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Reflections on the Meticulous Sovereignty of God (Part 1)

All Christians say they believe in God’s sovereignty.  “Don’t worry”, we say.  “God is in control”.  It’s another way of saying that God is sovereign.  It is also another way of saying that our God is King over all.  He rules.  He reigns.

The difficulty comes in when Christians contemplate suffering or when they contemplate evil.  In what sense is God sovereign over this?  To say that He is not, but only permits it, seems comforting.  After all, God is not the author of evil.  1 John 1:5 categorically states:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Therefore, when evil happens, it cannot be from God.

Furthermore, for many, this same principle extends to our own suffering.  When suffering occurs, that also can’t be from God, for God is love and has compassion on His children.

And this has led to a view of God’s sovereignty that assumes that God is only partially sovereign when evil and suffering occur.  From this perspective, God permits suffering and evil because of the free will of man, and because of the nature of living in a fallen world.  God does not stop Putin from invading Ukraine and bombing its cities into ashes.  Neither does He stop cancer cells, brought about by the fall, from randomly invading the bodies of some.  In this view God is sovereign, in the sense that in the end, He will overcome evil and suffering.  But in the present hour, He has chosen not to act, for His own purposes.

What I have just described is the view of many.  In their understanding, this view is the only view that allows for God to not be responsible for evil and suffering.  From this perspective, any other view makes God into a monster, who causes both evil and suffering.

But this view has considerable problems.  This view assumes that there are vast territories over which God has chosen not to act.  Rather, He simply lets matters play out.  And if this is so, it can hardly be said that He rules over all.  In truth, this view only imagines that, one day, God will rule over all.  But that day is not today.  And so, to put the matter practically, this view does not believe God is sovereign in the present hour.  Furthermore, this view can offer precious little comfort to the person who is suffering, outside of to say that God has chosen not to act in your case.  It is this view that has led a great many to despair, for in this view, God has abandoned them in the hour of great need.  It is this view that has also caused a great many people to simply abandon their faith.  “I was suffering and in need”, they say, “and God chose to neglect me.  What kind of a God would do that?”

But the view I have just described is not the biblical view.  Proverbs 16:33 says,

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

That is to say, there is not one square centimetre of space that God does not direct.  He rules, even over the throw of a dice or the flip of the coin.  Nothing occurs by accident.  All is directed by His design.

If that is so, how then shall we account for evil and suffering?  And how then is the one who suffers to have hope and throw themselves lovingly into His arms?  I believe we can and must.  Stay tuned for the second half of this blog coming soon!

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.

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