely recognize that God is even bigger than we previously imagined, merely because the universe itself is so incomprehensibly huge.
We can look within our hearts and come to have faith that there is a God who loves us because we want to believe in this Being. We can look to the world and universe around us, see the intricate order, and know for certain that there is a wise Creator behind it all. In the words of Davies:
“It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion” [Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 9].
God has not left us alone. He displays His glory and power in creation. He reveals some of His nature within our hearts since He has created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-28). But, He does not leave us to figure it out alone. He also reveals His mind and wisdom to us in His Word, the Bible. Most importantly, He reveals His love, grace, compassion—the very essence of His being—to us through His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Bible teacher, writer, editor, and former pastor, with a B.A. in Psychology and Journalism from Syracuse University (1987) and an M.Div. in Pastoral Counseling from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1991).