God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Will

The unforgettable words of a sermon I heard recently are still ringing in my ears!  “God’s large and He’s in charge!” These words came from Mark Hughes, the Pastor of Church of the Rock, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Psalm 103:19 says, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all.”

The Westminster Confession of 1646 says, “God, from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” In other words, there is nothing in this Universe that God does not control! He is Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent! He’s large & in charge!

Pastor Hughes went on to say, there is nothing in this Universe that God is not intimately involved with. God has His hands in your life and everything around you. God is sovereign over every outcome, over every evil and over every blunder.  He has foreknowledge and knows what is going to happen before it does happen.

David brings this out very well in Psalm 139:1-16 when he says (my paraphrase), “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You know my thoughts and my words before I say them. You wove me together in my mother’s womb, my frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret.”

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance and the days of my life were recorded in Your book before I was even born.” He asks the questions, “Where can I go from Your Spirit or from Your presence? If I go up to heaven You are there or if I go down to the place of the dead You are there. Darkness & light are alike to You so I can’t hide anywhere.”

We do not know anything about David’s birth or his mother from Scripture and it seems that his relationship with his family is not close because his father does not call  him with his brothers when Samuel comes ostensibly to do a sacrifice to the Lord. In reality Samuel has come to select God’s choice for the next king. 1 Sam 16

One by one seven sons of Jesse pass by Samuel and each one is rejected by the Lord and finally Samuel asks, “Are these all the children?” Jesse finally remembers there’s one more, David, the youngest one who is out in the field tending sheep and Samuel says, “Bring him in, we will not sit down until he comes here.”

As soon as David came the Lord told Samuel, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” We would expect the next step would be planning everything necessary for him to become king.

But Israel still had a king and David wasn’t ready to be a king yet, he needed training. He went back to his sheep and in time he was living in the palace as part of Saul’s staff, playing his harp for the King. It would be fifteen years before he was crowned as king over Judah and then another seven years before he was king over all Israel.

On his way to the throne, David experienced many trials. Saul gave him a high rank in the army and he was good with the troops & officers. However, when Saul became jealous and tried to kill him a number of times, David had to leave and he spent the next  years running for his life. After Saul was dead David was crowned as king.

But it was not easy. It was over twenty years from when he was anointed to be king to when he was crowned as king.  From then on his life should have been trouble free. As the king of Israel he should have been with his army on the battlefield but instead he was at home looking over his neighbors rooftop and he saw a woman bathing.

He took what he wanted. His sin with Bathsheba was David’s choice and the murder of her husband on the front lines of the battle was David’s choice. When David repented, God forgave him but He did not allow that baby to live. There were consequences as there will be when we  sin but God did not change his purpose or plan for David’s life.

The debates between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will have caused division. One  area that has been contentious is that of salvation. John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius had totally opposite views. Calvin believed in predestination that God chooses the one to receive salvation. Arminius believed that man chooses to receive God’s offer.

The Bible shows both sides and also attests to God’s use of supernatural elements to influence the affairs of humanity. Although we may not understand how human choice and divine choice can both be fully operational we can accept both truths because the Bible teaches both of them. Acts 13:48 “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

We need to be responsible for our choices and we also need the comfort of knowing that God is able to take our unwise choices and work them together for our good and His ultimate purpose. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.”

The story is told about a mother who wanted to encourage her child in his piano lessons so she took him to a concert by a famous pianist. After they were seated the mother saw someone she knew and she went to talk to them. Left alone, the little boy decided to do some exploring behind a door marked, “No Admittance.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin the mother returned to her seat to find the boy missing. Suddenly the curtains parted and the spotlights focused on the Steinway on stage. There sat the little boy slowly picking out, each note of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

At that moment the great pianist made his entrance and quickly moved to the piano. Sitting down beside the boy, he leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.” He reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part and then he reached around him with his right hand and added a running obligato.

Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a very awkward situation into a wonderfully creative experience for everyone. The  boy was encouraged, the pianist showed his amazing versatility and the audience was given some unexpected entertainment.

When I heard this story I saw it as a wonderful illustration of how God works all things together for good in my life. As the Master pianist He’s there with His arms on either side of me and He whispers in my ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.” As I am playing the melody I chose for my life He is working everything together in harmony with His will.

There are no accidents with God! All things are either allowed by Him or caused by Him for His purposes.  He has absolute control of all things past, present and future. The mistakes and the poor decisions I have made are not beyond His redemption. In his sovereignty He is able to work even my failures together for my good and His glory!